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El Camino cycle in fight against cancer

Bernardo and Francisco, cycling from Lisbon to Santiago in 2017.
Bernardo and Francisco, cycling from Lisbon to Santiago in 2017. / SUR
  • Two neighbours will ride 1,400 kilometres in September from Nerja to Santiago de Compostela to raise funds for the illness which has affected them both

Bernardo Cortés and Francisco Bueno are united by something more than a great friendship. The pair's passion for sport, and for some time now, their first-hand experience with cancer. In Bernardo's case, he has successfully beaten a tumour in his colon. And in Francisco's case, his wife suffered from breast cancer which was operated on, also with successful results. The two men from Nerja, who are 57 and 54 years old, now want to give back some of the luck they have had in the form of a challenge for charity, raising funds for the Spanish Association Against Cancer (AECC).

The pair have planned to cycle the 1,400 kilometres which separates the Balcón de Europa, the well-known viewpoint in Nerja, from which they intend to set off on 6 September, and the Plaza del Obradoiro in Santiago de Compostela, which will take around 13 days, travelling on average 120 kilometres a day. They are both already experts in the various routes leading to the Galician cathedral, following some of the most famous pilgrims paths.

In fact, Cortés has done the route eight times in the last eight years, "from León, from France, from Logroño, from Portugal," the Local Policeman explains with more than three decades in the profession under his belt. In the case of Bueno, he is already a veteran, with even more experience on these well-known routes, in which "you find yourself," says Cortés. Bueno, a publicist in his professional life, has arrived in Santiago on more than twenty occasions in his life. "It is a discovery of yourself, it is the solitude of the route, the shrines, the time you spend thinking about all that you have done, what has happened to you, it is a very healthy way to reflect," Cortés explains. In November 2017, they both completed the 600 kilometre ride from Lisbon to the Galician capital, "we had atrocious weather, it rained a lot, but we did it," Cortés proudly recalls, while showing some photos that were taken of the trip.

Now that they have decided to tackle the challenge in September, they expect "much better weather". "When I had my operation on 1 October 2015, I had already begun my recovery and fight against this disease, because I realised that not a second should be wasted on regrets. The knowledgable hands of the professionals, luck, a little bit from the patient and the family, it's now four years since then," says Cortés.

More than 15,000 euros

"From the very first day after my surgery, I thought that once I had recovered I would have to do a challenge for charity in order to raise money for the Spanish Association Against Cancer, an organisation to which I have belonged for a year, being the secretary of the local headquarters in Nerja," the police officer continues. His father and 29-year-old nephew died from cancer and his sister is currently in treatment, circumstances which have also pushed him to complete this challenge.

With the volunteers of the AECC they are looking for sponsors of one euro for every kilometre they cycle. "We know that the people of Nerja are very generous, so we are sure that we will surpass the 1,400 kilometres," the cyclists adds. At the moment, in barely a month, they have managed to reach 15,000 euros. "We are completely taken aback by people's response," they confess.

Cortés and Bueno are looking for sponsoring firms, so people that want to can put their advertisements on the shirts that they will wear on their charity adventure. "We want to make clear that all of the funds raised, such as the sponsors that we'll wear, will be completely for the AECC," they state.