A SOLDIER from Slad is preparing for a cycling challenge to commemorate the start of the First World War.

Rifleman Alex Maclellan, 24, of the 3rd Battalion The Rifles, is one of 13 soldiers who will be tackling around 900 miles next month, starting from the Battalion’s base in Edinburgh and finishing with a tour of the First World War battlefields in Belgium.

“There are two aims for the challenge, the first is to raise money for our charity, The Rifles Care For Casualties’Appeal, which safeguards the welfare of the regiment’s serving soldiers, veterans and their families.

“The second is to build a regiment cycling team to take part in the Army Cycling Championships,” said Alex.

Joining the Army might seem an unusual career choice for someone who attended Wynstones School but Alex has no regrets.

“I’ve just returned from a two-month training stint in Kenya. It was very hard work but very rewarding.

“I would never have had the chance to go there if I hadn’t signed up 14 months ago.”

A keen cyclist, he signed up for the challenge as soon as he heard about it.

“I’ve cycled to Spain before, so I have some idea of what this involves,” he said.

“And I’ve been putting in long training rides while I’ve got summer leave at home.

“We will be riding 100km a day for the first days so being prepared is vital.”

Each of the 13 cyclists has been asked to raise at least £750, and Alex is already working towards that total.

“After school I worked as a barman in the Woolpack in Slad and the locals have been very helpful in getting me started,” he said.

“I also have a big family and I’m hoping they will help to boost my total.”

“It’s going to be a challenge but the terrain will be a bit flatter once we get out of Scotland, and especially when we reach Belgium.

“Beyond this I would definitely like to be part of the Rifles’ cycling team, so that’s definitely something else to aim for.”

If anyone would like to sponsor Alex on his cycle ride please visit justgiving.com/rouleurrifle/ lSee page 45 for more on the First World War centenary.