Hale pilot sets off on 1,000km bike ride in memory of rugby-loving dad

By David Prior at

Hale airline pilot Matt Smythe is embarking on a 1,000km cycle ride in memory of his rugby-loving father Mike, who died from prostate cancer 18 months ago.

Both father and son are former St Ambrose College rugby players and the Catholic grammar school in Hale Barns was one of the stop-off points before the main drag down to Richmond and then Poitiers in central west France, where the combative three quarter was a hugely popular character and player.

The journey started at Broughton Park, where he played in his youth and then took in Sale where he was a regular in the 70s after his French adventure.

Son Matt, 34, who has three friends cycling alongside with a support team of three further enthusiasts travelling behind, is aiming to raise as much money and awareness as possible for Prostate Cancer and Macmillan Cancer Support.

Matt Smythe with St Ambrose rugby players and fellow cyclists and support team Graeme Lightwood, Michael Stockwell, David Nicholls, Gareth Gildea and Kieran Tames

He said: “My dad wanted to live and had gone to seek medical advice, but was only given the rectal digital examination, without a blood test. Initially he was told the pain in his back was a slipped disc but it was only when he went to Trafford General for an MRI that they discovered his cancer had spread. Seventy one years old was far too young for a man with such a zest for life.

“I feel men should demand the same level of attention as women. Women have regular screenings for breast and cervical cancer but men have to ask for help and then it seems, certainly in the case of my father, that the service is not as comprehensive as it might be.”

Both Mike, in the 60s, and then Matt, in the 90s, represented St Ambrose with distinction on the rugby field.

The school’s director of sport, Nigel Handy, said: “I coached Matt but Mike was before my time, but if he had anything of Matt’s drive and ambition he would have been a very good player. Everyone at the College fully endorses his campaign to raise awareness of prostate cancer which remains one of society’s taboo subjects, but quiet killers.”

Matt’s fund-raising page is here.