THE General Election isn’t the only challenge facing Richard Hazlewood, the Welsh Conservatives’ Chief Press Officer, in 2010. Here he explains why he’s decided to cycle from London to Paris.

I was thinking the other day as I cycled along the icy roads around Cardiff: Why am I doing this?

I could easily have said I’ve got enough on my plate with the General Election this spring. But then I could easily use work as an excuse every year.

As it was dark, cold and had just started snowing I could have stayed indoors in the warm.

And, as those who know me will testify, words like ‘exercise’ and ‘fitness’ haven’t made regular appearances in my vocabulary over the last few years. Ever, probably. I did once run along the seafront at Whitley Bay on Boxing Day. But that was under protest and, if I’m being honest, the only reason I did so was because I got a Christmas pudding at the finish.

So why has this self-confessed couch potato decided to cycle 500km between London and Paris? And why am I doing so in aid of the Kidney Wales Foundation?

The facts speak for themselves.

They’re what have motivated me to get on my bike ‘to use a well-worn political phrase’in the first place. They’re what keep me going when I’ struggling up the steepest hill or peddling into a headwind. And they give me the motivation to go an extra mile when my legs are telling me to stop.

I’m fortunate in that my family, friends, and myself are all fit and healthy. Not everyone is so lucky

Every 11 days someone in Wales dies waiting for an organ transplant. And on any given day 490 people are waiting for an operation that could transform their lives, not to mention that of their families.

Over the last five years 150 people have died waiting for an organ transplant, with many more facing years on a waiting list. In that same period more than 750 lives have been transformed by a transplant.

Up to 10,000 people in Wales are now suffering from some form of chronic kidney disease. And for many a kidney transplant remains the best long-term hope for those suffering with kidney failure.

It’s true that the long-term survival of a kidney transplant continues to improve. Some 92% of kidney grafts from cadaveric donors and 95% of those from living donors are still functioning one-year after transplant.

But the number of people needing a transplant is expected to rise steeply over the next decade. The combination of an ageing population, an increase in kidney failure, and scientific advances mean more people are becoming suitable for a transplant.

Transplanting a kidney isnt’ cheap –