A woman from Scotland aged in her 70s who has not been on a bike in five decades has set herself the goal of qualifying to represent Great Britain in the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships in Varese, Italy later this year.
Janice Houghton-Wallace, who raises poultry at her farm in Dumfries & Galloway, is also raising money for the Mesothelioma UK Charitable Trust, a charity that fights asbestosis, having lost her brother to the disease when he was aged 58.
She plans to ride the time trial at the Golazo Tour of Cambridgeshire in June in a bid to qualify for the world championships in the 70+ age group for women.
On her page on the Virgin Giving website, she wrote: “I have to delve into the past to recall when I regularly used to ride a bike.
“The primary school I attended was in the neighbouring village and I would cycle to that, coming to grief one day after new tarmac had been put on the road and I skidded on the grit badly grazing my chin.
“When at secondary school I cycled the two miles to the bus stop but after passing my driving test the bike became redundant.
“Many years on and I have decided to take part in a cycle time trial which is part of the Golazo Tour of Cambridgeshire Cycling Festival 2018.
“The chrono time trial is based on age/gender classifications and is a UCI qualifying event for the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships.
“I come under the age classification 70+ and my aim is to be placed thus qualifying to represent GB at the 2018 Championships in Italy.
“However, she continued, “there was a problem with this idea - I did not have a bike! My son Robbie bought me a new road bike and my friend Esther bought me a helmet, so I am set up.
“I now have until Saturday 2 June 2018 in which to learn to be confident on the bike, increase the levels of distance I can do and eventually try to get some speed up.
“I am taking on this challenge in memory of my brother Stephen who passed away at the age of 58 in 2010 with the asbestos cancer Mesothelioma.”
An article on the website of Smallholder magazine, to which Janice is a contributor, reveals that she looked after her brother, who came and lived with her after he had been diagnosed at Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire.
“We believe Stephen must have inhaled asbestos fibres at the age of 17 whilst helping his uncle build a new piggery and asbestos was being cut to roofing requirements,” she said.
“Mesothelioma specialists say it only takes one fibre to be inhaled and it will lie in the lining of the lung for many years before manifesting itself in this atrocious disease.
“I witnessed someone I love suffer shocking, intolerable pain. Let's work towards eliminating the cause of this preventable disease and in the meantime more effective treatment,” she added.
In last year’s Tour of Cambridgeshire, just one rider entered the 70+ age group category for women – Elizabeth Randall, who completed the 26.4-kilometre course in 50 minutes 1.11 seconds, automatically qualifying for the world championships.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.