Sheffielders to pedal through the night in support of mate in need

Riders supporting their mate next Friday are, back from left, Stuart Jenkinson, Steven Lodge, Grahame Brightmoore, Richard Cross, Antony Boot and Andy Matthews. Front, Paul Gawthorpe, Bruce Ford and Dominic Clay

Riders supporting their mate next Friday are, back from left, Stuart Jenkinson, Steven Lodge, Grahame Brightmoore, Richard Cross, Antony Boot and Andy Matthews. Front, Paul Gawthorpe, Bruce Ford and Dominic Clay

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A group of Sheffielders are putting football rivalries aside to cycle more than 150 miles overnight and raise money for a mate in need.

Antony Boot and his group of Sheffield United and Wednesday fans will undertake the mammoth ride next week for good friend Bruce Ford.

Bruce was hurt while on holiday in Algarve with a group of friends last September.

It was an innocuous accident: Bruce slipped off a bucking bronco machine while at a pub.

He hit his head and broke the C3 and C4 vertebrae in his neck.

The accident left him paralysed and confined to a wheelchair.

Bruce was cared for by the Queen Elizabeth Spinal Unit in Glasgow, and returned home just two weeks ago.

Antony said it wasn't a drunken incident.

"Just a tragic accident," he said.

The Ride4Bruce course goes from Airdrie, east of Glasgow, to Sunderland's Stadium of Light.

Former Sheffield resident Bruce is Sunderland-born, and lives in Airdrie.

The riders hope to raise money for two causes: For Bruce to make wheelchair-friendly adaptations to his home, and to give something back to the spinal unit for its quality care.

Sunderland FC has provided free tickets for the crew to watch the match against Bournemouth on Saturday. Bruce will join them in the stands.

The ride has also been mentioned in the club's match-day programmes.

The ride will be a tough one. The 161 mile route, which takes in Beatock, Lockerbie, Gretna Green, Gilsland and Hexham, involves 6,600 feet of climbing.

The night ride will add to the already tough challenge.

Antony said the riders had been training hard, slowly increasing the distance of their weekend training rides.

They are now riding more than 80 miles at a time, and getting used to longer riding times.

That, for Antony, is one of the hardest parts of the ride.

"Just because of the time in the saddle," he said.

Riders hope to raise about £5,000. Half will go to Bruce and half to the hospital.

Antony and his mates are well on their way to achieving the target.

"We're at about £2,000 now," Antony said.

To donate to the cause, visit www.rideforbruce.co.uk

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