A look back at Life Cycle as the VC prepares for his final challenge

05 Jun 2016 23:45:00.000

This year Life Cycle – the University’s annual fundraiser – is embarking on its sixth challenge.

A team of 12 riders will saddle up to take on the four geographical corners of the UK in a gruelling 1,400 bike ride to raise a £1m for breast cancer research.

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The cycling challenge was born in 2011 when Vice Chancellor Professor Sir David Greenaway wanted to support the University’s fundraising campaign in a meaningful way.

Now, £1.8 million later and with thousands of miles under his belt, he is preparing for his final endurance ride.

Looking back over the last six years he shares some of the highlights of his cycling legacy.

Where did the initial idea for the endurance ride come from?

In 2011 we were launching the Impact Campaign, and I made a significant donation. But that seemed too easy. So I began thinking about something which might be more of a sacrifice, and which could engage our community in some way. Giving up two weeks of my annual leave to cycle from John O’Groats to Land’s End seemed to fit the bill.

Why cycling?

Because I had hardly been on a bike since I was a teenager, and I knew this would therefore be a huge personal challenge.

How much training did you do for the first ride?

Given my day job, I could (and still can) only get out at weekends. That meant 40-50 miles on a Saturday or Sunday morning. A number of us also cycled the ‘Coast to Coast’ route, which was useful to get the feel of being in the saddle for a few days in a row.

Was there ever a time when you thought you wouldn’t be able to complete the ride?

I fell off on Day 6 and damaged my right knee, it was so swollen by the time I got to the hotel that evening, I thought it might be over for me. But bags of frozen peas when I was off the bike, strapping when I was on it, and a strong desire to avoid letting people down saw me through to the end.

How do the team dynamics change over the course of the ride?

Living in a bubble with the other riders and the Support Team for two weeks creates extraordinary dynamics. Everyone is constantly on the lookout for others, and an intuition quickly develops to ensure you can read whether someone needs a lift. As well as going through the pain barrier for our chosen cause, we are going through it for each other.

Did you think you would be doing this six years later?

Certainly not, there was only meant to be one! But I was so taken by the way the broader community became engaged and involved, with many taking on fundraising challenges of their own, it was obvious we had to build on the first.

Which has been your favourite of the rides?

That is difficult. If I really had to pick one, it would be Life Cycle 4 when we completed 1,300 miles for children’s brain tumour research. We all cycled for a particular child who had passed away, or was a survivor of the disease. That added an additional emotional charge. 

What is your best Life Cycle memory?

A special kind of camaraderie develops very quickly across the riders and Support Team: partly because we are all going through the same pain barriers; partly because we are all united by a single cause; partly because everyone is just an amateur cyclist taking on a challenge for a cause they believe in. It is genuinely inspiring to observe people who are not regular cyclists take this on and do it.

How has the ride evolved over the years?

We have become better organised, prepared better, become more systematic in our planning and fundraising, and more ambitious in our challenges. But some things have not changed, in particular the commitment of all involved and the special bonds that develop (even as the composition of the team changes).

Are you surprised at how much has been raised?

Yes. Life Cycle 1 raised £232,000, which we were delighted with. Life Cycle 4 raised £786,000, which was phenomenal. And here we are targeting £1 million. It is a great tribute to the generosity of those who have supported us, and to the effort everyone puts in to fundraising.

What top tip would you give to riders taking part this year?

Eat as often as you can. Even if you do not feel hungry, always remember you are eating for the next day.

How do you feel knowing that this is your last endurance ride?

Having made the decision, right now, it feels fine. But I may feel very different when I arrive at Dunnett Head on September 3rd 2016.

What would make this ride your most memorable?

Getting through it without mishaps affecting any of the team; having some shared pleasure in the process; and delivering £1 million to make a difference to breast cancer research.

Do you have another fundraising idea for next year? Will Life Cycle live on?

That has to be a call for someone else! I will watch with interest.

Every day, in the UK, 140 women are told: "you have breast cancer". Around the world, 10,000 women die from the disease every week.

The University, which has a long history of delivering world-leading breast cancer research, is working to develop the world’s first blood test to detect breast cancer early, testing novel drugs developed in Nottingham to stop the disease from spreading, and developing new targeted treatments.  

To mark the start of the Life Cycle 6 cycling challenges, the Trent Building on University Park was bathed in pink light. 

It will turn pink once again for two weeks at the end of August, when the Life Cycle 6 endurance cyclists, take on their challenge.

You can help support our intrepid cyclists by sponsoring the team or find out more about our research, and other ways to get involved on our Life Cycle pages

Story credits



Liz Cass - Head of Media Relations

Email: liz.cass@nottingham.ac.uk Phone: +44 (0)115 748 4734 Location: University Park

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