This September, five intrepid, ageing dental consultants will climb into the saddle and cycle almost 1,000 miles in a bid to raise £50k for charity. Practice Plan’s own Creative Director, Les Jones, will be joined by four of dentistry’s best-known faces: Sheila Scott, Ashley Latter, Chris Barrow and Simon Tucker – now known as FiveGoForth – on a bike ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats.
The ride, which takes place between September 8th and 23rd, is in aid of three good causes – Bridge2Aid, Cancer Research UK and BrushUpUK and sponsored by Practice Plan. Here, Zoe Close chats to the group about how they plan to take on the challenge – and how you can get involved!
Zoe: Where did the idea of riding from Land’s End to John O’Groats come from and how did you become a team of five?
Ashley: It was my idea. I’d been looking to take on some sort of challenge for a while; I spotted that Les cycled round Wales last year so I suggested the idea to him, and it just snowballed from there with our fellow team members getting involved.
Sheila: It’s always been on my bucket list and I was planning to do it solo in the summer. I heard Ashley and Simon were talking about it, so I asked if they would do it slowly enough to include me…I think the feeling about speed was unanimous!
Zoe: Please can you tell us a little bit about why you selected the charities you have chosen to support?
Les: I think everyone has been or will be touched by cancer at some point in their lives, so Cancer Research UK is a charity that everyone can relate to. Every day they are working on potential cures or ways in which people’s lives can be extended and quality of life prolonged.
We also wanted to support some of the fantastic work that is being done within the dental space, so have chosen two charities – Bridge2Aid and BrushUpUK.
I’ve been out to Tanzania to see and photograph the work the charity does there and it is literally life-changing for the people they treat and support. Bridge2Aid works with volunteer dentists to train local medical officers in outlying towns and villages to carry out basic dentistry and, as a result, relieve thousands of people of pain.
BrushUpUK is a great charity that works with dental professionals to provide education and guidance about oral health to vulnerable groups in society.
Zoe: You’ve set yourself a huge target, £50,000, how confident are you about achieving it?
Chris: I think we are probably more scared of the financial target than we are of the ride, but the early decision was to set a challenge that would stretch us, not just physically and mentally during the journey across Britain, but also before and after.
Simon: We all believe that with the connections we have in the dental industry, we should be able to get a significant amount – but, this is HUGE and so it fits the challenge.
Zoe: Other than sponsoring you, are there any other ways people can support you and get involved?
Chris: We would love to see old and new friends join us for parts of the journey. Clearly, we’re also depending on our existing communities to spread the message, whether it’s by word of mouth or social media.
Ashley: Yes, it would be great if supporters can spread the word to as many people as possible, plus if all the dentists in the UK gave £2 then we will reach our goal quite easily.
Zoe: How much cycling have you done before this?
Sheila: I bought my first bike about 20 years ago, started training and signed up for the 500-mile Grand Canyon ride in 2001, which John and Jan Tinsely (who set up Practice Plan) organised for Dentaid, and I loved it. I then found a local group of cyclists who I still cycle with and became a dedicated roadie. Cycling is a sheer joy. I cycle at least once a week – more now that I’m retired – and I’ve completed several multi-day rides and sportives. But nothing as big or as challenging as this.
Les: I’m a bit of a fair-weather cyclist. My first experience of long-distance cycling was in 2009 when I did the London to Paris Challenge, which was a great experience. Then last October I did a 300 mile, four-day cycle across Wales, which was mostly a great experience except for the day riding across the top of Snowdonia in a force nine gale and driving rain…I could have lived without that!
Simon: I am an asthmatic, and cycling has really helped me. I no longer need an inhaler. I have done London to Brighton, London to Paris and Paris to Berlin, along with Coast to Coast and the odd week cycling around Majorca. I also cycle every weekend along the coast around Bournemouth.
What kind of training have you been doing so far and how is it going?
Chris: My passion is running rather than cycling, and I’ve set myself a challenge of running 12 marathons this year as well as this bike ride, all to celebrate my 65th birthday on 9th September (day #2 of the ride) – so my main focus is training for marathons.
Ashley: I took up cycling about two years ago when I couldn’t run anymore because my knees were sore. I go out at least once a week with some friends where we cycle around 30-40 miles. I aim to cycle three to four times a week, really hitting the big numbers as the challenge gets nearer.
Zoe: You’ll be riding an average of 70 miles per day, how will you keep each other going?
Simon: In short, talking, laughter, and banter.
Zoe: What roles do you think each person of the team will fall into?
Les: In any team I generally fall into the role of mother hen! My role is to make sure everyone is OK and is well fed and watered; I’m also a peace-maker.
With his experience of being on the TV show The Island, I’m hoping Chris will be able to build and light fires and hunt for any food we might need when we’re out in the wilds.
I think Simon will be great at planning the route and general organisation – he will also be the chief translator when we’re coming through the west country. Ashley will be using all his ethical selling skills to encourage people to support us and donate to our chosen charities.
And Sheila is the CSO – Chief Smut Officer!
Sheila: Thanks for that Les! I think it’ll be a rolling movement for Chief Motivator, Leader, Café Sniffer Out, Entertainer, etc. We’re all desperate to do our bit, and we won’t let any of us fall behind, either on the organising or on the ride itself.
Zoe: What do you think the biggest challenge will be?
Chris: Apart from being saddle sore? The weather (it’s Britain, after all), and mechanical failure – I can’t change a light bulb either!
Les: I think getting the training in will be a challenge. We all lead busy lives, but it’s imperative that we get enough miles in our legs before the start.
Other than that, I think the biggest challenge is probably mental, not physical. There will be times when we are tired or even a bit bored – it’s having the mental strength to push through. I’m just going to visualise that pint of beer at the end of each day!
Simon: The hills. I hate them! So do my knees.
Zoe: Some people will say that you are mad taking on this challenge – bearing in mind there’s an average age of 58, what would you say to them?
Chris: You are absolutely right. It’s called making memories and I hope to be just as mad on my 100th birthday.
Sheila: I think I’d quote Johnny Depp playing Jack Sparrow: ‘Thank goodness for that, ’cause if I wasn’t this would probably never work.’