Rhett takes on the Tour de France

By Sarah Pitt   |   Reporter   |
Sunday 31st July 2022 4:00 pm
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Rhett, second right, with his teammates (Joolze Dymond 07766144950 )

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A cyclist from Okehampton is on top of the world having completed the world’s most guelling cycling race along the whole Tour de France route, one week ahead of the professionals – in a bid to raise £1 million for vital leukaemia research.

Rhett Groom, 54, was part of a team of 18 amateur cyclists who took on all 21 stages of the 2022 Tour de France, covering 2,429km and climbing 49,700 metres as they scaled the majestic heights of the Pyrenees, the Alps and the Vosges.

Having started in Copenhagen in Denmark, and undertaking the majority of the route through Belgium, Switzerland and France, Rhett and the other riders bumped over punishing cobblestones, endured biblical rain in Vosges area of France and experienced searing heat.

Tackling the epic ascents, just like the main Tour de France riders, was the key challenge of their journey, with four climbs reaching more than 2,000 metres in altitude including the infamous Alpe d’Huez and Col du Galibier ascents. The three-week challenge, before riding into Paris for the emotional home stretch along the Champs Élysées the Sunday before last (July 17). Rhett then stayed in Paris to cheer in the riders in the main Tour de France ride a week later.

Having had family members who have been affected by leukaemia, Rhett decided to do his bit by signing up to the Tour 21 challenge. It was quite a commitment, seeing him put in hours of training on Dartmoor and a coast-to-coast across Devon from Plymouth to Bude. He also trained on the hills in Spain, where he has a holiday home.

Rhett, a South African by birth who came to live in Devon when he married his Exeter-raised wife more than 30 years ago, said: ‘The whole idea is to get the message out about Cure Leukaemia.

‘We started off quite small about two or three years ago and we are now the official Tour de France charity event.

‘Our chairman Geoff Thomas, the retired England football manager, is a leukaemia survivor. He put this together several years ago. It is a group of amateur cyclists who have come together to raise awareness for leukaemia research,’ he said. ‘I was looking for something to do after I sold my business and things just came together, my passion for cycling and and passion for the cause, so I put my name down on the trip. It has taken a lot training and amazing preparation but we have got there. I had a lot of guys helping me with the quality of what I needed to do which was mainly about climbing the hills. It was an amazing experience and it is going to stay with me forever and I managed to do it at the tender age of 54.

He added: ‘We are just shy of the £1 million target we set ourselves. From our point of view it is a massive endeavour to reach that but we have this confidence that we can get the funds we are aiming for.

‘We are overwhelmed at the support and finanicial support we have received both from cyclists or from people who have been touched by cancer.’

‘There was not one second when I wondered why I was doing it,’ he added. To donate, visit https://justgiving.com/campaign/thetour21

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