It will, Sue Hopper admits, be emotional when she climbs onto Tony’s old Boardman road bike tomorrow and rides through the night in memory of her husband.

She will not be short of company. Some 35 people in total will be saddling up and leaving Carlisle, bound for Edinburgh, where they expect to arrive some time on Sunday morning.

The 100-mile ride is being undertaken in memory of the hugely popular former footballer Tony, and to raise money for Carlisle’s Eden Valley Hospice, who cared for him in the final stages of his life.

Those attempting the ‘Ride to the Sun’ are either friends, family or former colleagues. It is the first major charity event in Tony’s name since the father-of-three’s death from motor neurone disease last October at the age of 42.

It is also the sort of challenge of which Tony would undoubtedly approve.

“When we discussed it last year, because a lot of Tony’s friends wanted to do something, we wanted it to be appropriate, and something Tony would have wanted to do himself,” said Sue.

“He was a really keen cyclist – he used to cycle to and from work every day, and would often go off and do way more miles than that. He would go on cycling holidays with some of the lads.

“His bike was there, and we thought it would be a nice thing to do. We’ll have eight hours to think of the reason we are all doing it, and through the night, when we’ll all be tired, I’m sure it will be highly emotional.

“There will be loads of stuff happening on the route. At Moffat, the fish and chip shop stays open; you put your order in before so they know you’re coming. There’s also a late-night disco on the way. And we’ll definitely be having drinks on the beach when we’ve finished.”

It is also appropriate that Tony’s beloved bike will be making the trip, which begins at Carlisle Castle at 7pm tomorrow, the day of the summer solstice, and ends at Edinburgh’s Cramond Beach.

“I’ve had to have it adjusted, because he was really fit and had way stronger legs than me!” Sue said.

There will be a range of cycling experiences and abilities on the road north. “Some have never cycled before, and some used to cycle with Tony,” Sue said.

“Some can do 100 miles no bother – Tony would have been in that group that will find it easy. Others have cycled a certain distance but not as far as that, so it’s going to be huge challenge for those of us.

“His brother David is doing it, and Darren is driving a support vehicle. Tony’s brother-in-law and nephew are also doing it so it’s a bit of a family affair as well as friends.”

Some of Tony’s old football team-mates, from Carlisle United and Workington Reds, are also joining in: Richard Prokas, Jeff Thorpe, Peter Keen, Lee Hoolickin and Dave Hewson.

The 35 riders will also be kitted out in specially-made jerseys, featuring a host of sponsors’ names. Those supporting the ride include Fontana’s, the Belted Will Inn, Moynan Smith, DFS, Direct Rail Services, Wiseone mortgage advisors, Arnold Clark and Persimmon. Pirelli and the Cumberland Building Society have also contributed.

“We have been given great support,” Sue said. “And nearly everybody who’s sponsored us is actually doing the ride too, which is fantastic.

“We always get such good support from people. Tony was a really popular member of the community.”

The great support the Hoppers received from Eden Valley Hospice is being reciprocated through the ride. So far, more than £10,000 has been raised for the hospice in Tony’s name, including the Ride to the Sun event. More donations are still coming in, while the ride’s sponsors have raised £3,200 alone.

This is to honour one of Tony’s final wishes.

Sue said: “When Tony was first admitted to the hospice a couple of times, for symptom control, he said, ‘Sue, if we do anything in the future, it will have to be to support this place’.

“The staff there were amazing and the treatment he had was really good. He wanted to do something as payback for them.”

Eden Valley Hospice deeply appreciate the continued support in return, not least this weekend’s two-wheeled challenge.

Their community and events fundraiser Sam Johnston said: “Sue Hopper’s enthusiasm and drive over recent months leaves Eden Valley Hospice with a huge sense of gratitude.

“This is not only because she has brought together this amazing team of riders in Tony’s memory, but also because of the wonderful work she has done to raise funds and also the profile of the hospice.

“We cannot thank her and the other riders enough and wish them all the best for this weekend.”

To support the Ride to the Sun and donate to Eden Valley Hospice, visit