The Duchenne Dash...on a tandem!

by Molly Hunt

The Duchenne Dash...on a tandem!
We would like to introduce you to Liam, he has taken part in the Dash EVERY YEAR! But this year he is taking things up up a level and riding the Dash on a tandem with his friend Alex. Here's Liam explaining why:

THE NATURE OF THE BEAST
By Liam Halligan

“The Beast awaits!” says my latest text to Alex. “The Beast must be served!” reads his equally pithy reply.

We live, to say the least, in interesting times. What with Parliamentary meltdown, eco-protests and Trump, even journalists are heard to complain “there’s just too much news”!

Despite our busy lives, Alex Thomson and I have been training hard ahead of the Duchenne Dash on 7/8th June. We aim not only to complete the 300km, 24-hour jaunt from London to Paris, but to do so on The Beast – a bright blue tandem that is really rather large, which is handy as we’re both 6 foot 4 inches tall.

Alex is Chief Correspondent at Channel 4 News, a job that takes him all over the world, often at short notice. I’m a Telegraph columnist, CNN Commentator and Presenter for Channel 4 Dispatches – again, my diary is subject to sudden change. That’s why, as neighbours in Saffron Walden, near Cambridge, we tend to arrange training rides at short notice, often with jokey texts, bending in the miles when we can. 

Riding a tandem is all about teamwork, as we’ve discovered trundling along the highways and byways of rural Essex, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk. Timing is everything – calling the gear changes, easing off, then reapplying the pressure together, to exploit the bike’s momentum.

The Beast has “ordinary” wheels but otherwise boasts the features of a high-end road bike – including drop handle bars, pedal cleats and disc brakes – and is surprisingly responsive. Faster than a solo bike on the flat, we’ve been pleased with the ride on uphill sections too.

This is the seventh Duchenne Dash – and I’m proud to have ridden each of the previous six. Back in 2013, when Emily Crossley and Krishnan Guru-Murthy told me they wanted to “End Duchenne in Ten”, then asked if I would ride a bike from London to Paris “in a day”, I told them they were mad but to sign me up for the decade. On that inaugural Duchenne Dash, when just 23 of us set off from Channel 4’s London headquarters, the main support vehicle was a convertible Saab driven by Emily’s Mum!

Since then, the Dash has developed into a superbly organised operation, consistently raising over a million pounds each year, placing it among the UK’s most impressive and successful charity events. I’m delighted and honoured to be part of this wonderful effort for such a deserving cause – and to be tackling this year’s Dash for the first time on a tandem, with Alex as my “stoker” (the one who sits at the back).

That means I’m the one who not only steers but also controls the timing of the gear changes – although Alex likes to have his say, as Channel Four News viewers will know. “Liam is very good at giving orders, I am very bad at taking them,” my co-rider outrageously told our local paper, The Saffron Walden Reporterwhich has kindly helped us with fund-raising.

Two big personalities on one bike, yes - but we have found areas of firm agreement. For instance, Alex and I jointly decided that every local training ride must, under all circumstances, be planned so the picturesque village of Finchingfield lies around halfway. Why? Because there's a cafe there that sells the most fantastic sausage sandwiches.

Alex Thomson

“Sausage Sandwich O’Clock!” shouts Alex from the back, as The Beast rolls into this rural idyll.

Also, we most definitely agree that The Beast is the best. The two of us are smitten with this ridiculous machine – and not just because it shares the name of the fictitious newspaper in Evelyn Waugh’s “Scoop”, a novel close to every journalist’s heart.

Thanks are due to the Duchenne Dash powerhouse that is Will Pearson – who kindly helped source The Beast and prepared our trusty steed for the coming ordeal. And to the folk at Newdales bike shop in Saffron Walden, who have since kept us on the road. 

“Alex – The Beast awaits!”

ENDS

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Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy is the most common fatal genetic disease diagnosed in childhood. Children born with DMD cannot produce the protein dystrophin which is vital for muscle strength and function. Muscle weakness starts in early childhood. Many use a wheelchair by around the age of 12. As deterioration continues it leads to paralysis and early death, often in their 20s. It almost exclusively affects boys. There is no treatment or cure. In the UK there are around 2,500 boys affected and around 300, 000 worldwide. It is classified as a rare disease.

Duchenne UK is a lean, ambitious and highly focused charity with a clear vision: to fund and accelerate treatments and a cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The charity has been formed by the coming together of Joining Jack and Duchenne Children's Trust, the two biggest funders of research in the UK in the last three years. Its president is HRH The Duchess of Cornwall. Its patrons include the broadcasters Krishnan Guru-Murthy and Mary Nightingale, and the sports stars Owen Farrell, Kris Radlinski and Andy Farrell. 

For more information visit www.duchenneuk.org


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