This is Nuts or, to give him his full name, Edward Rikard-Bell. He’s an Aussie but has been living in the UK for decades. I first met him about 15 years ago when I was living in London with a bunch of mates, one of whom played rugby with him.
This photo was taken in May 2008 at my house in France. Nuts had stepped in at very late notice to drive the support vehicle for a London to St Emilion bike ride I’d organised. I never saw him without the Biarritz Olympique rugby club beret during the whole trip. And his relaxed attitude to navigation and meeting at previously-arranged places has become the stuff of legend amongst Les Veloistes Gentils.
I’ll cut a long story short, not least because I don’t have all the details. A few years ago now Nuts was diagnosed with a brain tumour. It’s been up and down since. He’s had a couple of operations and various rounds of radiotherapy and chemotherapy in both the UK and at home in Australia. The cancer’s still there and it probably always will be.
Due to his treatment, Nuts couldn’t join us on the ride across the Pyrenees last year but when I saw him at the end of last summer, he told me that he was absolutely determined to ride out with us on the 2010 trip. Since then, he’s had another course of radiotherapy in Australia and is currently in the middle of a course of chemotherapy in London, to and from which he’s riding 20 miles a day as part of his training. I’m in awe. Just think about that: he’s cycling to and from sessions of chemotherapy to treat a brain tumour.
We’re due to gather a month from today in Geneva, before tackling 700km and 10,000m of climbing in five days. Nuts will be with us, and though I don’t think he’ll ride every kilometre, to ride alongside him will be very special and, frankly, hugely inspirational. I just hope he’s wearing the beret.
Nuts is one of the reasons that I’m raising money for Cancer Research UK this year. For regular readers, you’ll know that one of the other reasons is young Jack, a schoolfriend of my kids who has been undergoing treatment for cancer over recent months.
I’m really pleased to say that Jack went back to school this week. Not full-time, granted, but it’s such a brilliant step for him. He spent about six weeks in hospital in Bordeaux undergoing chemotherapy which seems to have been successful, though clearly it will be years until he knows that he’s all clear. But he’s well on the way to being his previous active self.