A TEACHER is setting off from South Tyneside today on a two-week bike ride for charity.
Ali McConway, of South Shields, is among 20 riders meeting in Gateshead this morning to start a 1,200-mile cycle journey to Italy at 9.30am.
The 40-year-old is a physical education teacher at Whickham School and Sports College in Gateshead.
He is a former player for Gateshead Rugby Club, and all of the riders have links to the club too.
They have already raised more than £22,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support in honour of three former players killed by the disease – Stu Marshall, Mark Dadley and Kevin Clough.
The journey will take them through France and the Swiss and Italian Alps before they finish at Lake Iseo in Lombardy, Italy.
Mr McConway is hoping they can raise more than £25,000 for the charity.
He said: “We reached our £20,000 target a few days ago, which was a tremendous boost for us all. Everyone is delighted at just how generous people have been.
“We’ve had a couple of training rides together and have trained individually, and everyone is looking forward to it.
“I can’t wait and am looking forward to the challenge in aid of a great cause.”
Today’s first stage will see the riders travel from Gateshead to York, and 13 of the team will then complete the rest of the trip to Italy.
North-East motor group Benfield has provided a Volkswagen support vehicle to accompany the cyclists throughout their journey.
For details, visit www.facebook.com/GreatBikeRide2014