A FUND-RAISING firefighter based in Clydebank has told the Post of his experiences cycling 555 miles to raise cash for research into motor neurone disease.

Willie Wilson, a crew commander at Clydebank's community fire station, was part of a 13-strong team of Scottish Fire and Rescue Service personnel who cycled from Cardiff to Edinburgh last month - arriving at Murrayfield Stadium just in time for the Scotland v Wales clash in the Six Nations.

Willie admitted he isn't a massive rugby fan - but said he just had to get involved in the Doddie Aid challenge, set up to raise cash for the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation.

The foundation was set up by the late rugby legend Doddie Weir to raise money for research into motor neurone disease, with which Weir was diagnosed in 2017.

Willie’s father, also called William, died in 2008 after being diagnosed with MND.

And the fireman told the Post he jumped at the chance to get involved as he tries to do something for MND every year in memory of his dad.

“When the area found out we could put a team in," he said, "they put emails out to everyone - and I applied straight away as quick as I could.”

Willie, who has run marathons for MND charities in the past, said this was a particularly tough challenge, with the hardest part being the lack of sleep for both the seven riders and the six support crew.

They were up against the clock to reach their destination in time for kick-off in Edinburgh, where ex-Scotland international Rob Wainwright would deliver the match ball after cycling the trip with Willie.

“The rides were difficult at times," Willie continued. "In terms of the hills, there were a lot of hills!

“The weather was actually quite good, it was dry, which was good.

“The hardest thing was the tiredness – the lack of sleep.

“We didn’t get much sleep from the Thursday to Saturday evening.”

The group only stopped twice along the route, at Cobra Rugby Club in Meiford and Darlington Rugby Club, for two four-hour sleep blocks to help them get over the line.

And Willie explained it was the group spirit that kept everybody going in some of the more difficult moments.

He added: “Everybody was great. Everybody was encouraging each other. That helped, everybody was pushing each other on.”

The final leg of the journey saw the Doddie Aid team cycling up the A1 towards Dunbar, turning towards Edinburgh, and then Murrayfield for their final stop.

Willie finished: “We were exhausted because the last cycle we had done was 20 miles, and it was 20 miles into a headwind.

“It was quite gruelling. And when we finished that it was a relief.

"Immense pride, amazement that you have done it. When you think about what you have done, you’ve gone all the way from one side of the country, up and into across the other side, with no sleep.

“It was an amazing achievement for everybody involved. Even the support crews, they were the same.

"They might not have been pedalling, but they didn’t get any sleep either.

“I was delighted that we did it.”

He went on: “I’m not a rugby fan, but I have followed Doddie Weir’s journey since he had MND.

“You always see a lot of famous people, a lot of football players that have had it, and any time I see that it brings back memories of my dad."

Clydebank Post: Willie says the lack of sleep was the hardest part of the 555-mile cycleWillie says the lack of sleep was the hardest part of the 555-mile cycle (Image: SFRS)

And even though Willie's not a follower of the oval ball game, he couldn't miss the opportunity to stay on and watch Scotland win 35-7.

“I’m a football fan," he said, "but there was no point in doing this and not going to the rugby after to see the final chapter of the journey.”