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This is guest post written by Helen Russell – Helen is a Great Britain age group triathlete. She is a former age group World and European Duathlon champion and European Triathlon champion. You can follow Helen’s preparations for Le Tour One Day Ahead at @helengoth and in her series of blogs for SportsCover Direct.
Since falling in love with cycling about six years ago I have tried to get away to France for a week in July to catch a glimpse of the professionals riding the Tour de France. However I never imagined that one day I would actually ride the route of cycling’s most famous and gruelling race. Come this July I will be riding the entire route of the world’s hardest cycle race one day before the professional peloton with the aim of raising £1m for Cure Leukaemia.
I can’t quite get my head around the extent of the challenge that I have let myself in for. People keep asking me which mountains are on this year’s route and then look perplexed when I can’t answer. The truth is that I haven’t been able to bring myself to look at the profile of this year’s Tour as I am too scared! It’s not just the mountains that are daunting but also knowing that this year cobbles will feature on the early stages. I’ve ridden over cobbles before and it is bone-shakingly horrible!
I’m not completely new to cycling-my background is in triathlon but only either sprint or Olympic distance where the bike leg is a mere 20km or 40km, so cycling over 170km (100miles) on average a day will be a big step up to say the least! I expected this year’s goal to be the European Aquathlon Championships, which doesn’t actually involve any cycling- only running and swimming! A silver medal in my age group at the 2014 European Championships meant that I had pre-qualified for this year’s championship race, so I was expecting to focus on my swimming and running. However, all that changed when I was asked by ex-England footballer and cancer survivor Geoff Thomas to join the Le Tour-One Day Ahead team. After meeting Geoff, who lives in the same town as me, I decided to put my triathlon ambitions on hold this year to focus on something more important than winning medals.
From 3-25 July I will ride 3344 kilometres over 21 stages, covering a combination of some short punchy climbs early on, the cobbles of the Seraing to Cambrai stage, the brutal 18 hairpin ascent of the Lacets de Montvernier and a classic climax on Alpe d’Huez. Over the three weeks I will have to cycle 9 flat, 3 hilly and 7 mountain stages as well as 2 time trial routes. At an average of around 100 miles a day for three weeks this will be, without a doubt, the hardest thing I will ever have attempted.
I will be part of a small team and only one of two women on the team. I am hoping that not only will my participation help raise £1 million to help beat Leukaemia but also show that women can ride the same route as the men and boost the argument for a women’s Tour de France.
All monies raised by the challenge will go towards the life-saving work carried out at the Centre for Clinical Haematology (CCH) at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham (QEHB), where Professor Craddock treated Geoff Thomas. I am aiming to raise £50k which isn’t going to be easy but will help increase the Centre’s ability to deliver pioneering treatments for blood cancer patients at this international centre of excellence in Birmingham.
I have met with the other members of the team to do some training rides and as there is now only a month to go we will be stepping up the training intensity with some altitude training in Colorado and riding the London to Paris Cure Leukaemia ride in June. I am currently so busy with training and fundraising that I am relieved that I don’t have to worry about travel insurance thanks to being covered by SportsCover Direct. With specialist sports travel insurance I will have peace of mind when training overseas and doing the challenge in July and so can focus on eventually cycling into Paris!