20 July 2019

Le Tour-One Day Ahead blog: What the hell am I doing?

May 18, 2015
CureL Helen

In all the years that I have travelled to France to watch the Tour de France I never imagined that one day I would actually ride it-but that is what I will be doing this summer! Yes you read that correctly- I will be cycling 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.

CureL Helen

I can’t quite comprehend exactly the challenge that I have let myself in for. People keep talking to me about the route and asking me which mountains will feature but I haven’t looked at the stages as to be honest it scares me too much to study course profile. I know that there are cobbles and seven mountain stages and to be honest that is already too much information for my mind and legs to cope with!!

So how did I get myself into this situation? Well 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 in Cologne, 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 taking part. 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. There is currently a campaign for a women’s equivalent of the Tour called ‘Le Entier’ and I am hoping that I can help show that women are physically and mentally strong enough to cover the mileage and the terrain.


So here is the charity bit! 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. In 2003 Geoff was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia and was given less than three months to live.

Following treatment from Cure Leukaemia Co-founder Professor Charlie Craddock, Geoff has been in remission since January 2005. 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. A personal motivation for me is that I was born at the Queen Elizabeth and it is still my local hospital. Also sadly in 1999 my mother died of cancer aged only 52 and being able to do something to help the disease, of whatever kind will keep me peddling on those long mountain climbs in July.

Helen Russell, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine

Helen’s Just Giving Page: https://www.justgiving.com/HelenRussell-LeTour/

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 Sportsister.


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