Saturday, June 20, 2009

Potters' pedal power

You might imagine that the life of a Premier League footballer come the summer is relatively stress-free.

Holidays abroad, money to burn and the opportunity to soak up the sun and relax, safe in the knowledge that their gruelling pre-season training schedule is not due to get started for another fortnight or so.

Well, not so for Stoke midfielder Rory Delap.

While the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Rio Ferdinand are splashed across the tabloids sunning themselves on a beach somewhere, Delap and friends are saddling up for a 202-mile bike ride from Newcastle to Edinburgh - all in the name of charity.

With the trip scheduled to take three days, Delap and six others must cover around 70 miles a day in the hope of raising money for the Donna Louise Children's Hospice in Stoke.

Suffice to say, it's not all fun and games. "Aye, I'm a little tender to say the least," Delap tells BBC Sport on day two of the ride. "But we are making good progress and getting some nice support, too.

"We were at a stop in Seahouses in Northumberland washing down the bikes and two Stoke fans were there - they get everywhere I tell you. Luckily I wasn't in too bad a state at the time, but then it was quite early in the ride!

"You know it's going to be hard work, but to be honest I'm out with my mates, keeping my fitness levels up and hopefully raising a bit of money as well. It's all a bonus."

Already, Delap has surpassed his £1,000 fundraising target. At the time of writing, donations on his Just Giving website had reached £2,795 - and the 32-year-old is desperate for people to keep on digging deep.

"It's a tremendous charity," he said. "It provides respite and end of life care for children with life-limiting conditions who are not expected to live beyond their teenage years. But you go in there and it's full of happiness. You would think the children don't have a care in the world, but of course the reality is so different.

"I first went down there on one of the club's Christmas visits, taking a few presents to try to brighten some faces. It really hit home. I've got kids myself and I thought if I can do something to help then great.

"The club has a long association with the charity. The gaffer ran the marathon for them this year, and last year Jon Parkin and Russell Hoult had all-over body waxes.

"I daren't tell the missus that, though. She might like the idea and suggest I do the same. I'd rather get on a bike and just get sore on the saddle, thanks!"

With Delap and his Stoke team-mates due back for pre-season on 9 July, the ride has the added bonus of kick-starting the midfielder's fitness drive ahead of the new campaign.


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