John Fyall will have just one thing on his mind when he cycles from his front door in Udny to Rome next month for Scotland’s Six Nation’s clash with Italy.
That he makes it there on time.
“We’ve got an absolute deadline,” the Bristow Helicopters worker says with a smile. “Finn Russell isn’t going to hold kickoff for us, even if we ask nicely.”
By the time Scotland’s star kicker Finn gets his hands on the ball at the Stadio Olimpico on March 9, John fully expects to have taken his seat.
The 50-year-old may be feeling a bit sore, however, having hopefully completed the 1,800-mile journey in about seven days.
He and seven other riders are making the epic trip to raise £50,000 for My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, the motor neuron disease charity set up by former Scotland lock and MND sufferer Doddie Weir.
An arduous route through Europe
The cyclists, aided by a support team and sponsored by Specsavers, will wind their way through England, cross the channel on the Eurostar and hot-pedal it down to the south of France into Italy.
It is an arduous undertaking. John hopes the group of experienced and not-so-experienced cyclists will be averaging about 100 miles a day, taking it in turns to rest and refuel in the support cars as part of a continuous relay.
But while the whole team will be pushed to their limits, John and friend Michael Fotheringham from Methlick have the longest road to travel.
Their six companions start from Dundee’s Specsavers branch. John and Michael, however, will set off from their north-east homes.
“Being able to get on the bike at my front door and use it as the main method of getting all the way to Rome, it’s just a tremendous thing,” says John. “I’m really looking forward to it.”
Leaving dreich Dundee for sunny southern Europe
John’s job with Bristow, based at Aberdeen Airport in Dyce, allows him to get some extra training in.
He usually cycles to work, however the recent cold snap and icy roads have seen him leave the bike at home a few times.
That means he’s looking forward even more to hitting the south of France and northern Italy next month, where the weather should be a few degrees warmer.
“I’ll certainly be starting off with long trousers and leggings and waterproofs and gloves,” he says.
“But I’ve cycled in the north of Italy before and it’s just lovely. Fingers crossed that the further we get to Rome, the balmier the conditions.
And while the aim is to make it to Rome in time for the game — the whole group has tickets for the match — everyone is hoping to get there a day early.
That’s because John and the cyclists are not the only ones headed to the Italian capital.
Their adventure is part of the All Roads Lead to Rome initiative organised by former Scotland flanker Rob Wainwright, who wants as many Scotland fans as possible to travel to the game by any means other than flying.
“All the teams will meet up at the Piazza Navona [in central Rome] the day before the match, on March 8, that’s the idea,” explains John. “So fingers crossed we’ll get there in time.”
And what about Rome’s famously busy roads? Any concerns navigating them on a bike?
“You know what, they are famously busy,” John says. “But Italy is a wonderful cycling country. They’ve got a lot of love for the sport of cycling and we’re looking forward to a warm welcome in the city.”