Briton finishes epic US cycle ride for multiple sclerosis fundraising

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The Guardian

A British cyclist has completed a 4,000-mile ride across the US, raising more than £25,000 for charity, a sum that has included a donation from Dame Judi Dench.

Antony Butcher, 32, completed his three-month-long challenge on Wednesday to raise money for people living with multiple sclerosis. He received a £2,000 donation from Dench, 87, via a cheque posted to his home address in June. The cyclist explained at the time that his father was the dentist for the actor’s daughter.

Butcher, who works in student support at the University of Leeds, decided to take on the challenge in honour of his mother, Teresa, who was diagnosed with MS when he was a teenager.

He told the PA news agency: “After five years of planning and three months of cycling, crossing the finish line felt unreal. I’m still trying to get my head around it. I’ve been overwhelmed with kindness and I am so grateful for all the support I’ve had. The best part of the trip was all of the wonderful people – who put me up, paid for my meals, and cheered me on. I cannot find words to describe how I am feeling today, I can barely begin to process it.”

Butcher, from Ilkley, West Yorkshire, started his journey in Times Square, New York, in April. He climbed about 120,000 ft (36,600 metres) during the ride, which is four times the height of Mount Everest.

Butcher with his mother, Teresa, who was diagnosed with MS when he was a teenager. Photograph: Antony Butcher/PA

He said his mother has been following his journey over the past three months and her support had been “incredible”, adding: “I’ve been speaking to my mum along the way and it’s been incredible to have such love and support from her. She’s had a little map up on the wall tracking where my progress is and I’m looking forward to seeing her now I’ve crossed the finish line.”

However, he admitted he would need to do one more thing before they could be reunited. “I’ve gone for the Forrest Gump look. My wife has already got me booked in for a hair cut.”

The cyclist was greeted at the finish line in San Francisco by his wife and volunteers from the MS Society. He said: “When I first flew out I remember saying goodbye to my wife and thinking ‘what have I let myself in for?’ To say I have cycled across America, it just feels incredible. I faced some of my toughest climbs whilst cycling at altitude through the desert, with nothing between the towns where I set off and arrived each day. The toughest bit was the hills of Nevada, the most mountainous state in America.”

The 32-year-old, whose first bike challenge, 15 years ago, was a ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats, which raised £3,000 for the MS Society. Photograph: Antony Butcher/PA

Butcher has been raising money for charity for almost 20 years. He took on his first challenge aged 17, cycling the length of Britain from Land’s End to John O’Groats, and raised £3,000 for the MS Society.

“MS is a horrible condition, it is horrible to watch someone you love fight a battle that is unwinnable and know there is nothing you can do to help them,” he said. “There is nothing I can do to help my mum, but maybe the money raised to help people living with MS, and the research into the disease, can help other people out there avoid this terrible condition.”

July 15, 2022 at 01:51AM Nadeem Badshah

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