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Meet the three men who cycled 9,000 miles to the Rugby World Cup for charity

Joe Robinson
20 Sep 2019

Covering 9,000 miles, they managed to make it to Tokyo, Japan after six months on the road

While you may think the only link between Rugby Union and cycling is that almost every rugby player takes up wearing lycra in retirement, you would actually be wrong.

That's because ahead of the Rugby World Cup that kicked off in Japan on Friday morning, three inspirational men have travelled the 6,000 mile route from London to Tokyo by bike all for charity.

Hertfordshire duo Ben Cook and George Cullen departed from Covent Garden six months ago while 62-year-old Patrick McIntosh left from the home of English rugby, Twickenham, in May to reach the competition's opening night on Friday 20th September.

Cook, 24, and Cullen, 26, left London in March with the aim of raising as much money for Movember, a charity focused on men's physical and mental health and also making the first-ever Rugby World Cup in Asia.

The mammoth journey saw the pair - who named themselves the Hairy Handlebars thanks to their matching moustaches - cover 19 countries en route as they passed through mainland Europe, picked up the Danube River to Istanbul, crossed the deserts of central Asia and then rode 2,500 miles across China before reaching Japan.

Along the way, the pair managed to attend an Uzbek wedding and stag do while in the city of Bukhara, negotiate landmines along the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border and share home-brewed brandy with locals in a mountain village in Georgia.

Cook admitted the trek came through a desire to explore and that 'the prospect of visiting the most remote parts of Central Asia and China was super exciting so in turn we both quit our jobs and began preparing for what has been an epic experience.'

As for McIntosh, he covered the same distance albeit on a different course and without a riding partner, taking 139 days to cover 12,161 km and climb 56,944m.

The 62-year-old left on 3rd May from Twickenham, heading through the Netherlands and Scandinavia before hitting Russia. Then came 90 days of pedalling through the world's largest country. 

Following the historic trans-Siberian railway, McIntosh skirted the borders of Kazakhstan, China and Mongolia for three months at an average of 109km per day before arriving in Vladivostok to catch a ferry to Japan.

McIntosh's decision to cycle to Japan was spurred by successfully fighting bowel, prostate and skin cancer.

He hoped to raise £250,000 for the World Cancer Research Fund and St Catherine's Hospice and has currently reached £50,000. More information can be found here

Cook and Cullen wanted to raise £30,000 and are currently just £1,000 away from their target. More information can be found here.

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