Their motto is “ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” and when a group of amateur cyclists from the South set off from Rome to London in aid of Cancer Research UK, they certainly experienced an ‘extra’ ordinary send-off. 

Before settling into their saddles at The Vatican ahead of their perilous 2,384km journey, dubbed “The Italian Job,” the team took a pew to receive a personal blessing from none other than His Holiness Pope Francis.

The group of fundraisers who call themselves, ‘Inspired Living’, were congratulated on their efforts to reach a £500,000 fundraising target for life-saving research and were thrilled at the Holy Father’s reaction to a special, personalised keepsake.

Team member, Andrew Gibson, 74, who has beaten bowel cancer and whose partner has successfully been treated for melanoma said: “I presented him with a Cancer Research UK cycling jersey. I turned it round and showed him that it had his name on it and he was really amused and thanked me really enthusiastically.”

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Over 17 days, a total of 28 riders and six support crew whose lives have been touched by cancer, will cover six countries and climb 27,490m. People can sponsor their fundraising efforts here.

The Inspired Living team have previously raised £370,000 over six former rides to destinations including Gibraltar, Venice, Monte Carlo, Rome and Barcelona.

Tim Stevens, 63, of Salisbury, whose wife of 42 years, Heather, has been living with breast cancer for nearly a decade, said: “I remember doing the first ride with some trepidation and wondering if I could actually do it, but the morale amongst the group was fantastic.

“Heather is my inspiration though because she has been living with secondary breast cancer for eight years and remains so positive. Her cancer is driven by the hormone, oestrogen, so she takes a drug called Letrozole to lower the hormone levels and try to stop the growth of her cancer.

“In the last few years, she’s seen the birth of two grandchildren and that’s thanks to the availability of this drug that’s managing her cancer effectively.

“Cancer Research UK played a part in developing this particular type of hormone therapy and it’s this kind of progress that we need to continue funding. People like us doing challenges like this can provide the funds to help save the next life and enable others to live with cancer.”

To fundraise for life-saving research click here or call 0300 123 1022.