Two Black Cat legends are helping to raise thousands of pounds for a charity cycle challenge in aid of the Foundation of Light.
Legendary Number 10 Marco Gabbiadini is one of 38 cyclists riding from Geneva in Switzerland to Mulhouse in France over four gruelling days.
The riders completed their first day last night (June 17), arriving into the French town of Pontarlier after cycling 80 miles and climbing more than 6,000ft.
The cyclists are being helped by a support team which includes Sunderland 1973 FA Cup winning hero Ritchie Pitt, who is driving one of three support vehicles.
It was a tough first day with plenty of hard climbs, but the camaraderie among the riders is exceptional and helps to make the miles easier.
Although it was tough, the route was stunning and we climbed out of Geneva with the magnificent backdrop of Mont Blanc. Most of our day was spent riding through Alpine villages to the accompaniment of cow bells.
Over the past few years, the annual Foundation rides have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds to support North East communities. Previous rides have been from Dublin to Sunderland; Pisa to Venice; Brussels to Paris , the French Atlantic coast to the Mediterranean; Poland to Prague and, last year, Dubrovnik to Split in Croatia.
Jemma Dowson, Head of Events at the Foundation, said: “I think this year’s ride may be our most spectacular yet, with some breath-taking scenery and beautiful countryside.
“The annual rides are a unique experience, very enjoyable though hard work. Friendships are formed, goals accomplished and great memories made – and of course, money raised to help us continue the important work we do in the region,” she added.
Marco scored 87 goals in 185 appearances for SAFC between 1987 and 1991. Always popular with Sunderland fans, Gabbiadini is known in Wearside folklore as half of the ‘G-Force’ thanks to the partnership he struck up with Eric Gates. His goals propelled the club from the old Third Division to Division One and he was the first Sunderland player to win the North East Player of the Year title.
Ryhope-born Ritchie Pitt played 126 games as a centre-back between 1968 and 1975, scoring seven goals. Ritchie sustained a seemingly minor knee injury which proved to be a cruciate ligament injury, and effectively ended his professional career when he was in his early twenties. He went on to have a successful career as a teacher.
The award-winning Foundation of Light was established in 2001 and uses the power of football to involve, educate and inspire people of all ages and from all backgrounds to realise their potential.
One of the largest and leading sports charities in the UK, it has an excellent track record of working with children, young people and their families. Structurally and financially independent of Sunderland Football Club, the Foundation raises more than £4 million every year to deliver life changing and pioneering programmes across the region.
Grafton Group plc are once again the main Foundation of Light Cycle Challenge main sponsors.
To sponsor the riders, go to www.justgiving.com/safc
Written By CHRIS FRYATT
18 June 2019