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

The 44-year-old has made over 450 top-flight appearances, appearing for 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 his life.

On Wednesday, Distin will begin a charity bike ride from Sandbanks that will last ten days, cover 1,300 kilometers and 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 the mammoth trek came from.

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

“The father of one of my daughter’s school friends was also very good on a bike, so I started to ride with him from time to time. He told me he had been on a tour from London to Paris with some friends and they all said, ‘let’s go crazy and do Sandbanks in Saint-Tropez’.

“One day, I said, let’s try to do it! To be honest with you, I didn’t really expect that to happen, I thought we would dream of it, but it won’t.

“However, two or three months later, we had ten people ready, the routes were planned and the hotels were booked!

From Wednesday, the group will board a ferry to France from Poole, land in Cherbourg and begin the grueling ten-day journey to Saint-Tropez, an average of 130 kilometers a day.

The former centre-back is still in top form but notes how preparing for this run has meant training in a completely different way.

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

“It’s a very different kind of fitness to football, so there’s a preconception that as a former professional athlete it’s going to be easy for me, but it’s not!”

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

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

As well as being the trip of a lifetime, Distin and his fellow riders raised money for an important cause – the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC), which provides food, water , shelter and health care to refugees and displaced families from the Ukrainian war. .

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

“It went far beyond 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 fundraise.

“When you turn on the television, all you can see is what is happening in Ukraine. We all have families and when you watch families fall apart, we thought 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 okay to try and support families in need.

The ride will be completed by nine riders – their tenth rider from Copenhagen broke his collarbone in his last training before the trip – alongside a support vehicle. Updates will be provided on their official Instagram account.

Meanwhile, Distin’s attention turns to his former club, congratulating the Cherries on 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 Premier League. It’s a fantastic achievement, you can tell they’ve worked very hard and if they continue like this, they can have another good season!

“I’m still very good friends with Richard Hughes. When it’s not too busy, we try to meet and have coffee.

“I go and watch games from time to time, I’ve also worked on television and watched some of the young players while working 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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