It’s always been about the ride.
From a young age, cycling has been part of my life. My grandad cycled the track at Herne Hill during the ’40s, which is also where I saw Bradley Wiggins race for the first time.
As teenagers my brothers and I would race mountain bikes in Surrey every Sunday with Mum and Dad in tow, who would watch us all, then return for the Sunday lunch debrief on how well or badly we did. It was our thing and what we did and it’s still the common thread that holds us tight as a family unit 30 years on.
We had our heroes in Miguel Induráin, who won the Tour de France five times in a row, and the local UK heroes of Yates and Millar, and then Lance Armstrong, once the darling of cycling only to have his world crash down around him in the biggest controlled doping controversy the world has ever seen.
He was however a hero of mine and someone I had followed since his early years winning the triple crown at the world championships in 1993. In 1996, he signed a two-year contract for French team Cofidis — three months later he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. And parts of his story resonate deeply with my own.
The summer of 2015 is one I will always remember; it was the summer I was diagnosed with testicular cancer, the same cancer that had struck down my cycling hero. It was surreal in many ways and a period of my life where, had I not had family and friends around me, I don’t think I would have coped.
I was the lucky one, the story you read about the person who had cancer, who had an operation, who went into the fight with the big C in good shape, who was fit and healthy but just had some bad luck. I was diagnosed early, I was treated quickly, and with care and calmness. Healthcare is something you don’t want to ever have to use, but when you do, you want a seamless experience and that’s exactly what I had. Every three months I am reminded of the bullet I dodged as I receive my check-ups, blood tests and MRIs — I am a cancer survivor.
I continue to raise the awareness of cancer and men’s health by supporting #Movember every year and have raised over £6,000. I can deal with the strange looks, the growth that starts under my nose that everyone seems to be so wary of, the itching, and also the space my wife gives me during the month of November every year as she hates the Mo!
I make it fun, I post everyday with my progress, I poke fun at myself and I make people laugh in the process — something we all need every once in a while. I don’t mind what people say or what they think, it’s an amazing cause and one that needs to be raised and for more people to start to talk about cancer and mental health.
It’s always been about the ride for me. I continue that today through all aspects of my life, including cycling, and in my support of Movember.
“Stay young, stay foolish,” as a wise man once said.