Linlithgow family saddle up for Wee Jaunt once again

It will be a family affair on Sunday, September 9, when Jill McAfee (40), her son Oliver (9), nephew Callum McDonagh (9) and dad Benny (70) saddle up once again for the Wee Jaunt.
It will be a family affair on Sunday, September 9, when Jill McAfee (40), her son Oliver (9), nephew Callum McDonagh (9) and dad Benny (70) saddle up once again for the Wee Jaunt.

The McAfee family will be getting on their bikes on Sunday, September 9, for Pedal for Scotland’s Wee Jaunt.

Jill McAfee (40), her son Oliver (9), dad Benny (70) and nephew Callum McDonagh (9) will be taking on the 10 mile cycle for a second year.

Powering to the finish line in just 75 minutes last year to collect their medals, Oliver and Callum will be cycling home this year as an extra challenge!

Powering to the finish line in just 75 minutes last year to collect their medals, Oliver and Callum will be cycling home this year as an extra challenge!

And they’re trying to persuade Jill’s mum Anne, who is also a keen cyclist, to join them this year.

In 2017, the family jointly raised just over £200 for the STV Children’s Appeal.

They are hoping to raise a similar amount this year.

But the Wee Jaunt is more than just a fundraising exercise for them – it’s about spending quality time together as a family.

Way to go...Classic Challenge cyclists made their way into Linlithgow last year for a much-needed rest before one final hill and a push to the finish line in Edinburgh.

Way to go...Classic Challenge cyclists made their way into Linlithgow last year for a much-needed rest before one final hill and a push to the finish line in Edinburgh.

Jill explained: “Mum and dad used to take us cycling when we were wee and both Oliver and Callum love it too.

“We’d been doing a lot of cycles along the canal towpath or round the loch but had never taken part in an organised event.

“Some of Oliver’s friends at Linlithgow Primary School had signed up for the Wee Jaunt last year and the boys were keen to do it.

“I thought it would help push them a wee bit and they saw it as a big adventure, taking part in a big event.

“So we all went along to register and that’s when I found out about the STV Children’s Appeal.

“I thought raising money for such a worthwhile charity would help inspire the boys to make it to the finish line.”

In the end, Jill need not have worried – Oliver and Callum, who is in Primary 5 at St Joseph’s Primary School – completed the 10 mile cycle in 75 minutes.

She said: “They both did really, really well and were quite surprised that they’d managed to do it in such a good time.

“And, of course, they were thrilled to collect their medals at the end.”

Jill’s dad Benny signed up to help encourage the boys. He often takes them out on bike rides both locally and in the south of France on annual holidays.

And he’ll be with the boys once again this year to help them complete the route.

“The boys love going out with their grandpa,” said Jill.

“We take them up to Callendar Trails in Falkirk – it’s a free family day and the boys can try different trails to build their confidence.

“They’ve definitely grown in confidence since taking part in the Wee Jaunt last year and we’re all looking forward to it.

“We’ll be cycling home too, rather than getting picked up, so there will be an additional challenge for them this year.

“We’re still trying to persuade mum to do it but I’m not sure if she’s going to be up for it.”

That sounds a wee bit like a challenge to us, Anne!

In any case, whether it’s a four or fivesome taking part, they will be cheered every mile of the way by Callum’s parents, Jenny and Mark McDonagh, and his wee brother Alfie (5).

Jill said: “They were waiting to cheer us on last year at the crossroads at Threemiletown, close to where they live.

“It helped encourage the boys but they were good at pushing each other on too.

“We’d driven the route a few times so they knew what to expect – they knew the hill in Linlithgow was going to be the hardest part but they took it all in their stride.”

As for advice for other parents and families, Jill passed on a wee tip she received from one of Oliver’s Primary 5 classmates.

“One of his friends took part in 2016 and told us to go early to register and collect our numbers,” said Jill. “It was the best advice.

“When we went down to start the cycle, just after 8am, there were long queues waiting to register.

“But we were in the first or second wave of people to leave the town so we had plenty of room, both at the side and back of us.

“I think going early is the best advice for people who want to do the Wee Jaunt with their children.

“It was lovely to see so many families taking part last year. There were wee ones even younger than Oliver and Callum cycling the route and that really helped spur the boys on.

“It’s a great, safe day out for families.”

As for the future, Jill hopes one day to take part on the Classic Challenge – the 45 mile route from Glasgow to Edinburgh.

She added: “I think Oliver and Callum are a wee bit young yet to take it on.

“Cycling to Edinburgh and back is a big enough challenge for them just now.

“But in a few years time you may well see us taking part in the Classic Challenge.

“The boys love the Wee Jaunt and there’s a fantastic atmosphere but I think they will be up for that challenge in a few years!”

Organise an access plan now

Celebrating its 20th year in 2018, Pedal for Scotland has become the country’s biggest bike event.

The annual Glasgow to Edinburgh ride raises vital funds for local charities, including Pedal for Scotland’s official charity partner, the STV Children’s Appeal.

Thousands of people from Scotland and beyond are expected to take part in the 45 mile Classic Challenge, with an optional 100 mile Big Belter for more advanced cyclists and a 10 mile Wee Jaunt for families and riders of all abilities.

Organiser Cycling Scotland is hopeful that more money than ever before will be raised at the event on September 9.

Keith Irving, chief executive, said: “Pedal for Scotland is one of the country’s biggest and best family events where riders of all ages and abilities get together to cycle between Glasgow and Edinburgh.

“Not only does Pedal for Scotland help people get active and have fun, each year the event raises an incredible amount of money for Scottish charities and community groups. We are hopeful that this year will be a record year for fundraising.”

Roads will be closed along the route and diversions in place to enable cyclists to enjoy a safe, traffic-free environment.

Keith added: “Because the event is for cyclists of all abilities, it’s necessary to have the road closures in place but we try to do what we can to mitigate disruption.

“Managed access plans can be arranged for those making priority journeys, such as social care visits or for carers.

“But people need to get in touch with the team in advance to make these arrangements.”

To organise an access plan, call the event team on 0333 300 3485 or email info@pedal.scot.

For more details on this year’s event, visit www.pedal.scot.