Seven cyclists proudly wore the Dons badge on a 145-mile charity bike ride – and saluted a Wimbledon hero along the way!
The Dons riders – Anita Gibbons, Bruce McFadyen, Herbie Knott, Kevin Deegan, Paul Parma, Rob Crane and Sean McLaughlin – raised £5,346 in the London to Amsterdam cycle challenge for Prostate Cancer UK.
Joining fans from all around the country, our cyclists made plenty of friends along the way, including meeting Tracey Leaburn, wife of former Wimbledon striker Carl, which led to chants of 'Leaburn, Leaburn!'
The Dons team also met Les Ferdinand (pictured second from left above) with the former England international also taking part in the ride.
Below are the thoughts of members of our team about the ride:
There was a camaraderie between football supporters and a real friendship over a couple of super days of cycling. Wombles gave their all in raising money for Prostate Cancer UK. All it takes is practice said Sean so more practice and we will be beating our targets again next year!
I really enjoyed the ride, and knowing we were doing it to help a good cause helped get me through the tougher moments due to a long-term injury that I'm getting over.
The first day through Essex to Harwich caught me a bit by surprise as it started off with plenty of rolling hills, which I wasn't expecting, and it also tipped down with rain at one point. I'm a bit of a fair-weather cyclist most of the time so that was something I could have done without!
The second day from the Hook of Holland to Amsterdam's Ajax Arena was nice and flat in comparison, cycling alongside scenic canals.
This ride has grown massively in recent years and it wasn't until we had the celebratory dinner on Saturday night at the hotel in Amsterdam that it really struck me just how big it is. We took up all of the hotel's conference centre. There were almost 400 riders this year and the target is to raise more than £500,000, which gives you an idea of how big it is.
One thing that struck me is how highly regarded AFC Wimbledon still is amongst the wider football community – even amongst Milton Keynes-based QPR fans who insisted on a bit of banter! In a way, this event, with fans of different clubs coming together for a good cause, mirrors what AFC Wimbledon is all about.
I'd definitely encourage other Wimbledon fans to give it a go next year. Plenty of people doing it this year hadn't got much cycling experience, but the support from everyone on the ride is fantastic.
I've just got to say how well it was organised, how nice the people were, and what a laugh I've had in raising money for a great cause. We stopped at a place in the Essex country side and a bloke bumped up the kerb. He jumped out looking well angry and said to my mate, 'are you doing this for Prostrate Cancer?' He gave us a fiver after telling us he had suffered with the disease. He wished us all the best before driving off.
I'm so proud to have completed this tough cycling challenge at the age of 68. A total of 141.5 miles in two days is not for the faint-hearted. My longest previous run had been 47.5 miles, but that was over serious lumps and bumps in Herefordshire. My guess was that Essex, Suffolk and Holland, might be easier and so it proved. The privilege of wearing the club shirt was special, wow! No pressure...
We moved quickly from London traffic to the hedges and fields of Essex and then ahead I clocked Tracey Leaburn, wife of former Dons striker Carl; it prompted a chant of "Leaburn! Leaburn!" She turned and grinned and we spent the rest of the Harwich run together, chatting, giggling, joking, encouraging ourselves to the ferry. She was riding in memory of her father, who had died from Prostate Cancer. Neither of us had done anything like this before so we helped each other, and stopped to help others in trouble. On the second day, we met-up at the last water stop and crossed the finish line together.
Another memorable encounter included meeting Tony Loftman, a Hammers fan, who cheerfully rode his bike low-seat like a teenager on a picnic, blasting-out rock music from his on-board system. He was playing Bryan Adams' 'Summer of '69' just as the heavens opened and swamped us in a deluge.
For anyone thinking of doing the ride next year my advice is to go for it. It was a truly inspiring blast and brilliantly organised. Starting training early to build stamina is recommended and keep the training going during the winter months. Little and often is the rule, whilst at the same time getting used to longer runs of 30-40 miles. Stamina is way more important than speed and a steady 11mph will get you there in good time.
A good ride, manageable by all abilities as you can ride at your own pace, and a great way to meet fellow football fans. Can't wait for next year!
All those who competed are very grateful for the donations to a great cause. Anyone who wishes to donate can do so via their JustGiving page.