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Premier League referee cycles 1,700 miles to Kaliningrad for England game

Martin Atkinson, 47, helped raise thousands of pounds for four charities.

A Premier League referee needed no extra time to make it to Kaliningrad after cycling 1,700 miles ahead of England’s next game.

Martin Atkinson, 47, set off from England’s training camp at St George’s Park, in Staffordshire, on June 11 and pedalled through France, Belgium, Holland, Germany and Poland before arriving on Wednesday.

Joined by his friend Darren Clark, the pair arrived in good time to see England’s World Cup group decider against Belgium on Thursday night.

Mr Atkinson, from Leeds, in Yorkshire, said: “We said all along it will be challenging, it will be demanding but I’m really fortunate that myself and Darren can get on a bike and ride a bike and the big thing about doing this for charity is some people can’t do that and that’s the thing that drives us all the way through.

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Darren Clark, 45, and Martin Atkinson, 47, cycled from England to Kaliningrad Stadium (Aaron Chown/PA)

“We get a little bit of pain in the morning when we get on the bike but it’s only pain and it’s only temporary.

“I’d like to say I enjoyed it but I might be lying. But it was worth doing and it’s been worthwhile seeing that total go up.”

The attempt has made nearly £60,000 for four charities, including St David’s Hospice Care in Newport, South Wales, University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire Charity and Yorkshire Young Achievers Foundation.

But the trip did not go completely smoothly, as fellow rider Mike Tomlinson was taken to hospital after falling off his bike just two days before the finish.

Mr Tomlinson, the husband of the late Jane Tomlinson, was said to be “gutted” not to have completed the journey, which was also raising money for the Jane Tomlinson Appeal.

Mr Clark, an IT manager from Leeds, said: “I had a minor fall just as we reached Germany so I clipped a curb and fell off – a few cuts and bruises but nothing major.

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Darren Clark, 45, and Martin Atkinson, 47,were raising money for four charities (Aaron Chown/PA)

“And there should be three of us stood here.

“Mike Tomlinson – he had a major fall a couple of days ago and has had to fly home to get treatment on his hip.

“He’s doing OK, just recovering. I’ve known him a number of years and he will be absolutely gutted.”

Mr Atkinson said he hoped England could continue their winning run.

“We’ve seen highlights of the first two games and they’ve started well by the looks of it. The last game showed just what we can do.”

Asked if England could lift the trophy on July 15, he added: “Well in my lifetime I’ve not seen it so it’ll be great if it does – we’ve got the potential, we’ve certainly got the players to do it.

“Hopefully for Gareth and the team, they do progress and bring it home for us.”

To donate, visit https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Team/WhistleStopTour2018.

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