A FORMER Tynedale rugby player took part in an epic 48-hour bike ride from London to Edinburgh.

Graeme Smith, who played second row for the Corbridge-based club, cycled 500 miles with a group of other former rugby players, from Twickenham to Murrayfield, while carrying the Calcutta Cup match ball for the Six Nations tie between Scotland and England.

Raising funds for Motor Neuron Disease and colon cancer charities My Name’5 Doddie Foundation and 40tude, the riders set off last Thursday.

After spending the majority of last weekend in the saddle, Graeme said he only managed one hours sleep during the 48-hour ride.

“It’s all still a bit of a blur,” he said. “The last stretch up to Edinburgh was the worst because I was physically and mentally drained.

“When we got to the stadium we handed over the match ball, but I fell asleep in the first half. I went back to the hotel at half time because I was knackered.”

Although Storm Ciara, which brought strong winds and heavy rain to parts of Britain, didn’t arrive until Sunday, the riders were still tested by the conditions throughout the ride.

Graeme said: “The weather conditions meant it was absolutely freezing and really challenging. On Thursday it was -4 degrees and we kept on having to change our clothing to keep warm.

“If we left 24 hours later then it would have been impossible in the conditions. The wind kept on blowing people off their bikes.

When he spoke to the Courant before the 500-mile bike ride, Graeme revealed he had been expecting a huge mental and physical challenge.

And after the ride, he admitted it was as tough as he first thought. “The key thing about a ride this length was working on intensity and not pushing too hard,” he explained.

The team of 12 riders, known as Wounded Lions 500, included former Scotland and British Lions player Rob Wainwright, former Ireland international Paddy Johns, and the former Wasps captain and Heineken Cup winner Paul Volly.

“The support throughout the ride, and especially in Northumberland, was incredible,” Graeme said. During the journey through the North-East, the riders stopped off at Darlington Mowden Park Rugby Club, while also being joined by former Tynedale and Newcastle Falcons players. A total of £178,000 has been raised so far, and donations can still be made online at https://woundedlions500.co.uk/