Foundation of Light charity ride underway in Poland - with ex-SAFC star among the cyclists
A former Sunderland AFC star has set off on a 305-mile bike ride as part of a group of 40 raising vital charity funds.
Marco Gabbiadini is part of a group riding from Poland to Prague to raise funds for the football club's charitable arm, the Foundation of Light.
The team started their first ride, from Polish city Wroclaw to Czech border town Jesenik, this morning.
They have three more days of cycling to come before they finish in the capital of the Czech Republic, Prague, on Thursday evening.
Marco, who played for Sunderland between 1987 and 1991, said: “It was a relatively easy start to day one, but got a bit harder with a few hills after lunch when the temperature was rising and the rain threatening.
“Spirits are high – and the beer is really cheap – but we have a difficult day tomorrow.
"The cycle challenge has really grown over the last six years and has become one of biggest fundraising events in the Foundation’s calendar.
"There's a massive sense of achievement, made all the better from taking part as a team.”
Last year's event saw riders travel across France, from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.
More than £75,000 was raised for the foundation, which helps 40,000 people across the North East every year using football in a bid to improve lives.
Richard Hopper, head of commercial at the foundation, said: “It’s been a great start to this year’s challenge and I’d like to thank the riders, their many individual sponsors and our fantastic corporate sponsors for once again backing us so generously.
"Everything raised by this week’s riders will make such a real difference to so many people’s lives.”
Hundreds of thousands of pounds have been raised in previous cycle challenges for the foundation.
One of those occasions saw more than £200,000 pledged after a ride from Dublin to Sunderland and across Italy, to fund community projects across the North East.
This year's event is sponsored by Grafton Group plc, BidFood, Dunelm Glass and supported by logistics experts OSE, BidFood, Dunelm Glass.
Donations can be made by visiting www.justgiving.com/MarcoGabbiadini10.