AN inspirational visit to the Middle East two years ago has motivated a St Neots man to take on the cycling challenge of a lifetime... a 2,600-mile solo ride to Beirut in Lebanon.

AN inspirational visit to the Middle East two years ago has motivated a St Neots man to take on the cycling challenge of a lifetime... a 2,600-mile solo ride to Beirut in Lebanon.

For Martin Walsh it may not be the most obvious destination for a charity cycle ride, but it’s somewhere that holds a special place in the 23-year-old’s heart, after he spent a summer backpacking through Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.

The hospitality he encountered on his travels has inspired him to raise money for Medical Aid for Palestinians, a charity that gives medical treatment to refugees.

“The warmth of a Middle Eastern welcome is something to behold, and it made it an incredible trip that I will remember for ever,” said Martin, of Avenue Road.

“I wanted to take on this once-in-a-lifetime challenge, to really push myself, and Lebanon and this cause jumped out.

“The hospitality my friend and I were given last time was really special, and it’s something that the people take pride in. They were so generous, opening their houses to me and my friend, offering us tea, meals, places to stay.”

He hopes to raise £1,500 for MAP, which operates mobile clinics to treat those who cannot afford, or cannot access, treatment. The Lebanese have suffered from years of conflict between Isreal and Syria.

“I remember seeing the buildings with shell-holes in them when I was there before. So many people don’t have access to the medical care they need, and this charity provides it for them.

This is my small contribution.”

Martin will set off on March 12, and anticipates that his odyssey will take between three and four months, meaning he will complete his ride approaching the height of summer.

“This ride is going to be such a challenge for me – but it needs to be difficult as an incentive for people to sponsor me,” he said.

“I hope that when people realise what I have ahead of me, they will be inspired to donate more.”

Martin has plotted his route on cycle routes across Europe, and hopes to cover between 50 and 60 miles a day once he hits his stride, camping out in his tent overnight.

“At the moment I’m going on 20-mile training runs, but I have been going out with my full pack, to simulate what it will be like on the road. I’m a lot fitter than I was when I started, but there’s a long way to go,” he said.

He admits that he is nervous about tackling such a big task.

“I’ve got the usual nerves surrounding something unknown like this. I’ve visited the area, and travelled on my own before, but this is a big trip – a really big trip.”