In just 8 days, 50 cyclists will begin riding 500 miles across Italy, from Lake Garda to Rome, in the Straumann 500 mile Charity bike ride. 

As we countdown the days to the off we will feature riders and give you a little insight into why they are taking part on the trip and raising money for the Mouth Cancer Foundation.

We begin with Karen Hull and an account in her own words of why?

5 Days in Italy, touring from Lake Garda to Rome, in September! ……… It sounded very appealing, in fact, what’s not to like? The days were cold and nights dark as I sat with a small glass of chilled Chianti wine and considered the pro forma tick boxes in my mind. Yes, I am a dentist and I have my own practice in the picturesque market town of Nantwich, in Cheshire. Yes, I am an implant surgeon and have been using Straumann implants since back in the day when a young man called Steve Booth was my area rep. and look at him now!

Am I a keen cyclist…...Well, do I look like I’m six-foot-tall and built like a beanpole, with a misconceived conception that anyone can look good in top-to-toe lycra? Naaa, that’s a no then! Do I have my own bike? Nope, and in fact I haven’t even sat on one for more than 15 years after a rather acrimonious altercation with a rock whilst skiing off-piste.

Still, minor details and after all, most importantly, there’s Tom, a young man, barely 30 years old, whom I have treated since he was in pre-school, who has recently had radical and life changing surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy to treat his tongue cancer. He’s trying to learn to talk again after losing over half his tongue, but he is struggling to keep up with his two-year-old son.

So, of course I can ride 500 miles and help raise money for The Mouth Cancer Foundation. A few weeks later, I had bought a road bike and some lycra, taken a crash course on changing tyres and puncture repairs, and started training. My real baptism of fire came whilst on holiday in St. Ives, Cornwall. We stayed in a cute little fisherman’s cottage a stone’s throw from the harbour. There is absolutely NO way out of St. Ives on two wheels that does not involve climbing a hill of at least 6% incline with the warm up of a mere 200m seeming woefully inadequate! And, with a basking shark cruising the bay, pedalo training didn’t seem an appealing option either.

Many, many miles later, I can say I almost quite like my bike. I wouldn’t go as far as to say, “I love my bike”, since the ride is a tad hard and to be honest there are days when a heated seat would be a real plus. I have only been known to swear at it occasionally when it has inadvertently, and might I add stupidly, rolled over a thorny twig or hit one of the many decorative potholes that are liberally arranged on every road I have ridden on, and it has only thrown me off once, but to be fair, that was the fault of the granny in the car in front. Okay, twice if you count the hill on which all forward motion ground to a halt!

Am I prepared and ready for the challenge? I would like to say yes, but I remain mildly terrified though I shall give it my best. Everyone has been encouraging, whilst hiding their disbelief. One of my daughters has joined me on some training runs and shouted fantastic words of encouragement on the hills as she struggled up behind me on her hybrid (I know, a slight disadvantage but she is half my age so it all evens out!), and the other was so dumbstruck that she could only utter single letters (WTF)! No idea what that means, though I think it might be millennial for, “Go Girl! You awesome Lady!!”. One of my dogs has been steadfastly patient, as he slumps in his bed with a disgruntled huff that a dog gives to make you feel guilty, when I prepare the ‘wheelie one’ for another ride, while the other took a more proactive approach and ate my Azzurro blu cycling socks… I absolutely did retrieve them from the subsequent vomit puddle – they are my favourites!