I've taken part in this ride for the last two years and the camaraderie and team spirit is simply fantastic. If you're going to do one charity event a year, then this is the one to do. Here's my guide to Football to Amsterdam 2017:
1: Get signed up early
As well as getting your fundraising started early, signing up gives lots of benefits. And this year (hot off the press) the Yorkshire early birds can choose a later flight back, and the London early birds will have first choice on their Eurostar return time. Be warned though, the fun doesn’t stop at the finishing line in Amsterdam – the journey back to the UK is another adventure!
2: Choose the right bike
If you don't have a bike, don't worry. While you can spend silly money these days, you can get a decent road bike for £250. The right bike is the key. If you are part of a team, try approaching your local bike shop to see if they will do you a deal or sponsor you with a bike. Two years ago I used an old bike and painfully regretted it. Last year, I really benefited from having the correct equipment and enjoyed the event far more than the first time.
3: Representing your club
Last year we had riders from over 60 football clubs across the Premier League, EFL and Non League. Let us know if you want to ride for your club, whether that's Arsenal or Accrington Stanley. Prostate Cancer doesn’t choose its victims: that’s why we are all Men United.
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4: Hitting your target
We have a great time on this ride, but it's a much better experience going into the event having hit your fundraising target. Once registered, set up an online fundraising page (linked to your team and event) and keep an eye out for lots of ideas about how to smash your target. It's not difficult to raise money with a bit of planning and realistic expectations. Just sending an email to your family and friends might help but you need to do a little bit more than that these days. The more you raise the more help that money can buy.
5: Getting fit
Signing up early also means you have to start training early. You don't need to be Bradley Wiggins for this event but doing a regular 20-30 miles in the build up to the ride will help. You will never cycle more than 25 miles between rest stops and that’s good to remember when fatigue begins to set in. If you're part of a team it's great fun getting out for training rides (and easier too), especially when finishing with a pint or two at the end.
6: Stand out from the crowd
More and more teams are starting to produce cycling kit in their club colours. Jurgen Klopp helped out the Liverpool team this year, combining the Liver Bird with Prostate Cancer UK's logo. And my team, Ipswich Town, always have a special Tractor Boys kit.
7: Tell your story
Cycling 145 miles is no mean feat. And you probably have a really good story as to why you are doing it. Maybe you have a personal connection to the cause, you’ve got a ridiculous fundraising idea or you propose to create the biggest team on the ride. Creating a buzz around your event can encourage more riders, more sponsorship and more fun.
8: The ride itself
If you've done most of the above it'll be a breeze, and you'll have plenty of time to make friends, take in the sights and reflect on what you are achieving. Proper preparation promotes perfect pint participation!
9: Your budget
The good news is that you don't need much on the ride. Transport, accommodation and food are all covered when you arrive on the Friday until you're dropped off back at your start location on the Sunday. All you need to worry about is your beer money.
10: Enjoying it
You get out what you put in. It’s a cliché but it’s true. Build a team, get club colours on your cycling kit, organise training rides and fundraising events. Whatever you do make sure you enjoy it alland make this bike ride your biggest accomplishment in 2017. Crossing the finishing line at the Amsterdam Arena was one of the highlights of my life, and my F2A medals proudly lie alongside all my other major football honours.
See you on the starting line!
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