CELEBRITIES and cycling fanatics have saddled up embark on a charity bike ride in aid of Messenger backed autism charity, Hearts & Minds Challenge.

Actor and former Boyzone star, Keith Duffy, will join Paralympic cyclist, Rik Waddon, and sporting enthusiasts, to take on the four-day challenge.

The group said “adios” on May 23 as they headed off to Malaga, in southern Spain, before cycling 300 miles to Gibraltar, where they’ll complete the charity fundraiser.

The event is being organised by Sale-based Hearts & Minds to raise £1m to build a school for children with autism.

The school will also provide family counselling, training for parents and training for emergency services personnel on the best way to approach autistic people they may encounter in their work.

Ian McGrath, founder of Hearts & Minds, said: “The cycling challenge will provide a huge boost towards reaching our fundraising target for the Autism Centre of Excellence. We’re absolutely thrilled that Keith and Rik can complete the entire ride along with our dedicated group of fundraisers. Everyone’s been cycling away in training to make sure we can keep up the pace with Rik!”

Hearts & Minds is also grateful for the support the event has received from Claud Butler – manufacturer of mountain bikes and road cycles – which has donated a number of bikes to the charity. These will be rode throughout the duration of the challenge by the two celebrities.

* Anyone interested in finding out more about the work of the charity should visit heartsandmindschallenge.org.