Westferry man starts Tour de France route a week earlier than the rest

By Beth Allcock on July 3, 2014 4:07 PM |


When cyclists taking on the Tour de France begin their challenge this Saturday, Westferry man Todd van Hees will be streets ahead.

The lifelong fan of the sport and cycle commuter is currently ticking off the event's 21 stages after setting off from the start line a week early.

The 44-year-old is tackling exactly the same 3,656km route as the likes of Chris Froome, although he'll miss out a couple of final laps of the Champs Elysees in Paris due to traffic.

And his 21-day feat of endurance, dubbed the Tour de Force, is all in aid of grants-giving charity, the William Wates Memorial Trust.

Speaking to The Wharf ahead of his departure on June 28, he said: "I have loved cycling since I was a kid and I thought it would be amazing if I could do something like this.

"It's going to be amazing - but I have got no illusions. It will be very hard and I'll have to take each day as it comes."

Todd ramped up his training - which previously consisted of a 5k commute to and from his City workplace - to tackling distances of more than 100km in preparation for the eight-hour slog on the bike each day.

He said he was most nervous about encountering tough surfaces under his wheels, such as cobbles as well as the rolling hills.

But even before his challenge began, he'd collected more than £3,000.

And as well as generating vital cash - some of which will be pumped back into Tower Hamlets via the charity's work.

"It will be a great experience, and it's great I am able to give something back because there's not always that opportunity," he said. "And at least I will be going through at a reasonable pace, enjoying the view and immersing myself in the experience. I'll get a real appreciation for how hard it is for the pros to deliver day after day - it's probably why it's one of the world's toughest sporting events."

To date, Todd is on day six of his challenge, with a completion date of July 21 - seven days ahead of the Tour de France.

Go to bmycharity.com/tourdefrancetodd to donate.