The loss of three ex-team mates has inspired these rugby lads in their own Italian Job.
The group of 13 former Gateshead rugby players, friends and other club members are gearing up for a 1,200 mile journey this weekend.
It will take them from Gateshead Rugby Club, in Low Fell, to the shores of Lake Iseo in Lombardy, Italy, all in aid of Macmillan Cancer Care.
The group were moved to attempt the huge journey after losing three of their club’s former players to cancer.
Stu Marshall, a former Ist XV prop, lost his battle with cancer in 2010. His family received compassionate care of the highest order from Macmillan Nurses who give vital support in their greatest hour of need.
The club also lost Mark Dadley and Kevin Clough. Both Mark and Kev played first team rugby at Gateshead with Stu and a few of the riders.
Mark was an adopted Geordie, making the move north from Coventry where he had another rugby family at Barkers Butts.
The Great Italian Macmillan Cycle Ride team, Steve Pratt, Ian Kettle, Steve Golightly, Ken Boe, Kevin Clinton, Ron Young, Andy Blain, Rob White, Ali McConway, Marcus Helson, Chris Smith, Ian McDonald and Don Heelbeck will set off from the club in Low Fell, Gateshead, at 9.30am on Saturday.
Team organiser Don Heelbeck said: “This cycle challenge is in memory of our former players who lost their lives very sadly to cancer. Our target is £20,000 and all the money we raise will go to Macmillan Cancer Support.
“After months of preparation we are all very excited about our cycle challenge which should be great fun, for a great cause whilst no doubt very challenging.”
The 1,200 mile journey will take them through the UK, into France, down to Basel - but the real challenge will start in the form of the Swiss and Italian Alps. The group will finish at Lake Iseo after two weeks of hard pedalling.
The team are backed by motor group Benfield, who have donated a VW support vehicle for their trip. They will be joined by support van drivers Martyn Dent, Charlie Golightly and John Lennox and with motorbike outriders Steve Morris and Eddie Ridden, making sure the cyclist don’t get lost. The team also thanked Sarah Marshall and Lisa Dadley for their support.
Don added: “We are delighted with the support of Benfield and many other people who have supported us already.”
To donate to the riders, visit www.justgiving.com/Thegreatitalianmacmillancycleride2014