Wiltshire cyclist helps make sure Tour de France's Yorkshire stages go smoothly

Wiltshire cyclist helps make sure Tour de France's Yorkshire stages go smoothly

Gunner Roger Theron. Picture by Sgt Paul Morrison RLC

Chris Froome, winner of the Tour de France in 2013

First published in News
Last updated

As cycling fever grips Yorkshire in advance of Le Grand Depart of the Tour de France tomorrow, a Wiltshire-based Army cyclist has been cycling the 390km route in the county to assist in preparations.

Exercise “Maillot Jaune”, or Yellow Jersey - was one of a series of test exercises being run in preparation for the world-famous cycling race in which British rider Chris Froome is defending his title.

Gunner Roger Theron, 33, was one of a 70-strong Armed Forces peloton that pedalled the two-day route from the historic house of Harewood on the outskirts of Leeds to the centre of Sheffield.

Roger joined the Army two years ago and is based at 32 Regiment Royal Artillery in Larkhill, Wiltshire. Married to Sarah, with two daughters, Myla, aged three, and one-year-old and Ruby, Roger has served on operations in Afghanistan.

A member of the Army senior team, Roger started his cycling as a teenager on a mountain bike.

“When I was about 14 years old, I got my first mountain bike,” he said.

“I got addicted to racking up the kilometres and seeing if I could go further and further. I was obsessed with riding as much as I could. Then I got into racing and I found I really loved the sport.

“When I was in school I was totally obsessed with the sport and my first two years after finishing school, I raced as an amateur in Belgium and Holland with an aim to becoming professional.

"I didn’t accomplish that but it was a great experience anyway.

"After having a break from the sport, I started riding again about ten years later and quickly made it in to the Army team and the Royal Artillery team as well. That is a real achievement for me.”

The arduous route weaves its way past some of the most beautiful landscape, historic places and industrial heritage in the region. The first day saw Roger cycle the 190 kilometres (118 miles) through Skipton and the Yorkshire Dales past Aysgarth Falls and climbing the famous Buttertubs – an iconic 250m high ascent expected to challenge the Tour de France riders.

“It will be nice to watch the tour on television and to have a bit of an understanding of the roads the riders are going over,” said Roger.

“Two consecutive days is a lot further than my training would normally take me.

“On an easy day I will just do an hour’s training or it can be up to three and a half to four hours,” he said.

“You need to do quite a bit of training really to be competitive and you have to do the right kind of training. You have to get the intensities right for racing but also need to know when to rest your body. A bit of a mixture but it requires quite a lot of discipline.

“Unlike the sprint finish expected in Harrogate at the end of the first day of the Tour de France, the military peloton finished at an unusually leisurely pace.

Colonel Stuart Williams, chairman of Army Cycling, said: “We are not here to race, we are here to do an important job for the organisers, the Yorkshire Tour de France hub and to savour just what the professional racing cyclists will endure.

“For the military cyclists this is a unique opportunity to cycle this challenging route. For some it has been an eye opener and something to aspire to achieve. For others it has been a personal test of their ability and their fitness.

“Fitness is essential to all members of the Armed Forces to enable them to do their job which can be physically demanding. Talented sportsmen and women in the Armed Forces are given time away from duties to train and participate in their sport and fulfil their potential.

"Amongst the military 'peloton' we have cyclists who are members of not only the national Armed Forces teams but who cycle for their country as well.”

Nursing a few muscle aches, the second day saw the cyclists cycle out of York across Ilkley Moor not “Baht ‘at” as in the words of the traditional song but with their cycle helmets on, up the cobbled main street of Haworth made famous by the Bronte family through Todmorden into Huddersfield and ascend the long steep climb to Holme Moss.

They passed Langsett reservoir and completed the day’s 200km (125-mile) ride in the steel city of Sheffield.

Nicky Roche, Chief Executive of the Tour de France Hub, said: “Preparations for Le Grand Depart of the Tour de France 2014 have been underway for many months now and we are grateful to the military cyclists for their assistance with our final planned tests to prepare for the race.

"We are on track to create a memorable weekend of cycling which will be seen across the world."

The military will take part in the Leeds Festival of Cycling on Saturday and Sunday at Harewood House in Leeds. 

Visitors will be able to enjoy a range of military style activities, see the famous Red Arrows aerial display team and find out more about life in the Armed Forces.

Harewood will be visited by the Tour de France peloton before it leaves Leeds

The Tour de France cycle race is the largest annual sporting event in the world and was established in 1903.

The last time the race visited the UK was 2007. The whole event takes place over three weeks and covers a distance of 3,500km (2,200 miles) and 22 teams of nine riders take part to win the winner’s yellow jersey.

This year the Tour de France returns to the UK for three stages, the first time the Tour has visited the north of England, having previously only made visits to the south coast and the capital.

The first two stages are in Yorkshire and the final UK stage of 159km (99 miles) is from Cambridge to London on Monday.

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