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Merson uses pedal power to finish London to Brighton in memory of old mate Ehiogu

PUBLISHED: 14:00 19 June 2017 | UPDATED: 16:42 19 June 2017

Paul Merson sets off for the British Heart Foundation's 42nd London to Brighton Bike Ride, supported by Tesco and Jaffa, at Clapham Common in London, riding in memory of Ugo Ehiogu (pic Doug Peters/PA)

Paul Merson sets off for the British Heart Foundation's 42nd London to Brighton Bike Ride, supported by Tesco and Jaffa, at Clapham Common in London, riding in memory of Ugo Ehiogu (pic Doug Peters/PA)

Doug Peters/PA Wire

Former Arsenal and England star Paul Merson took on the British Heart Foundation’s iconic London to Brighton bike ride in memory of former team-mate Ugo Ehiogu to help raise money for lifesaving heart surgery.

Paul Merson sets off for the British Heart Foundation's 42nd London to Brighton Bike Ride, supported by Tesco and Jaffa, at Clapham Common in London (pic Doug Peters/PA)Paul Merson sets off for the British Heart Foundation's 42nd London to Brighton Bike Ride, supported by Tesco and Jaffa, at Clapham Common in London (pic Doug Peters/PA)

Ehiogu died from a cardiac arrest in April after collapsing on the academy training pitches at Tottenham Hotspur, where the coached the under-23s. He was 44.

Eight players are known to have died of cardiac arrests whilst playing in the last year, including ex-Newcastle footballer Cheick Tiote earlier this month.

Every year around 30,000 people have a cardiac arrest outside of hospital, but the survival rate is less than one in ten.

Merson took on the legendary ride as part of a team, pedaling 54 miles from Clapham Common to Brighton seafront, and hopes to raise over £4,000 for the nation’s heart charity.

Cyclists taking part in the British Heart Foundation's 42nd London to Brighton Bike Ride, supported by Tesco and Jaffa (pic John Nguyen/PA)Cyclists taking part in the British Heart Foundation's 42nd London to Brighton Bike Ride, supported by Tesco and Jaffa (pic John Nguyen/PA)

More than 14,700 cyclists took part in the event, which is expected to raise around £2.5million.

Merson and Ehiogu played at Aston Villa between 1998 and 2000, including in the FA Cup final defeat by Chelsea, the last to be held at the old Wembley, and he said: “Ugo was a fantastic player, and friend, who was in the prime of his life when he died, so to lose him so unexpectedly is absolutely devastating for all who knew him.

“We’ve lost so many good players to heart disease recently. It just shows that it can affect anyone, no matter how young or healthy you are. By raising money for the BHF’s vital research, hopefully we can help find new ways to help stop this from happening to others.”

Now in its 42nd year, the London to Brighton bike ride, sponsored by Tesco and Jaffa, is Europe’s oldest charity cycling event and has seen hundreds of thousands of cyclists pedal over 41million miles, helping to raise nearly £70million for the BHF.

Shonali Rodrigues, head of events at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Heart disease is heartless. It devastates the lives of millions of people across the UK, which is why we’re incredibly grateful to Paul, and all our riders, for taking on our London to Brighton Bike Ride and supporting our vital research.

“We cannot thank our riders enough for their incredible support and sheer determination to make it across the finish line.”

Registration for the 2018 London to Brighton on June 17 is already open at bhf.org.uk.

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