WHILE most people have been taking things easy over the festive period, a bunch of former Selkirk rugby players have been doing the opposite – heading out on their bikes in all weathers, in order to get in shape for a tough charity challenge.

The ‘Cycling Souters’ team will head off from Edinburgh’s BT Murrayfield stadium on Thursday, February 10, as part of a 100-strong cycling group aiming to reach Cardiff’s Principality Stadium within the next 48 hours.

The cyclists’ mission is twofold – delivering the match ball in time for the Doddie Weir Cup fixture between Wales and Scotland, and raising as much money as possible for the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation.

Using a relay system, the teams of cyclists will endeavour to cover the 515-mile distance in 48 hours, with various rugby clubs along the route providing feed stations, medical back-up and shower facilities.

Selkirk is the only Border rugby club to have entered a team, so it’s perhaps fitting that the 100 riders’ first feed station stop will be at Selkirk’s Philiphaugh ground.

Team captain of the Cycling Souters is former Scotland internationalist Gordon Hunter, who is hoping each squad member and support crew volunteer will raise at least £500 through personal sponsorship, making a grand total of £5,000.

“We’ve also had pledges of financial support from two or three companies,” said Gordon. “They’ve kindly agreed to fund the purchase of Doddie cycling tops for the boys, as well as covering the various costs of the trip, for example buying petrol for the support vehicles.

“Ex-Scotland captain Rob Wainwright is organising the whole event, and has entered a team from his home island of Coll. London Scottish have also entered a 12-man squad, while several clubs from Wales are taking part.”

Asked to name his strongest rider, Gordon said the Cycling Souters were all experienced road cyclists, but singled out Allen Jamieson, the team’s road captain, for special mention.

“As well as being a very good rider, Allen is also our route planning expert, and I’ve every confidence he’s going to keep us all on the right road!”

The interview over, Gordon and his seven team-mates headed off from Hay Lodge Park in Peebles for a 40-mile training spin, taking in Broughton, Dolphinton and Biggar.

One early casualty of the Selkirk squad is ex-Heriot’s FP and Scotland internationalist Andy Macdonald, who has been forced to drop out of the team after aggravating a hip injury. He is now planning to join the Cycling Souters’ back-up team.

Meanwhile Selkirk’s Scotland and British Lions internationalist, Iain Paxton, is currently struggling with a knee injury. “It’s very frustrating,” said Iain, “but I’ve made an appointment with a physio to see whether I’ll be fit enough to take part.

“The last thing I want to do is to hold the boys back, so I’m hoping the situation will become a bit clearer once I’ve taken medical advice.”

The Cycling Souters’ line-up comprises ex-Scotland internationalists Gordon Hunter, Graham Marshall and Iwan Tukalo, Selkirk RFC vice-president David Anderson, plus ex-Selkirk players Tommy Knox, Kenny Pearce, Kevin Fairbairn and Allen Jamieson.

Anyone wishing to sponsor the Cycling Souters, and in so doing support the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, can visit: justgiving.com/team/TheCyclingSouters