And he's off! Joe McElderry taking on 250-mile bike ride for cancer charity

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Joe McElderry has set off on a 250-mile bike ride to raise cash for youngsters with cancer.

The 25-year-old X Factor champ left the Customs House, in his hometown of South Shields, at 8.30am today with 10 of his friends and family members.

Joe McElderry has set off on a 250-mile bike ride to raise funds for the Teenage Cancer Trust.

Joe McElderry has set off on a 250-mile bike ride to raise funds for the Teenage Cancer Trust.

The group is taking part in a charity ride dubbed Cycle the Circle of Life.

They'll cycle 250 miles before arriving back at the Customs House at around 5pm on Sunday.

Before he set off, Joe, from Westoe, said: "I'm quite excited. It's always a great atmosphere to do it, we've done two or three before so it's not too bad and I'm looking forward to it.

"I haven't had time to do a lot of bike training but I've done a load of my kind of exercise training so I think I'm fit enough, it's just a case of getting used to being on a bike for nearly 10 hours a day.

Joe and his team.

Joe and his team.

"We're going in kind of a full circle from the Customs House, up to Middlesbrough and cutting across through Durham, Hexham, and doing a full circle right the way back round. The idea was to start here and finish here and we'll finish here on Sunday at approximately 5pm depending how fast we are."

Joe, who has also triumphed on reality shows Popstar to Opera Star and The Jump, has just finished a massive UK tour in the title role of musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

He added: "I am sad that it's over, it was such an amazing experience and so much fun. I've made a lot of memories and some great friends, the audiences were absolutely incredible, so I will miss it, but you never know what's going to happen so we'll see."

This is the third mammoth cycling challenge the star has taken on.

He took on a coast to coast in 2013 alongside his friends and family and a cycle from Glasgow to Edinburgh, then on to his hometown the following year.

Through the challenges, he's raised thousands for the Teenage Cancer Trust, which supports young people with cancers and their families.

Joe is a patron of the organisation.

He said: "I was asked to open one of the units a couple of years ago and then went in and met some of the kids. I kind of went in just to open it, it was an appearance and they'd asked me to come along with me being from the North East, but I kind of enjoyed the environment of being with the charity and working with them. I loved it so much then I was honoured when they asked me to be one of their regional ambassadors.

"Ever since then I've done runs for them, and I visit the units whenever I can when I'm on tour, I've been to a few of the concerts in London to help raise money for them at the Royal Albert Hall, and I've just built up a relationship with the charity and the people that work there.

"It's important to raise profiles of important charities. Sometimes stupid things are written about me but if you can use it in a way that it highlights something important then it feels a little bit better."

To sponsor Joe and his team for the ride, go to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ABCTCT
You can also stay up to date with Joe's progress on the ride's Facebook page, www.facebook.com/CycleTheCircle