A Newtownabbey doctor has raised more than £5,000 for a local school and disability sports club by taking on a gruelling cycle across the Alps.
Dr Gary Dorman raised the cash for Rosstulla School in Jordanstown and Newtownabbey Racers Special Olympics Club by completing the Raid Alpine - a 740km traverse of the Alps from Lake Geneva to Antibes on France’s Mediterranean coast.
Dr Dorman, from Doagh, and his fellow cyclists travelled over 31 mountain passes along the way, covering some 18,000m of steep climbs - twice the height of Everest - in just eight days.
“The challenge was laid down by some colleagues who felt I would not be able to complete the challenge as most of any cycling I do is mountain biking and not road cycling. It was a great challenge and unless you have done something like this it is very difficult to describe the extent of the mental and physical challenge,” explained Dr Dorman, who works as a Gynaecologist at Antrim Area Hospital.
Their route included several roads used during stages of the Tour de France, including Col de la Bonette - the highest paved road in Europe.
Despite having trained for several months in the Glens of Antrim before taking on the Alpine challenge at the start of September, the 49-year-old described cycling for up to six hours a day at high altitude, in rarefied air, as “extremely demanding”, adding that he now has a newfound respect for those who compete in the Tour de France.
“It took me two hours and 28 minutes to climb the 2,803 metres up the Col de la Bonette and some of the professionals do it in just over an hour, so I have a lot of respect for them,” he added.
Many of the 18 brave cyclists - a team of nurses, doctors, a dentist and a lawyer - used the event to raise funds for Bowel Cancer UK and the Erin Thompson Trust. But Dr Dorman decided to support two good causes closer to home.
And thanks to generous donations from work colleagues, family and friends, as well as money received though Just Giving sites, he was able to hand over a cheque for £3,800 to Rosstulla School and £1,250 to Newtownabbey Racers.
“I wanted to support local projects that were in need of help, and as my son attends Rosstulla and is a member of Newtownabbey Racers they seemed like just the right causes,” he said.
Dr Dorman, whose energy-sapping experience in the Alps has convinced him that there are no real hills in Northern Ireland, says that despite the toughness of the mental and physical test, he would do it all again given half a chance.