Israel Cycling Academy rider Alexandros Agrotis did what any of us would do after a 600km bike ride. He showered, ate a pizza and took himself off to bed.
“I didn’t even manage to get under the bed sheets,” the 24-year-old tells Cycling Weekly. “I slept on top of the bed. I was so tired. I woke up the next morning and was like ‘oh, how did this happen? At least I don’t have to make my bed.’”
How it happened was simple. At 6pm on Saturday evening, Agrotis set off from the village of Deryneia and rode for 23 and a half hours around the perimeter of Cyprus, his home island. He covered 627km, crossed the Greek-Turkish checkpoint twice and climbed almost 6,000m, raising funds for thyroid cancer, which he had as a teenager.
When asked if he found the ride difficult, Agrotis laughs. “What do you reckon?” he says. “It was very hard.”
To stop him getting hungry, the former Cyprus road champion carried sandwiches and croissants he had bought from his local bakery. “Proper food,” he says. “Stuff that would get me through the night.
“I was full of adrenaline, excited to go through the night, so it passed quickly. But as soon as the sun came up, that’s when I felt the tiredness.”
“The last 100km were... what’s the word…? Purgatory. You know, it’s your body shutting down and you just want to push but you can’t. I don’t know how to explain the pain, but it’s different to racing,” he adds. “It’s like your body’s telling you that you can’t recover from this, you have to stop.”
A rare case
When Agrotis was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at 16 years old, he feared his dream of becoming a professional cyclist was over.
“You know how it is with health stuff,” he says. “When you hear the news at the beginning, you’re kind of in denial. You don’t know what’s happening.
“The doctors were surprised because I was young and male. 85% of patients are female, so it was very rare for the doctors to see a case like mine.”
According to a study published last year (opens in new tab), Cyprus has one of the world’s highest incidences of thyroid cancer. It is unknown exactly why this is, although cases can often be hereditary.
Following his diagnosis, Agrotis underwent biopsies and ultrasounds to examine the extent of his cancer. When the doctors noticed it was spreading towards the lymph nodes in his neck, they sent him to surgery to have the gland removed.
“If I had to choose a type of cancer, it would be thyroid,” he says. “It’s fully curable if you manage to detect it early.
“You just have to get over the mental part of once you’re diagnosed, you’re a patient for your whole life.”
Today, the Cyrpriot's daily routine begins with a hormone pill, one he will have to take for the rest of his life. The prospect, however, doesn’t faze him at all. “It’s nothing compared to proper chemo that people with lymphoma or other types of cancer go through,” he says.
With his charity ride, Agrotis raised €2,500 (£2,169) for a cancer treatment centre in Nicosia, the island’s capital. Donations can still be made via his fundraiser link (opens in new tab).
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