Luke Chaput de Saintonge

Luke Chaput de Saintonge is your everyday mid-thirties city worker living in South London. Besides commuting a couple of miles on his fold-up Brompton bike to his job as a web manager, Luke’s evenings were fuelled by single malt whiskey, Texas Hold ‘em Poker and late night fast food.

That changed earlier this year when he signed up for the East to West Challenge – a 600km, six-day cross-country cycle from Southend to Galway, organised by Male Cancer Awareness Campaign. Until then Luke was a casual cyclist and had never ridden a road bike nor committed to any serious training. But just five weeks before the date he signed up for an event that would change his life, physically and mentally.

Since hearing about the challenge earlier in the year, Luke’s father David had started chemo for prostate cancer. For a man so visually defined by his beard and immaculate hairdo, Luke said how strange it was to see his Dad lose his hair from the chemo. During this time, Luke really started to feel the effects of cancer on his family. With David also being a doctor, Luke knew that he was at high risk of prostate cancer himself. He decided to channel this energy into a positive outcome and get his body into physical shape at the same time.

With only five weeks to train, Luke swapped his late night fast food for good nights’ sleep and early morning cycles to ensure he achieved the required training. He set himself a tough four week training and nutritional schedule, with a week of rest prior to the epic adventure. He bought a mid-range Trek bike and slowly he built up to two training sessions most days, usually a 25 mile bike ride as well as a spin class. And on the days he was tired and sore, he would swim.

“I learnt all about fuelling and recovery, eating the right kind of carbs and taking in protein after workouts to build leg muscle. And slowly the weight came off too. I lost 4-5kgs in the run up to the challenge, and more during the ride! An unexpected benefit of the trip for a glutton like me was the amount of food you need to eat to get through each day. We probably knocked back 6,000 calories a day of flapjacks and cakes and still lost weight.”

“My dad is a bit of hero for me, a huge inspiration. I have a video of him struggling up a Scottish mountain, despite him having cancer half way up his spine. I watched that video from time to time during my training and just thought, what the hell am I worrying about!”

“The ride was also more enjoyable than I’d expected. After a day and bit of cycling, so long as you’ve trained for it, you get in a groove and you start to enjoy it more and more. By the end, far from being tired, I was cycling harder, faster and longer than at the beginning. The extreme silliness and camaraderie between the riders was also an unexpected benefit. When you’re having tough moments, the banter amongst the riders lifts you – and you’re never left to struggle alone.”

The reaction to the naked suits, especially through major towns and cities, was amazing. Aside from the constant wolf whistles, car horns and shouts of support, we had people flashing us from their cars, buying us drinks in bars and wanting to pose in photos with us. It was a bit like being an incredibly minor celebrity!

The ride is a great opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and do something that you may not even know you are capable of. Many of us  probably can’t even remember the last time we did something that truly challenged us. This is a ride into the unknown.

“Anyone of any age, gender or ability can do this ride, so long as they prepare. You’ll meet great people and get super fit in a really fun, spirited and occasionally raucous atmosphere. But with every pedal in your naked suit, you are also sending out the charity’s message to those who see you: if I can cycle for six days in this ridiculous outfit, you can check your private bits once in a while!”

If you want to help spread the message and set yourself an epic challenge in 2012 sign-up for East to West 2012 or check out the other Male Cancer Awareness challenges here.

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