Sir Chris Hoy is to lead a virtual bike ride as part of a fundraising campaign for motor neurone disease which has already raised almost half a million pounds in the first two weeks of the year.

Sir Chris will lead the 50km cycle on online platform Zwift as part of the Doddie Aid 2024, the flagship fundraising programme for the My Name’5 Doddie foundation.

The charity was founded in the memory of Scotland rugby great Doddie Weir, who died from the disease in November 2022.

Fundraisers are already closing in on the £500,000 mark, with more people signing up every day to play their part in the hunt for treatments and one day a cure for MND.

Doddie Aid was founded by Weir’s former teammate and Scotland rugby captain Rob Wainwright in 2020.

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The event – which kicked off on January 1 – is My Name’5 Doddie Foundation’s biggest fundraiser, with all money raised invested in research projects searching for effective treatments and one day a cure for MND.

More than 1,000 cyclists are expected to join the ride and Sir Chris has urged all of them dig deep to fund vital research into the disease.

So far more than 16,000 people across the UK have signed up for Doddie Aid 2024, a mass participation fundraising event where participants log exercise miles to raise funds for My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, the charity set up by Weir following his MND diagnosis in 2016.

Sir Chris said: “Doddie was an inspiration to everybody who met him and far more around the world, and his relentless pursuit of a world free of MND through the foundation has provided more hope than ever for people living with this devastating disease.

“This ride, and Doddie Aid, is about everybody uniting behind the common cause Doddie started. I often hear people ask ‘what can I do to help’ – well this is it.

The Herald: Sir Chris HoySir Chris Hoy

“The ride is fun and open to all, whether this is the only event you do for Doddie Aid or a way to top up your miles.

“Doddie’s selfless and tireless work in his final years helped create hope of a finish line in the search for a cure for MND – it’s up to all of us to help the community reach it.”

Record breaking endurance cyclist Mark Beaumont – who became the fastest cyclist ever to solo circumnavigate the globe in 2017 – will also lead a cycle around Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh on Saturday.

Other household names involved in this year’s event include Hollywood star Ewan McGregor, former footballer Ally McCoist, TV presenters Lorraine Kelly; Jenny Falconer; Gabby Logan and Eilidh Barbour, as well as rugby heroes of past and present Kenny Logan, Zander Fagerson, Scott Quinnell, Kelly Brown, Jim Hamilton, Scotland captain Jamie Ritchie, and many more.

Paul Thompson, director of fundraising at My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, said: “The wave of support from the general public as well as some of the most famous names in the world is inspiring.

“It shows Doddie’s enduring impact and the strength of will he ignited in the public to help in our mission to rid the world of MND.

“The money raised from Doddie Aid goes towards research into effective treatments that may one day lead to a cure for MND.

“There’s still plenty of time to sign up for this year’s event, and everybody who does is playing a part in securing Doddie’s legacy.”

The initiative has raised more than £4 million for MND research.

Participants sign up using the Doddie Aid app and choose one of six districts to represent – Wales (captain Scott Quinnell); Edinburgh (captain Jamie Ritchie); Glasgow (captain Eilidh Barbour); North and Mids Scotland (captain Eve Muirhead); South Scotland (captain Kelly Brown); and Barbarians (captain Kelly Cates).

The winning district will have clocked up the most miles when the event ends in February.