Adventure aplenty for couple on Nicaraguan charity cycle

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A Broughty couple who completed a gruelling cycle challenge have raised over £7000 for families fighting terminal illness at home.

Petra and Tommy McMillan were part of a team of 26 men and women to complete a 250 mile cycle trek from Nicaragua to Costa Rica in aid of Marie Curie, the charity that provides free professional nursing care at home to individuals with a range of terminal conditions, including cancer.

But, said Petra, a Marie Curie patron for Dundee and Angus, with temperatures topping 38 degrees, tough terrain and huge hills, the challenge was deemed to be the toughest cycle trek from the charity yet.

“It was a much tougher challenge than any of us expected,” said Petra.

“Every day we were up at 5am to try and beat the worst of the heat but still we were in the saddle, battling on when the mercury was hitting 38 degrees.

“Both countries are known for their mountainous terrain but we were still taken by surprise by the off-road sections. Often, even in the lowest gear, it was a real battle to just stay on the bike and keep pushing up these never ending hills.”

Not everyone in the group fared so well though. Sadly alongside the usual handful of bumps, scrapes and heat stroke casualties, two men were hospitalised following accidents, one of whom Raymond Evans, 64-year-old from Liverpool, sustained serious injuries including a fractured skull and eye socket, a broken collarbone and seven broken ribs.

Said Petra,”Every challenge carries a degree of risk but it was very sobering when Ray came off his bike. This was his 14th challenge for Marie Curie and everyone was shaken by the accident. Thankfully, the swift action of the medical team and the expert care he has received in Managua means he’ll be heading home soon.”

This was Petra’s third overseas challenge for Marie Curie, having climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 2016 and cycled with three local friends from Vietnam to Cambodia in 2014.

The mum-of-two, who began fundraising for the charity following the death of her mother Renate Rennie in 2009, has also climbed Ben Nevis, walked the West Highland Way and ran a marathon and a handful of half marathons for the charity.

Each time, says Petra, she is driven by one key fact.

“Every penny we raise stays within our own postcode area to help other families in need.

“That means that other families like ours might have that vital support we had, when they most need it. That’s the best possible thing that can come from the loss of my mum.”

Since 2009, Petra, her family, friends and a legion of supporters have raised over £250,000 for Marie Curie in the DD postcode area and two successful fundraising groups are operating in Dundee and Carnoustie.

This time, the Nicaragua to Costa Rica team have raised over £101,000 to ‘buy’ more than 5000 hours of high quality, hands on care for individuals at home or in one of the UK’s nine hospices.

Home now, Petra intends to put her feet up for a bit but husband Tommy, a former Dundee United player, is already gearing up for Scotland’s biggest road race, the Marie Curie Etape Caledonia - an 81 mille cycle challenge in rural Perthshire this May.

Said Petra,”Tommy’s got the bug now, which is brilliant because prior to his training for this he was a bit of a couch potato to be honest! Now I can have a rest, sit in the support van and cheer him on for a change.”

Interested in the Etape? Visit www.mariecurie.org.uk or contact Petra via petramcmillan@sky.com