A FORMER Tynedale rugby player will embark on an epic bike ride for two rugby-related charities.

Graeme Smith, who played second row at Corbridge, will cycle 500 miles in 48 hours with a group of former players from Twickenham in London to Murrayfield in Edinburgh, while carrying the Calcutta Cup match ball for the Six Nations tie between Scotland and England next month.

Raising funds for Motor Neuron Disease and colon cancer charities My Name’5 Doddie Foundation and 40tude, the group will set off on Thursday, February 6.

Graeme said: “I am very lucky to be one of nine core team members alongside former Scotland and British Lions player Rob Wainwright, former Ireland international Paddy Johns and the former Wasps captain and Heineken Cup winner Paul Volly.

“We will be joined at various points by the likes of Will Carling, Peter Winterbottom, Gareth Archer and many more former internationals and British Lions.”

The match ball will be strapped to the back of one of the bikes during the ride, while riders will be kitted out in special Doddie Weir tartan cycling kit.

Graeme said the 500-mile ride will be a huge mental and physical challenge, and is estimating around 90 minutes rest time across the two days.

He said: “We will arrive at Murrayfield before the game where we will hand over the match ball, get some rest and then return to the stadium in time for kick off.

“Both the two rugby unions in England and Scotland have been very supportive.”

The idea of the bike ride was led by keen cyclist and friend of Doddie Weir, Rob Wainwright, with Graeme also showing an interest in cycling.

“I have been for a few rides per week in preparation,” he said.

“It’s important to keep healthy and eat lots of fruit and vegetables while training before carb loading a few days before.”

The riders will be stopping at Kingston Park Stadium at 7pm on Friday, February 7 for rest and refuelling before making their way through Belsay and up the A696 towards Edinburgh the following morning.

The cycling group, known as Wounded Lions 500, is requesting the public’s support which could be on a bike, by the roadside or by making a donation.

More information on the ride and fund-raising can be found at: https://woundedlions500.co.uk/.