SADDLE sore, aching legs, swollen hands and feet and toes that are black and blue – welcome to the world of Bromsgrove cyclist Helen Russell who is one of 11 riders with former England footballer Geoff Thomas doing the world’s toughest bike race, the Tour de France, one day ahead.
Last week Helen, who competes for Redditch and Bromsgrove Athletics Club and trains at the Abbey Stadium, had crashed on Stage 2, suffering a gashed leg which required ten stitches.
This week we caught up with her at the village of Biert on Stage 12, the third day in the Pyrenees Mountains on the road from Lannemezan to the heights of Plateau de Beille.
“I am so tired,” she said, “and I ache all over, in places you don’t expect either – it’s so hot that my feet are swollen and my toes are black and blue from being stuck in my cycling shoes,” said the 39-year-old.
“It’s over 30 degrees, there’s very little shade, we’re on the bikes all day and we’re so fatigued I’m not sleeping well either.”
Despite the pain though she’s still thrilled to be on the trip, which aims to raise £1million for Cure Leukaemia.
The tour leader Geoff Thomas was diagnosed with blood cancer in 2003 and given months to live and the event is his way of celebrating his tenth year in remission by giving something back to the charity that saved his life.
A special guest also joined the tour yesterday, Thursday, when Lance Armstrong, the now infamous winner of seven Tour de Frances and himself a cancer survivor, joined the team to boost moral.
“Lance is of course a controversial figure, but this is a charity bike ride and if his presence can help raise the profile of the event and raise more money then that’s a good thing,” said Helen.
Helen has set herself a fund raising target of £50,000 and so far has raised just over £13,000 of this total.
To make your donation in the battle against leukaemia visit http://www.justgiving.com/HelenRussell-LeTour .