Warren Hawke will not be the first British tourist to be beguiled by the notion of a coast-to-coast trip through Italy in late spring.

It is not difficult to understand the appeal of a journey that begins with the breeze whipping in off the Adriatic coast, traverses the Alps and the Dolomites, takes in the beauty of the Tuscan countryside and the chaotic charisma of Naples before winding down in Rome amid the Eternal City’s many delights.

Few if any, though, will have done it like this. This will be no luxury train journey or scenic drive for the former Morton striker who went on to later become their chief executive.

Instead, the 52-year-old will take to two wheels to make an audacious assault on this year’s 2,100-mile Giro d’Italia course just two days before the professionals, including former Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas, do the same. It will be an epic, energy-sapping endeavour over 21 stages that includes heading high into the mountains so many times it is the equivalent of scaling Everest six times.

Starting on May 4, it is a test of endurance beyond most amateur cyclists’ capabilities but motive and opportunity have combined to make it feasible for Hawke. He is now his own boss, running Strenua, a sports, charity and arts consultancy, which has given him the freedom to fit in a demanding training schedule around his work commitments for the last eight months.

When the weather is kind that can mean a five or six-hour cycle around his Renfrewshire base. When the rain is lashing down, as has been the case too often of late, Hawke can be found instead in his garage on his stationary Zwift bike, clocking up mile after mile with only energy bars, motivational podcasts and uplifting music to sustain him.

Corporate sponsors – Scope Financial, Tempus Apparel and Velo Performance – have eased the burden on what is largely a self-funded adventure.

Motivation comes from a rare opportunity to experience virtually like-for-like what a professional endures on one of cycling’s fabled three grand tours.

Hawke is no stranger to endurance events having competed in Ironman triathlons and swam the length of Loch Lomond (24 miles) in the second phase of his sporting life following a football career that included an appearance for Sunderland in the 1992 FA Cup final.

The scale of this challenge is unlike anything that has preceded it, however, and Hawke wants to discover if he is up to it.

“I can be glued watching the Giro, the Tour [de France] and the Vuelta for hours and the pros make it look so easy,” he says. “I went up one of the iconic climbs once, Mont Ventoux, with the Observatory at the top that looks like a lighthouse. It’s the flattest bit of land you’ve ever seen and then this one huge mountain in the middle. I actually turned up, coincidentally, on the 50th anniversary of the death of Tom Simpson, the British cyclist whose heart had given up on the top.

“I wanted to go up there at 80-90 per cent so I could enjoy it but still get a reasonable time in. I looked at the time that I did compared to the pros and I was 45 minutes slower than the record. And that was me getting to the top absolutely burst. So that just shows you the gulf.

“Why do I want to do the Giro? I want to experience how hard it is to do the full thing. The Ironman is one day. I can take myself to absolute exhaustion knowing the next day I can eat what I want and lie in my bed to recover. But with this, every day that I’m on the bike I have to take on enough food, not just for that day but with a view to the following day too. And then doing that again and again over 21 stages.

“I love Italy and I love endurance events so when I heard there was a chance to do one it was massively appealing. It scares me but it also makes me smile. Just the thought of being in that position and going through what the pros will be tackling just two days later. It’s as close as you can possibly get to being in the peloton of a grand tour.”

Part of Hawke’s work portfolio includes organising the former professionals who provide live data, including goals, corners and cards, from SPFL matches for a company called StatsPerform. That fascination with statistics also stretches to his cycling.

“I hate to say but it was Lance Armstrong who got me into cycling,” he admits. “He was the yellow jersey king at that time. Lance was one I’d looked up to so I was really gutted when that fell apart.

“But I also love Mark Cavendish, the whole Team Sky emergence and the monopoly they had over the field for a while, with Sir Dave Brailsford and the “marginal gains” mentality. I’ve always loved statistics from the football side of things and it’s the same for cycling. It wasn’t just about getting on a bike for me. It was how you can take everything to the next level, every percentage and every second counting for something. I love that philosophy.

“I did a VO2 test which measures the amount of oxygen your body takes in and how efficiently it uses it. When I was a footballer my score at the age of 34 was 62. Now it’s 68.4. So technically I’m fitter now than I was at the end of my professional career. Just don’t ask me to turn any corners quickly! If I can go in a straight line I’m fine.”

Hawke has hired Simon de Burgh, a coach who specialises in working with over 40s, nutrition and endurance, to allow him to focus on the physical challenge of tackling such a demanding course rather than dwelling on any mental ones. He hopes being as prepared as possible will allow him to enjoy the Giro instead of being daunted by it.

“I’ve always been very meticulous when it comes to training plans,” he says. “I usually like to do it all by myself. But for this I just wanted to give away the thinking. I wanted to get on the bike every day, with someone much more experienced than me having already set out what I needed to do. This way it’s just one less thing for me to worry about.

“I’ve put all my confidence in Simon to get me to the start line in the best possible shape. As I want to enjoy the experience if I can. I don’t want to get to the Dolomites thinking, ‘Holy s***. Look at the height of that mountain and we have to go over it’.

“I want to be going, ‘Wow! I can’t wait to tackle that’. And that’s what excites me.”

Warren is also raising money for the Christmas Toy Appeal for underprivileged children in Renfrewshire, Inverclyde and the north-east of England: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/warren-hawke-giro23