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Club news

From Sandbanks to Saint-Tropez: Distin's 1300km challenge


AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

As the player who has made the most Premier League appearances of all foreign outfield players, Sylvain Distin is used to a challenge.

The 44-year-old made over 450 top-flight appearances, turning out for the likes of Newcastle United, Manchester City, Everton and Portsmouth, as well as French giants Paris Saint-Germain.

However, the former Cherries defender is about to embark on the challenge of a lifetime.

On Wednesday, Distin will start a charity bike ride from Sandbanks that will last ten days, cover 1,300 kilometres and will end in the French commune of Saint-Tropez.

Speaking to afcb.co.uk ahead of his ride, Distin, who is still a local resident, reveals where the idea for this mammoth trek has come from.

“When I stopped playing, I did a sprint triathlon so I started going on a bike for that and I really enjoyed it, especially around here. Between the New Forest and Purbeck, it’s pretty special!

“The dad of one of my daughter’s school friends was big on his bike too so I started riding from time to time with him. He told me he did a ride from London to Paris with some friends and they all said, ‘let’s be crazy and do Sandbanks to Saint-Tropez’.

“One day I said, let’s try and do it! To be honest with you, I didn’t actually expect it to happen, I thought we’d dream about it, but it wouldn’t happen.

“Yet, two or three months later, we had ten people ready, the roads were planned, and the hotels were booked!”

Starting on Wednesday, the group will board a ferry to France from Poole, landing in Cherbourg and beginning the gruelling ten-day journey to Saint-Tropez, an average of 130 kilometres a day.

The former central defender is still in great shape but notes how preparing for this ride has meant training in a completely different way.

“It’s very different from football! There’s been lots of time spent in the saddle, riding at a steady pace but lots of hours. You need to get your body used to it.

“It’s a very different kind of fitness to football so there’s a pre-conceived notion idea that as an ex-professional athlete it will be easy for me but it’s not!

“It’s just like asking Usain Bolt to run a marathon – he’s the fastest man on earth but he’d need to retrain his body to a completely different dimension.

“I’ve learned a lot about it, I’ve had some good advice from people who have been in the bike world a while as well as a nutrition coach, because the nutrition and fuel on the ride is hugely important.”

As well as being the trip of a lifetime, Distin and his fellow riders have been raising money for an important cause – the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), who provide food, water, shelter and healthcare to refugees and displaced families from the Ukraine war.

“It’s been amazing in terms of donations so far,” said Distin, with over £15,000 raised for the charity already.

“It’s gone far and above what we thought we could do and we need as much support as possible.

“We thought it would be stupid to have the experience of a lifetime and not try to raise some money.

“When you turn the TV on, all you can see is what’s happening in Ukraine. We all have families and when you’re watching families be separated, we felt if we could just help someone, why not?

“It was an easy choice to be honest. It’s nothing political, I’m just a dad who thinks it’s good to try and support families in need.”

The ride will be completed by nine riders – their tenth rider from Copenhagen suffered a broken collarbone on his final training ride before the trip - alongside a support crew vehicle. Updates will be provided on their official Instagram account.

Meanwhile, Distin’s attention turns to his former club, praising the Cherries for their promotion to the Premier League earlier this month.

“I was really happy to see the club get promoted, I hope they manage to stay in the Prem. It’s a fantastic achievement, you can tell they’ve been working really hard and if they carry on like that, they can have another good season!

“I’m still really good friends with Richard Hughes. When he’s not too busy, we try and meet up and have a coffee.

“I go and watch the occasional game, I’ve done some TV work as well and have watched some of the young players as I work for a sports agency.

“I still have a fondness for the club!”

Full details on the Sandbanks to St Tropez challenge can be found on their website here. Supporters can find the JustGiving page here.

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