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Recently I got invited to a meeting in Leicester organised by Hope Against Cancer, a Leicester based charity that provides funds for vital research into cancer. It operates within the University Hospitals of Leicester. More about this noble cause later.

The meeting was for keen cyclists of varying experience to take part in an organised cycling challenge from Geneva to Milan in September 2015. The ride will be 350 miles over 4 days and climbing a total of over 17000 ft. The group will consist of 60 riders in groups of 10, with 2 experienced riders attached to each group. The whole party would have three support cars.

The original invitation to this event didn’t specify either the severity of the challenge or the scale of preparation required. Martin Johnson, one of the all time UK rugby champions, who is a patron of the charity, gave a talk of his involvement in previous such challenges. At my age of nearly 66 and weighing in at a full 14 stones I was mesmerised by the presentation and even dared to dream of cycling up the Alpine passes in my King of the Mountains polka dot jersey, with my domestiques by my side and crowds cheering me on!

I soon woke up from my reverie and in spite of everyone at the meeting urging me to enter I came away thinking that such a challenge would be too much for me. I am a weekend cyclist and once every year I do a longish ride with my friend Paul Lane. Also every now and then I have entered the occasional challenge like the Prudential Ride London Surrey 100 and the London to Brighton ride. To contemplate riding through the alps sounded very daunting.

I sat on this for a few days and all this while a niggling urge kept smouldering deep inside. My family of course kept encouraging me. My wife Val said that I may never get such an opportunity again. Matt, our son thought that a challenge was just that and designed to push me to my limits. Hannah our daughter thought that with the right preparation I could do it! When I mentioned this to my friend Paul all he said was “you stupid boy!”

I have now finally taken the plunge and entered! This means sustained training over the winter to build a basic level of fitness and to lose weight. My favourite tipple – red wine will have to be severely rationed and I will have to forego many indulgences over the coming festive period.

I will need to keep a high level of discipline and keep my motivation going. I am very lucky to have the backing and encouragement of my family, particularly my wife, Val who has herself has just been through a double cancer. I hope that all my friends and supporters would help keep my spirit alive – hence this blog!

Through this blog I hope to cover my training and eventual ride in September. I will try and keep it to a weekly update on my training, fitness and weight loss. I will also cover areas of my life, how I have got to where I am, family history of cancer and why this challenge is so important for me. Along the way I hope to inspire others to seek similar challenges and raise lots of funds for Hope Against Cancer.

I have aptly named my blog Singh of the Mountains, a title jokingly given to me by my friends after a particularly bad ride when I barely crawled up a steep incline in the days when I had just taken up cycling. Somehow the title refuses to go away. Perhaps now is my opportunity to claim legitimacy over it!

The next blog will be published next week on 17 December. Meanwhile if you wish to donate to a great cause please visit my virginmoney giving page: www.virginmoneygiving.com/team/Hopesitalianjob