CYCLING writer Matt Westcott is raising awareness of prostate cancer this summer when he takes on the Football to Amsterdam cycle ride. Here he tells you why

AS a keen cyclist I'm never one to turn down the chance to get on my bike.

Such opportunities have to be taken when they arise as a father-of-three boys, regardless of the weather, time of day or locale.

So even while the challenge to ride to Amsterdam was still being extended, I found myself accepting it.

This ride though means so much more than an excuse to spend an extended period of time on my Cervelo.

You see, the 145-mile trek is in aid of Prostate Cancer UK, the charity that aims to improve the care and welfare of those affected by prostate cancer, increase investment in research, and raise public and political awareness of the disease.

Prostate cancer has overtaken breast cancer to become the third biggest cancer killer in the UK, new research shows, with the number of men dying every year overtaking the number of women dying from breast cancer.

Current figures show that 11,819 men are dying from prostate cancer in the UK every year - the equivalent of one man every 45 minutes.

This compares with 11,442 women who die from breast cancer.

It's a disease that has left its mark on my family - last year my father was diagnosed with it.

A man, in his mid-70s and seemingly as fit as the proverbial butcher's dog, he made perhaps his first visit to a doctor's in over a decade due to a severe cold and came out having been diagnosed with cancer.

It is down to the doctor offering the opportunity of a routine test while he was in his surgery that my dad is fighting and winning his battle with the disease.

So you will now appreciate why the two-day ride to Holland in June - two weeks before the start of the World Cup - means so much more to me than it might otherwise have.

I won't be doing it alone. A total of 400 other riders will be making the journey - many with their own personal reasons for doing so. We will be setting off from two points, my group going from Barnsley to Hull and a second group going from London to Harwich. Both then join up in Rotterdam before the glorious ride to Amsterdam, finishing at Ajax's fantastic Amsterdam ArenA.

In addition, we will be joined by a number of celebrity riders.

Among those riding with me will be former Hartlepool manager Danny Wilson and former Middlesbrough assistant manager Viv Anderson. Both have completed the event before, Anderson being something of a veteran.

Though still four months away, I've already stepped up my training.

I regularly do 50 miles or more a week around North Yorkshire, but to ensure I don't run out of puff before I've even left Barnsley I've been upping my distances. I live in plum cycling territory with plenty of hills to test my stamina and as I'm still running in the new bike - the ride providing the ideal excuse - I've been out honing my stamina at every opportunity.

In addition, I have a number of friends for whom cycling is their day job or very close to it who have offered to put me through my paces.

The final part of my challenge is to raise pounds while shedding some and for that I need your help.

In order that Prostate Cancer UK can continue their work towards combating the disease they need to raise as much money as possible.

So if you would like to help them by helping me then please visit my Just Giving page at

There will be further features in the lead up to the ride, including interviews with Danny Wilson and Viv Anderson as well as from my father, who will urge men to overcome their aversion to visiting the doctors and get a check-up.