REDDITCH cyclist Helen Russell gritted her teeth and went through the pain barrier after having 10 stitches inserted in an eight inch leg wound on the roadside when she crashed her bike.
The 39-year-old is taking part in Le Tour One Day Ahead with Barnt Green resident and former England, Crystal Palace and Wolves footballer Geoff Thomas, who was diagnosed with blood cancer in 2003 and given less than three months to live.
Now Geoff is leading a team of ten cyclists – including Helen – riding the course of this year’s Tour De France one day ahead in a bid to mark the tenth anniversary of his remission and to raise £1 million for Cure Leukaemia.
We caught up Helen on Tuesday on the road to Amiens after she’d conquered the 26 per cent slopes of Le Mur de Huy in Belgium and the feared cobbled roads of northern France.
“I’m constantly tired and saddle sore but we’ve been riding through a lot of the First World War cemeteries and the poppy fields and that really puts things into perspective,” said Helen, who has represented Great Britain at age level in triathlon.
However her tour nearly came to a premature end when she crashed going along one of the Dutch sea dams on only the second stage of the tour on Saturday.
“We had a crash and I landed on the disc of a brake which sliced into my leg. It was incredibly painful but our doctor stitched me up on the roadside. He didn’t want me to continue but I felt I couldn’t let all my sponsors down so I got back on and finished the stage, on adrenaline more than anything.”
Since then Helen has conquered the lumps of Belgium “whoever designed that stage had to be evil” and survived the terror of the cobbled roads on the stage to Cambrai.
“They’re not like British cobblestones, they stick really high up but I actually enjoyed riding over them, although what we hadn’t expected was the amount of dust that was kicked up by the bikes,” added Helen, who is also a keen advocate of equal sporting rights for women, and wants to see a women’s Tour de France.”
Helen has a fund raising target of £50,000 to hit during the ride and so far has raised £13,541.71.
“Before we left for the tour we had a visit from leukaemia sufferers and it really brought home why we are doing all this,” she said.
To make a donation to Helen’s fund raising effort, visit https://www.justgiving.com/HelenRussell-LeTour .
Helen’s tour finishes in Paris on July 25 and we’ll catch up with her next week, when she should be approaching the Pyrenees.
Highlights of the Tour de France are on ITV4 at 7pm each night.