Ex-England star Viv Anderson leads riders off in Yorkshire to Amsterdam prostate cancer ride

England's first black international footballer has saddled up for a mammoth bike ride from Yorkshire to Amsterdam to raise funds for research into prostate cancer prevention.

Viv Anderson pictured before the cycle ride in aid of Prostate Cancer UK starting at Barnsley Football Club's Oakwell ground. Picture by Simon Hulme.

Hundreds of riders, including Leeds fundraiser David Garbett, have joined former Barnsley player-manager Viv Anderson on the ride from the club’s Oakwell Stadium to Ajax’s Amsterdam Arena today.

Anderson became particularly passionate about the cause after learning that black men are twice as likely to develop the cancer than white men – with one in four developing the disease.

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The 59-year-old retired footballer is taking part in Prostate Cancer UK’s fourth annual two-day Football to Amsterdam cycle ride, which is seeing former England stars lead 350 riders on the 145-mile challenge from three different English football grounds for the first time.

Anderson is leading a group from Oakwell, Luther Blissett is leading riders from Ipswich Town’s Portman Road ground and Terry Butcher is fronting a party setting off from the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park’s Lee Valley VeloPark in London.

Anderson said: “The statistics were a surprise to me, so anything we can put out there that’s going to help anybody is good. It is a high statistic and something we have got to eradicate as soon as possible.

“It’s something you should always check and if you’ve got any doubts you should go to the doctors and get a test – it’s something many don’t pay enough attention to.”

The former footballer, who is leading a ride from Oakwell to the ferry port in Hull before a ride from Rotterdam to Amsterdam tomorrow, continued: “The training for the ride has been hard. I’ve been doing it since Christmas with my brother-in-law – it’s hard work but it should be a bit of fun. I just want to get around in one piece.”

David Garbett (right) pictured with his late dad Steve.

Among the charity riders setting off from Barnsley is David Garbett and his friends, who have raised almost £60,000 for Prostate Cancer UK over the last year after his dad passed away following a 10-year cancer battle.

David, 37, from Middleton, Leeds, first decided to start fundraising after a conversation with family friend and former Leeds United manager Simon Grayson at the wake of his late father Steve Garbett.

They wanted to raise funds and awareness of the disease that the 62-year-old was thought to have developed two years before his actual diagnosis.

The group collectively raised more than £44,000 for Prostate Cancer UK by taking part in last year’s Football to Amsterdam bike ride, which started in London.

David Garbett (right) pictured with his late dad Steve.

David, whose group has raised £17,500 so far this year, said: “It’s so common and that awareness and early detection is definitely important. I wish we would have known with my dad when he first got it and things might have been different.

“My dad always said he wanted to help people who were going through what he was going through but that never came about.

“This is doing something in his memory that he wanted to do and fulfilling one of his wishes.”

David’s close friend Steve Loney, also from Leeds, has also been part of the Football to Amsterdam riding group inspired to raise funds following the death of David’s dad as well as the loss of his own uncle and grandfather.

James Beeby, director of fundraising at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “Ignoring prostate cancer will not beat it, and the money raised by our fantastic riders will fund ground-breaking research to help fight the disease.

“That will help us provide dedicated support and information to men and their families affected by this disease.”

In 2016 one man in the UK will die from prostate cancer every hour, equating to around 10,900 men this year alone.

For more on Football to Amsterdam visit prostatecanceruk.org/amsterdam.