Fundraising bike ride total tops £12,000

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Matt Bates and his girlfriend, Gemma Nicol, with cyclists Joe Weston, Sam Canty and Matt Wells ahead of the Ajax to Ajax ride. (Submitted photo)

THREE cyclists have raised over £12,000 for their childhood friend who is battling cancer.

Sam Canty, Joe Weston and Matt Wells cycled 430 miles from the home ground of Central Ajax FC in Warwick to the Amsterdam Arena — the home of the real Ajax FC.

Before they set off last Monday, hundreds of people turned out for a football match to launch a charity bike ride in aid of 26-year-old Matt Bates.

All four of the group played at Central Ajax before coaching the club’s U18s from 2011 to 2013, and Monday’s match saw that former youth team beat a Matt Bates XI 3-1.

It means fundraising through Ajax to Ajax has now reached more than £12,106 for Matt, who is having specialist immunotherapy treatment in Manchester. Central Ajax itself donated £200 to the cause while a raffle and cake sale in its clubhouse raised more than £1,500.

An auction also saw a signed West Bromwich Albion shirt, donated by former Central Ajax and England goalkeeper Ben Foster, go for £200 while a rare signed print of Brazilian great Pele — courtesy of Ian Weatherby-Blythe from Castle Galleries — was sold for £650.

The trio taking on the ride were then waved off by friends and family as they started the mammoth ride.

Matt said all the money raised would go towards any future treatment as well as associated costs, with anything left over going to cancer charities.

“I thought there would be around 100 people at the match, so to see about triple that number was just incredible — as was the amount raised,” he said.

“There were people who I hadn’t seen in years and it was brilliant to catch up with so many familiar faces.

“The lads have been perfect friends ever since I was diagnosed in 2014 and they have taken on so much with the ride, match and much more.

“I’m so thankful to them and to everyone who attended the match and donated to the ride.”