Updated: Tuesday, 11th August 2020 @ 4:38pm

Didsbury cyclist gears up to take on Britain's biggest race for Women v Cancer in memory of tragic friend

Didsbury cyclist gears up to take on Britain's biggest race for Women v Cancer in memory of tragic friend

By Paddy von Behr

Britain’s biggest cycle race for a generation is the holy grail for most participants, but for a Didsbury woman the 100-mile journey is the warm-up to a mammoth summer of fundraising.

Gillian Swain, 49, of Heritage Gardens, is gearing up to tackle a 400km course across Cuba with colleague Karen Garner in October to raise money for the charity Women v Cancer.

They signed up for the race 18 months ago, while fellow colleague Sally Jennings was battling cervical cancer, but she sadly passed away last summer, before Gillian lost her friend Marie Gorrod to breast cancer in January.

But first they will join 20,000 other riders for this summer’s first-ever Prudential Ride London-Surrey 100, starting from the new Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and finishing on The Mall.

The race is just one of a series of events taking place in the capital on the weekend of August 3 and 4, with an eight-mile FreeCycle around the city’s iconic landmarks and the London-Surrey Classic featuring some of the world’s best riders.

And, although there is a bigger challenge on the horizon, Gillian is prepared for an emotional finish to the 100-mile slog.

“Two great friends of mine, Sally and Marie, both became very ill and left young families behind,” she said. “I call my bike Mustang Sally so she is with me along the way.

“People have given us so much money and I don’t want to let them down. I don’t want to turn up and say ‘I don’t feel like it today’. People are trusting us to use that money properly.

“I think I will be quite sad when it’s over actually. I think it will be really satisfying – we can go to Sally and Marie’s families and it will have all been worth it.

“We have actually got more professional with our gear as time has gone on – it is really making us laugh. Now we have got the gear and no idea.

“Karen is great and it is brilliant to do it with her. It has helped because we push each other.”

Organisers are aiming to make the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 the largest charity fundraising cycle event in the world, with the route taking place on closed roads through the capital and into Surrey’s stunning countryside.

Closely following the route of the Olympic road race, the course will feature leg-testing climbs made famous by some of the world’s best cyclists and Gillian, who has raised more than £6,000 with Karen, is looking forward to a competitive race.

“We have really started to enjoy the cycling – we thought that would be the hard bit,” Gillian said.

“I think we will be alright on the day, but it is a little intimidating when you see other people going very fast. It’s awful to say this, but you are quite chuffed with yourself when you overtake someone – it is a competitive edge.

“We are doing it step-by-step – we are stepping it up. Cuba is our final goal.”

To sponsor Gillian and Karen, visit http://www.justgiving.com/CubanWheels and make a donation.

Prudential RideLondon takes place on August 3-4. If you’re inspired to ride, visit www.prudentialridelondon.co.uk

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