A FATHER who took up cycling to lose weight has secured a place in one of the sport’s most gruelling races.

Owen Dawson, of School Aycliffe, will take on the Fred Whitton Challenge, an extreme cycling race through the picturesque hills of the Lake District, in May.

Yet despite the spectacular scenery, it will be joy ride, as the 112-mile race incorporates ten peaks and sees riders scale heights of more than 15,000ft.

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Three years ago, the 43-year-old father-of-two would never have dreamed he could be capable of such a feat.

“I got back into cycling after my 40th birthday, as I wanted to lose weight,” said Mr Dawson, a stay-at-home father who also runs a business designing typefaces for charity.

“I had had my cholesterol level tested and it came back high. A year later my father had a heart attack and it really made me think. I started cycling again as I enjoyed it when I was younger and it has grown from there.”

Since then, Mr Dawson has lost two-and-a-half stone and has completed numerous charity bike rides and the coast-to-coast challenge.

Named after the popular Lakes Road Club cyclist Fred Whitton, who died of cancer in 1998, the race raises thousands of pounds for Macmillan Cancer Support each year.

Mr Dawson, who hopes to complete the challenge in nine hours, is also raising funds for the charity.

To sponsor him visit justgiving.com/fredwhittonchallenge2014