In October 2020, SCA Members Craig Wallace and Ally Evans cycled #672 miles and visited 29 Scottish cricket clubs. In doing so they raised over £14,000 for Brain Tumour Research and battled some of the wettest Scottish weather in over a century. They did this all in memory of former teammate, friend and Scottish Cricket Icon, Con De Lange.
Read below as Craig Wallace recalls “the best week of his life.”
You can still donate to Cycle4Con and raise money for Brain Tumour Research here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/craig-wallace4
Lockdown for some people was hard, for some people it was the break they needed, but for me it was the best thing that could ever happen. Lockdown allowed me to think of Con De Lange, the challenges he had and what I could do to help him, his family and so many others.
Cycle4Con started way back in April when I decided to take Dad’s bike out for a spin with nothing else to do. No cricket, no golf and no social life allowed the mind to start wandering. It fell on Con, it fell on how to help, it fell on how to do him proud and most importantly it fell on how best to remember him
Months later, once I was brave enough to voice my thoughts, Ally Evans was on board. The cycle had escalated, from what started off as 500 miles in 5 days (a test match that Con so desperately wanted to play) turned into 672 miles in 7 days, Con’s cap number and something which felt quite fitting. We had planned cycling from Bath to Paisley via all the special places Con played cricket in the UK until Sturgeon and COVID intervened. We fell on cycling these miles within Scotland hitting as many cricket clubs as we could, which felt quite fitting knowing Con’s passion for cricket in Scotland. But what came and happened was the best week of my life and one I will never ever forget.
Friday 2nd October
Day 1 of Cycle4Con begun with the biggest bowl of porridge imaginable, multiple coffees and, as the nerves and adrenaline started to kick in, we’re off.
We met Forfarshire legend Ian Potts in ‘The Ferry’ and started our journey. We cycled along in tandem catching up, discussing the week and what might happen, but more importantly enjoying each other’s company- until our first problem. Pottsy the keen and experienced cyclist he is shouted to us to watch for the potholes as we waded through a car park in City Quay, Ally far too interested in talking (shock) clips a pothole! I hear the screech of a brake as I turn to look over my left shoulder. The picture I saw will stick in my memory forever. The big giraffe falling head and legs over the handlebars to come crashing down onto the road knee first! I look up expecting to see Pottsy in hysterics as I was and all I got back was a look of complete disgust as he shook his head at Ally on the floor. Ally to be fair was quickly up, wiped off the blood, dirt and mud from his knee, fixed his chain and was back on his bike.
We headed across the Tay Bridge to St Andrews where Claire De Lange informed me this was the first place they went as a family after Con’s chemotherapy. A quick stop off at Spokes to check over Ally’s bike and we were off again. Sun on our backs and only one thing to think about, how many more crashes would we have!
We stopped off at Elie, Largo, Freuchie before heading to Falkand where we would stop for lunch. Here we met a lovely couple simply enjoying the sunshine and having their lunch at the cricket ground as well. After a quick discussion, I found out they were from Carnoustie and took great interest in our Cycle4Con where I happily told them all about the great man and our story. We then headed home, 102 miles later, to complete our first day. Only the one crash, no rain or wind, it was considered a very good day.
Saturday 3rd October
Mum’s birthday. Storm Alex. 135 miles to Aberdeen and back
In Aberdeenshire, on the 3rd October, there was the most rain recorded over a 24 hour period in a century. The 135 mile trip started in the pouring rain at 6.30 am where Ally and I headed to Arbroath. A quick photo and remembering a great story of Con’s innings against them in the Scottish Cup Final we headed north. This is where Ally and I took different routes to reach more cricket clubs. Ally heading west to Strathmore, Perth Doocot, Rossie Priory and home, me the route north to Aberdeenshire CC.
Cycling up past Lunan Bay, you can usually see glorious views across the stunning beaches and the North Sea. But instead, I was met with the heaviest downpour in the century and could hardly see 100 yards in front me, never mind across the North Sea.
I made it to Montrose around 11am, soaked through. A Post Van drew up beside me and pulled his window down on the main road. Naturally, I thought the worst, I either thought something was wrong with my bike I couldn’t feel or I was going to cop some abuse for cycling in these horrendous conditions. What happened next blew me away. A man, around my age, big beard and friendly face simply asked: “Are you ok? I’ve been following your story and it’s amazing what you and Ally are doing”. Instantly I broke down a little bit, but then had the biggest grin on my face. I could not believe that Cycle4Con had managed to reach out to a Postie and cricketer in Montrose named Sherad Mehta who was following my journey and he had come out to find me and wish me luck. Sherad, you truly inspired me to keep going and put on a smile on my face for the rest of the day. I will never forget that moment, and every time I was struggling It made me remember why I was doing this.
To the real hero.
With the extra spirit my miles per hour definitely improve as I arrange to meet mum at Inverbervie for my first food stop halfway to Aberdeen. On mum’s 21st(ish) birthday she definitely did not need me to attempt cycle 135 miles in a storm but unfortunately there was no stopping me and being the mother she is, she could not leave me when I needed help. I remember seeing her on the side of the road waiting for me to get there, hood up, drenched and a look of serious concern on her face. I got into the car, took off all the wet clothes and managed to have a hot cup of soup with her. Thankfully the present I had for her kept dry in my inside pocket and we shared a moment of warmth on her birthday. We shared some of Fleur’s brownies, a cuppa and tried not to talk about the rain! As I sat there shaking uncontrollably from the wet and cold I decided it was time to get on the road again to really test Mum on her birthday. Quick change of clothes and away I went up the road for the 2nd part of the journey to Aberdeen.
This was, without doubt, the hardest part of the journey, going so far from home only meant I had to go back, but luckily I had arranged to meet Liam Sweeney and Matthew Parker to do a live podcast for HalfWayUp Middle to talk about Cycle4Con. These two are two of my best mates and there was no letting them down, not to mention the hospitality Kenny Reid and Aberdeenshire CC promised. A pint of Guinness, a hot shower and some lovely stroganoff courtesy of Sam Wright! I finally arrived 2 hours late at half-past 2 but seeing them and a pint of Guinness brought that smile back and I instantly remembered the times I’d had with Con with a Guinness or ten!
Shower, podcast and a feed were definitely required and without it I think I might have let mum convince me to drive me down the road. But nope, dry clothes on and away I went down the road to complete my day. After spending time with my two best mates, talking about Con on a podcast and time off the bike I was ready for anything, rain still pouring down, roads puddled everywhere but I was on my way home and I just had to get it done. Fast forward 5 hours and at 8.30pm I finally made it home. Broken lights, road diversions and a puncture 20 miles from homemade the journey certainly one to remember. Ally came to join me 20 miles from home and thankfully he did, his parents by the end had to drive behind us with the car’s full beams on so that we knew where we were going. It truly was a ridiculous day, but one that brought so many messages and more importantly so much money for the cause so we simply had to finish it. To mum- thank you so much, and sorry again for ruining your birthday!
Sunday 4th October
A 5am get up to fix my puncture and we to head to Edinburgh. An easterly wind makes this day one of the most enjoyable and a little bit of luck we needed after storm Alex. We stop off at Forfarshire CC to pick up Pottsy again before heading through to Edinburgh via Glenrothes. A relatively easy day you would think. Obviously things did not go as smoothly as planned, Ally’s chain broke just before Cupar which meant another stop off at a bike shop for a brand new shiny chain and off we went! The day should have been an easy 90 mile ride to get to Edinburgh in daylight but this 2 hour delay might make us riding in the dark again. We picked up our second cyclist volunteer of the day just after Cupar, Katie McGill, which was a very welcome visit. Ally and I’s chat had definitely exasperated to say the least! Hills, the sun behind us and great hospitality by Kenny Crichton at Glenrothes CC made the day very enjoyable which was definitely needed after the lows of storm Angus. We even made it to Edinburgh and the bridges for sunset which truly topped off a great day on the bike. 3 days down, 4 to go and almost halfway.
Monday 5th October
Today we headed south out to North Berwick passing Penicuik, Haddington and Musselburgh CC on a day filled with hills, sunshine, rain and some beautiful golf courses more importantly. 5am wake up, foam roll and about 10 helpings of porridge later the mornings are starting to get slower and slower. Both of our knees are screaming at us to not go again but off we ride, through the city centre with our first incident. Heading to Penicuik Ally’s bike starts making a loud chattering noise and 10 seconds later a massive smash, crash, wallop and his light is caught in between the spokes of his wheel and smashes into 1000 pieces making Ally almost fall off again on the busy Edinburgh roads. For me it was what I needed to get me going on day 4, bursting into laughter again as Ally turns and looks at me shitting himself not knowing what had happened. You can see we didn’t have much sympathy for each other but laughed just as Con would be doing. We head out to Penicuik where we both share many great memories of playing against the late Willie Morton and head East. We were told Day 4 was going to be the hardest, but the beautiful countryside of Scotland and Edinburgh was truly amazing. Knees sore, heads gone, but our eyes were in heaven as we cast ourselves over the countryside going up hill after hill looking back toward Edinburgh and onto the lovely golf courses of East Lothian. We stopped off in Dunbar for a well-earned chippy, a bit of TLC on Ally’s knee from his mum and off we went back home to finish the 100mile day. We had agreed to meet Simon Smith in Prestonpans for a catch-up and race with his little boy, but 5 miles out I got another puncture! 45 minutes later, a new record, it’s fixed and off we go for the hardest race of the day against Ben! It was great to see Smudge and then home to Edinburgh to finish with the Morningside hill. Over 6,000ft climbed in the day, but another 100 miles in the bank and we are over halfway. AND back in the daylight(ish)
Tuesday 6th October
The wall has been hit. 400 miles in and I’m in the bush. I have to crawl down the stairs in the morning as knees too sore, foam roll, yoga and tweet about my rough morning looking for some sympathy. The first response I get was from Claire De Lange, unfortunately not the sympathy I was after. She simply replied saying that she can’t stop smiling as she knows Con and his hearty, deep laugh would be in full flow by now, laughing at us and what we are doing for him! Although not the sympathy I was after, it certainly put a smile on my face.
We head west to Glasgow, shock it’s raining, to see some of the clubs Con played at, we head to Drumpeilier and Uddingston CC before coming back to Edinburgh with another guest. The cold, the wet and the 5th day on the trot have taken their toll. I am grumpy. Luckily though there was no wind and we headed west past the longest canal you’ve ever seen out to Gordon Drummond’s in Uphall. Shock, I get another puncture this time on my outer wheel which is unfixable. I manage to ride very slowly into Uphall where Mrs Evans finds me and takes my bike to a bike shop where I meet Drummo for a bacon roll to cheers me up. An hour later and my bike is ready to go, fingers crossed no more punctures. We make our way west along a cycle path to Glasgow finding Drumpellier and along to Uddingston. It’s safe to say the cycle paths in Glasgow aren’t quite up to the standard of those in Edinburgh or Dundee, I think we spent more time picking up our bikes rather than riding through the shattered glass! We stop at Uddingston, where Ross Lyons and their skipper Bryan Clarke met us with some Tunnocks Tea Cakes!
Good chat, more rain and a good feed before we had to head home back to Edinburgh. Richie Berrington had decided to join us for the last 3 days riding for his friend Con. He certainly looked the part, borrowed bike, new shoes and a new jacket with the tag still on he was raring to go. If I’m honest he looked more than Chris Hoy than Bradley Wiggins but at least he would protect us from the wind! We headed east on the same paths as before and was very glad of Berro’s company, he was surprised at our freshness but realised very quickly it wasn’t our legs that were the issue. The bikes again have issues, riding east Evo’s back tyre completely blew up as if I shotgun had hit it, causing Evo to wobble away and somehow manage to stay on his bike- but yep you guessed it another big puncture unfixable so another call to Mrs Evans is made and Ally luckily gets a replacement bike to get him home. We finally made it to Edinburgh in some grumps heading along the canal in, yep you guessed it, pitch darkness. The only highlight coming when a dog which we didn’t see barks at Berro who completely shat himself reminding us of the tricks Con would play on us and Mairi on regular occurrences.
Wednesday 7th October
The best day. The finish in sight, we had our best mates and it was back to the glory days.
Ally and I had the misfortune of rooming together for many years but today we were joined by the best pairing there has been. Jokes, pranks, brandy and a lot of fun come to mind when you think of Berrington and Goudie together and that’s what graced Ally and me on the second last day. We picked Goudz up near Currie on our way to West Lothian to visit a lot more cricket clubs. Being tired, sore and fed up yesterday, if I could pick two people to get me through this challenge it would be Berro and Goudz together and they didn’t disappoint. Within an hour they were already playing tricks and had us completely forgetting about our sore bodies. We first stopped off at Bathgate where Goudz produced these lovely lights which he would dangle off Ally’s bike.
He managed to attach them on Evo’s bike within a mile at some traffic lights where Ally did not realise for at least an hour- many photos, videos and laughs later he finally realised and was a great start to the day.
We cycled along in great spirits over the hills with the sun on our back reminiscing of the glory days we used to have when we were younger. We made our way past California, a great reception at Westquarter CC and to Linlithgow where I made an appearance on Radio Scotland to tell our story of Cycle4Con. The total had now raised above £10k in support and I was the happiest man alive, I had a sudden burst of energy and was flying up all the hills much to the frustration of the heavy lads I was leaving in my wake. Weighing in just over 70 kgs is definitely a benefit in the hills as opposed to the other 3 nearing 100!
We finally got back to Edinburgh where we ticked off all the Edinburgh clubs one by one coming in from the west and finally had a beer together at Carlton which was much deserved. 600 miles down and just the 72 to go.
Thursday 8th October
With 600 miles in the bank we were almost there and just needed one last push. We were again joined by Pottsy, Goudz and other members of the Scotland squad to get through this last day and show our appreciation for Con de Lange. Shane Burger, Matthew Cross, Mark Watt, Chris Greaves and of course Berro joined Ally and me on our last route, heading from Edinburgh to Stirling and finishing at Ferguslie Cricket Club, where Con started his Scotland journey. We set off early once again to meet at Grange CC where we took a few photos, checked everyone’s bikes, pumped up tyres and off we went. Ally and I set the pace early so the boys knew what they were in for, after only a couple of miles Mark Watt could be heard at the back asking “they know we are going all the way to Glasgow right, why are they going so fast”. It was going to be a fun day. We meet Pottsy as the Forth Road Bridge where every player seemed to get their Instagram stories out, and onto Stirling we went. It was brilliant to have different company and styles of riders for the last day- from Watty using the heal of his shoe as a break to Crossy wobbling all over the show as if he would need stabilizers much to Pottsy’s amusement, and annoyance, as he was ruining his cycling cred as Crossy fell into a parked car! We cycled along in what looked like an army to Stirling and enjoyed a nice lunch again courtesy of Mr and Mrs Evans who were incredible all week.
Pottsy departs us and we only have 40 miles to go to Glasgow to make our target, the ride is easy, along a canal all the way to Glasgow, but there is one problem, Crossy and his ‘heavy bike’. I though could not have been happier with his struggles, I cycled along with Crossy behind the group, using his slowness as a nice little break from our pace and enjoying the last day. We face wind, rain, sun and a bit of hail as we approached Glasgow, but I couldn’t be happier, knowing now that the challenge would be completed and I would succeed. We made it into Glasgow around 5 o’clock, not the best timing for rush hour, especially when mad man Ally Evans was in the lead. We took wrong turns, rode up the wrong side of the road at the busiest Glasgow Cross junction, but finally made our way to Clydesdale where we stop briefly for a drink to meet Colin Mitchell. Although we were not there yet, that drink in the sun on the Clydesdale chairs was a real highlight, remembering Con and the good times he had at this great club with Western Warriors. He has created a legacy there which I know the club will work hard to continue.
We then have one last leg to go, and yep you guessed it, it was getting dark. It was only 7 or 8 miles to Ferguslie from Clydesdale but it was probably the hardest of the lot. Due to my Aberdeen adventure, I realised halfway through this last leg I had completed the 672 miles for Con De Lange. I break down cycling along the main roads of Glasgow, tears streaming down my face and I’m struggling to see where I am going. I hang back from the group not allowing anyone to see my weaknesses. I’m exhausted, sore, thankful, but most importantly so proud of what I and the guys had managed to achieve. The ride was incredible but the support and awareness were even better and it just all got the better of me.
We make our way to Ferguslie, up one last hill towards the hospital and down we go, waiting on Crossy at the junction, before riding into Feguslie Cricket Club, we have done it. The support there was incredible. Our families, Claire De Lange and the Ferguslie members are all there waiting in the cold for us and I couldn’t have imagined it being better apart from Con magically being there himself! A few photos to remember the moment, a pint, an emotional speech and I can take a moment to realise what has happened. I manage to sit down with Ally, pint in hand and just sit in silence listening to everyone else celebrate the success of Cycle4Con. Emotion, exhaustion and the unwanted attention comes over me and what is probably my one regret of the journey, I am the first to leave Ferguslie. Overcome with exhaustion and emotion I just wanted to be alone. I don’t like attention at the best of times and I just had to sneak away and let the team enjoy the success they had. I managed an incredible week and at the end had a pint with my mate Ally and thought about Con. That was enough for me.
Thank you to Ferguslie CC for allowing us to finish the challenge there, putting on food for us and giving us the satisfaction of having a beer with our mates. Thank you to Claire for all the support and love she gave during the week in remembering her husband. Thank you to Ally’s Mum and Dad and my Mum and Dad for the incredible support for the week. Lastly thank you to Ally for agreeing to do this with me and helping me through the best week of my life.
Con De Lange #672