Freddie Flintoff talks On Yer Bike for Soccer Aid

On Yer Bike for Soccer Aid is a 90-minute special hosted by former cricketer and Top Gear regular, Freddie Flintoff.

He will be joined on screen by cycling legend Sir Bradley Wiggins as the eight celebrities take to the saddle for this epic cycling challenge. Split into two teams of four, England versus the World, they will go head to head over three epic cycling legs, all set in the gorgeous and dramatic backdrop of rural Yorkshire. 

What made you want to take part in the show?

I played Soccer Aid a couple of years ago and obviously it’s really all about the money raised, especially when you see what Unicef do with it. It’s probably even more prevalent at the minute as well. So the main thing is raising as much money as we can for the charity and of course, seeing how this lot are going to get on. They’ve got Bradley [Wiggins], who I know a little bit and I’m a fan of. I remember watching in 2012 when he won his gold medals and he won the Tour De France. He did the hour on the track as well which you’d think watching someone cycle for an hour is going to be the most boring thing you’ve ever seen in your life but it wasn’t, it was really compelling.

There’s all different levels of cycling, isn’t there? It’s going to be interesting to see how they approach it. Because you’ve got a couple of the celebrities, like Keith Duffy and Alex Beresford who are obviously quite fit and into cycling but then on the flip side, you’ve got Maura Higgins who just looks like she’s might have turned up in the wrong place [laughs]. It’s going to be interesting.

Are you an avid cycler?

I do cycle actually yeah! I cycled a bit when I was playing Cricket for training just because I couldn’t run because my knees are so bad. So I cycled, rode and I swam and then in recent years, I’ve done a couple of charity cycles. I cycled from Athens to London a few years ago. Although I don’t get a chance to go on my bike much now, I’ve got four kids. The problem with cycling is to make it worthwhile, you have to ride for hours and the thought of doing that isn’t there. I’ve got a Peleton at home which I get on and peddle away.

Can you remember your first bike?

Yeah, my Mum and Dad would have taught me how to ride. The first bike I remember, I would have been about 7 or 8, and it was a Rally Commando. It was camouflage, oh yeah, you didn’t see me coming!! And I used to have a matching outfit and a red beret. I looked a right Bobby Dazzler. That was my first bike. A bike was a big thing as a kid when I was younger. I remember I got my first racer which was a rally, a maroon one. I was about ten or eleven [years old] and got it for Christmas. It was like the best day ever.

What advice would you give the celebrities who aren’t used to the pressure of a big event or pushing themselves / challenging themselves physically?

Just peddle! Actually, no – the one thing I always think is failing something isn’t a problem, not trying your hardest is so just give it everything. Wear two pairs of shorts with pads in because that’s the worst bit of cycling. I remember when I cycled that first bit in Athens. After a week, oh my God! The first week of training was horrendous and I was hurting in places that I didn’t know I had. Blimey. It was awful. It’s dreadful.

 Who are you tipping to perform well in the race?

I think it’s hard to say. Although it’s a race, it’s a team effort isn’t it. You are only going to be as fast as your slowest rider. I think there are going to be a couple of slow riders.

How is it working with Sir Bradley Wiggins?

We’ve met before. We are both from sporting backgrounds but he’s from a very different one. Cricket, you just have to run around a bit and you have a bat and you have a laugh. Whereas cycling, from my limited experience of cycling, it’s horrible [laughs]. Every time I get on a bike, I just can’t wait to get off it. Bradley just pushed himself to the limit every time he got on a bike. Whether it’s time trials or Tour De France or doing the hour record. To do what he does, you have to be very single minded.

How important is it to a child’s development that they play?

Just to give them opportunities, whatever it may be. Sport for me was a big part of my life growing up as a kid and without it, I wouldn’t be doing any of the stuff that I am doing now. Don’t get me wrong, great parents that are supportive are a must, but when I look at where I grew up in Preston and some of the kids fell by the wayside on the estate and things. Obviously physical well being is fine but mental well being, I wouldn’t underestimate just how important that is.

Do you think riding has helped people in the pandemic?

I think through lockdown everyone has reassessed their lives. They have had time to. The first lockdown for me, I was quite happy with it. I had a lot of time at home, I had a new baby and I was training and doing stuff. The weather was nice and then the second one I found really tough, like a lot of people and people realised that fitness is a big part. Just getting outside and interaction with people, is so important. I think fitness and health has been at the forefront for a lot of people.

What is your highlight from Soccer Aid?

I’ve got one, I had to mark Usain Bolt. He’s alright, he’s fast but he’s not always got a football. It seemed to slow him down at one point. I’m not a United Fan – if you play [the next Soccer Aid match] at Preston, I’m in!  But walking out at Old Trafford as a sub, in front of a huge crowd was something you don’t expect to do. Then I was on the pitch when Eric Cantona came on and, like I said I’m not a United fan, but it’s Eric Cantona at Old Trafford! He walked past me and I said something like ‘oh amazing’ or something like that. He had not a clue who I was! I got a chance to take a penalty and I am not sure what the fuss is about to be honest. We make a big thing of it and it’s a massive goal, bottom right. It probably wasn’t a true test but bottom right every time.

How important is it for people to donate or be a part of something like On Yer Bike for Soccer Aid?

I think the stats are out there that the British Public give the most to charity. No matter what seems to be going on in the country and whatever people’s circumstances are, we give so much. We are so generous and we come together. Hopefully that will continue.


On Yer Bike for Soccer Aid airs tonight (Sunday) at 6.30pm on ITV, STV and UTV and ITV Hub/STV Player. This programme forms part of Soccer Aid Week with the Soccer Aid match airing next Saturday 4th, from 6.30pm live on ITV, STV and UTV.

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