A father and uncle who wanted to do a one-off bike ride from John o’ Groats to Land’s End and raise £10,000 for Cancer Research UK are now about to embark upon their fifth major cycling challenge and top the £280,000 mark.
Mark Bayliss, 62, from Cornwall and brother-in-law James Van Cleef, 54, from Essex, planned that James’s son, Adam Van Cleef, be the support driver during their first ride. Adam had previously overcome B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma, having been diagnosed when he was 14. In November 2016 Adam was diagnosed with a soft tissue cancer, synovial sarcoma, and in June 2018, when the first ride was scheduled, Adam sadly died, aged 23.
However, Mark and James were determined to see through the project, and would complete their cycling just three months later, smashing their fundraising target in the process. Having seen the potential to make an even greater difference to cancer research, the bike ride would become an annual event.
In 2019 the next ride was a 500-mile pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, Spain. In 2020 that was followed by the North Coast 500, a 500-mile cycle around the Scottish Highlands. Then last September Mark and James cycled round 21 of the 42 English cathedrals from Truro to Bradford, and now they plan to cover the other half in two weeks from Sunday, 15 May. The first week will see them go south from Yorkshire to Kent via London, before a second week travelling west back to Truro.
While the next 973 miles might be more than most people would pedal in a year, incredibly, May’s ride is only a warm-up for Mark and James’s final challenge – a monumental 3,400-mile cycle from the east to the west coast of the USA, James’s home country, starting on Sunday, 21 August 2022.
Mark and James have received fantastic support, including from KISS presenters and Diversity dance troupe members Jordan Banjo and Perri Kiely, and are hoping this year’s rides in memory of Adam can take them to £325,000.
Mark, a former estates director at Falmouth University and teacher at Mullion School, who has lived near Helston, with wife Karen, for 22 years, explained how Adam had left an enduring purpose and legacy.
“When we got to Land’s End, and in subsequent rides, I have said to James, ‘I’d give this all up in a moment, but Adam’s given me the time of my life’. Our riding has been a huge privilege, but at an unacceptable cost. In faith, hope and love we will pedal on.”
He continued: “Adam’s story is about how he lived and endured. He lived despite his cancer. He continued studies at university. He was the captain of a university fencing team and, though he couldn’t compete because of cancer, loved to encourage his team, and see them do their best. He met with friends, he was involved with his church, he played music and because of his deep love for Rachel they got married and had six weeks as husband and wife. Adam’s life didn’t stop. Each day was a gift, an opportunity for him to bless others. He never defined himself by his cancer, but always by how blessed he was. This became an example for anyone that knew and loved him.”
James, who moved to the UK in 1988 to marry his wife, Penny, said: “The importance of Cancer Research UK is it will bring other families better treatments, better solutions, better hope. It’s not a pipe dream. Research makes a huge difference, and it will continue to do so. I would love to live in a world where fathers don’t unnaturally outlive their sons. That’s the drive, that’s the main thing.
“I think what we like about our bike rides is every now and again there are bits when you can ‘hear’ Adam saying something. He was quite disrespectful in a respectful and funny way to me and Mark, so it could be one of his cheeky comments or in other moments it could be him saying ‘Well done!’ We’re often captivated by a sense of peace knowing that even though we’ve lost him, we haven’t really lost him. His presence is with us. And as he was so others-focused we hope we’re carrying on in the same way.”
He continued: “Each ride has been an adventure, with so many memories to treasure. Standout moments from our most recent ride, from Truro Cathedral to Bradford Cathedral, were numerous. We had a great send off from Truro, generous welcomes at Oxford and Lichfield, and a memorable time at Blackburn, where we were greeted by pupils and Adam’s former form tutor from his school. We always get to cycle through some extraordinary countryside and are amazed at England’s beauty. We also treasure the time we get to share Adam’s story with complete strangers, so we look forward to some of the same again when we head off from Bradford on 15 May. Beyond that we have the breadth of America to discover and we’re very excited about that trip.”
James and Mark’s fundraising was recognised with a national accolade at last year’s Flame of Hope Awards. Cancer Research UK’s annual prize-giving acknowledges remarkable efforts in volunteering made by people from all walks of life.
Jessica Allchin, Cancer Research UK fundraiser in Essex, said: “We’re so pleased to see James and Mark back on their bikes for what promises to be a huge few months ahead! What they’ve done and what they continue to do is a brilliant tribute to Adam, and we couldn’t be more grateful their exceptional efforts are being carried out in aid of Cancer Research UK.”
“Please, if you can, show your support for James and Mark, and in turn support us in making discoveries, driving progress and bringing hope to the 1 in 2 people who will get cancer in their lifetime*.”
To show your support for James and Mark go to www.ridingforadam.com, where there is more information and a link to donate.