A COUNTY Durham student is half way through an epic cycling challenge aimed at raising awareness of testicular cancer.

James Gray, a Newcastle University student who hails from Hamsterley, has begun a 3,800-mile cycle from one side of the USA in aid of The OddBalls Foundation.

The 20-year-old set off on his journey from Santa Monica Pier in California on Monday May 30 and is aiming to cross 10 states and arrive in Yorktown Beach in Virginia to complete his challenge on Thursday July 7.

The Northern Echo: James Gray from County Durham, cycling across the USA to raise funds for The OddBalls FoundationJames Gray from County Durham, cycling across the USA to raise funds for The OddBalls Foundation

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He was inspired to take on the physical challenge as a way of raising funds for The Oddballs Foundation after hearing about how many men are impacted by testicular cancer during a talk at university.

Along the route, James will meet up with people who have beaten the disease.

James, in his second year of a geography and business degree, said: "We had a talk from one of The OddBalls Foundation’s university ambassadors last year.

“It brought into perspective how serious testicular cancer is. It’s the most prevalent cancer between the age of 15 and 49.

“I personally have never talked about it and it’s something a lot of men don’t really like to talk about. I wanted to break down the stigma and raise more awareness of it.

"I am in touch with survivors, mainly in the States. A number of them sent a message saying that they’d like to meet me and have a chat.

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"It works out nicely that there are some of them along the route. I didn't really expect it. I think it will be really moving to hear their stories and their experience of having the cancer and I hope they will see what I am doing to raise awareness of it."

The OddBalls Foundation is a testicular cancer charity that was founded in 2015. Testicular cancer is the most prominent form of the disease in males aged 15-35 and someone is diagnosed with it every hour in the UK. If detected early, it is curable in over 90% of cases.

The Northern Echo: David Gray and the Biking for Balls support vehicleDavid Gray and the Biking for Balls support vehicle

Since it was founded, The OddBalls Foundation has recruited 50 university ambassadors around the country to work on its behalf in schools, colleges and businesses, raising awareness of the disease, helping breakdown the stigma, and encouraging people to check themselves regularly for unusual lumps or changes in their testicles.

James, who has been spending his weekdays studying in Newcastle and his weekends training for the challenge in Weardale and Teesdale.

He is being accompanied along the route by his dad David, who is driving an RV across the US.

To make a donation to James' fundraising page visit the website bikingforballs.com and to follow his journey follow his Instagram page at bikingforballs.

To find out more about The OddBalls Foundation and its work click here , search for The OddBalls Foundation on Facebook or emails hello@theoddballsfoundation.com.

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