A GROUP of amateur cyclists, including an Oakley man, has embarked on a remarkable journey from Rome to London with a target to raise £500,000 for Cancer Research UK.

Before starting their epic 2,384km journey, the team, known as Inspired Living, received a special blessing from Pope Francis himself at The Vatican.

The 10-member fundraising group, consisting of individuals whose lives have been touched by cancer, gathered at The Vatican to meet the Pope.

Among them was Barnaby Rosevear, from Oakley, who has taken part in all but one ride after he was asked to help look after the finances for the very first ride.

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He said: “They asked me if I would help keep an eye on the figures and if I wanted to join with a bike I could, so I did.

“In my family, my mum had bladder cancer and I have had a number of skin cancers so we’re proof that one in two people will get cancer in our lifetime.

“We wanted to do something significant when we lost someone to cancer right at the start. Now with this total raised, we feel we have done something significant.

“Some of the highlights over the years have been crossing The Alps and The Pyrenees and also cycling around the coast of Spain and then seeing the rock of Gibraltar.

“Coming to Rome and cycling home was something we talked about for years as the big one and this will be my last ride.”

Over the course of 17 days, a total of 28 self-funded riders and six support crew members will traverse six countries, conquering challenging terrains and ascending 27,490 meters.

The team has launched a sponsorship campaign to support their fundraising efforts under the banner of 'The Italian Job.'

The Inspired Living team, whose ages span from 21 to 74, are no strangers to formidable challenges or the cancer research cause.

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They have already raised an impressive £370,000 through six previous rides, with destinations including Gibraltar, Venice, Monte Carlo, Rome, and Barcelona.

Cancer Research UK's spokesperson for the South, Elisa Mitchell, said: "We’ve been at the heart of the progress that has already seen cancer survival in the UK double in the last 50 years, but we’re not stopping now. Incredible supporters like Inspired Living are helping us to go further and faster in the fight against the disease. By raising money for vital research, they are bringing hope to people affected by cancer in the South and across the UK.

“The Italian Job has taken months of preparation in both the route-planning and the physical training required to complete such a gruelling challenge. We are delighted that the team’s ongoing efforts have been recognised by Pope Francis and thank His Holiness for his blessing as they begin their journey back to the UK. 

“We wish everyone a safe, fun and enjoyable experience and can’t thank them enough for their commitment to the cause. One in two of us will get cancer in our lifetime. Inspired Living has shown that all of us can support the research that will beat it.”  

For those looking to support life-saving cancer research, visit cruk.org or call 0300 123 1022.