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Chamonix to Venice

Published: 23 Sep 2016

Many of you will know Frank Hopps who served as a pilot on 800, 801, 899 and 820 Naval Air Squadrons and then for Virgin Atlantic. Unfortunately Frank has Kennedy’s Disease; it’s a rare inherited neuromuscular disorder that causes progressive weakening and wasting of the muscles particularly in the arms and legs. The disorder affects males; Frank’s older brothers have it; the eldest relies on a wheel chair and 24hr care [he can’t feed or drink himself] while the other is adjusting his house to be wheel chair friendly. For Frank, just like other sufferers, there is no cure and while it only affects males it is passed on through female carriers of the gene. Frank and Kate’s two girls are carriers; if they choose to have kids it is possible that their sons will get the disease and their daughters will become carriers. Little is known about Kennedy’s Disease and this needs to change. So in March 2015 Frank’s wife, Kate, set up a UK based, non-profit organization, run by volunteers and sufferers with the aim to help raise awareness and raise funds. University College London has a small team who work solely on Kennedy’s Disease research. However as the disease is rare there is NO Government funding and therefore fundraising is vital to provide the department with sufficient funds so more trials and research can take place. They want to find a cure for Kennedy’s Disease, if not in Frank’s lifetime then in the girls.


On 16 July, 25 of us set off from Chamonix and rode to Venice through the Alps and Dolomites, some 650 miles and 90,000ft of ascents [yes up Everest 3 times!!] to raise money for the charity.


We travelled through Crans Montana, Andermatt, St Moritz, Stelvio, Bormio, Merano and Cortina; cycling for 10-12 hrs, with climbs averaging 7-9% (some 20miles long) for over half of that each day. It was over 30°C each day, although as we went through the Dolomites we got rain, wind and hail!!


The climbs were massive; Frank (pictured) using his electric bike climbed the Furka Pass with me on Day 2.


Stelvio was climbed twice; the easier side after some 70 miles and the harder iconic side (pictured below) on our rest day, which took 2½hrs.




The entire group was self funded and initially aimed to raise £50k; we smashed that half way through the challenge and raised the bar to £75k, which we again surpassed. We’ve currently raised £87k with a target of £100k. This precious money, along with other donations, provides much needed funds for UCL to continue their research and find a cure to hopefully prevent Frank’s girls as well as many others passing on this awful disease? If you would like to help one of ours then more details can be found at:


Thank you.


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