16 August 2018
A Royal New Zealand Air Force Flight Sergeant has joined seven other cyclists in raising $65,000 for the Mental Health Foundation after riding the Tour de France course, just one day ahead of the official race.
Flight Sergeant Bruce Thompson, originally from Norsewood in the Tararua District, was selected by keen amateur cyclist Jonathan Douglas who conceived the idea and received interest from 100 candidates.
Douglas recruited Olympic silver medallist and former professional Tour De France rider Hayden Roulston to prepare the team to ride the gruelling 21 stages of the 3500km route.
“I think at the beginning Roulston was a bit sceptical, but by the end of it he thought we might manage,” Flight Sergeant Thompson said.
“Some days were really hard and there was one day where I wondered if I was going to make it to the top of the Col (mountain pass), but it was a case of keep pushing and eventually I’ll get there. I was going slowly, but I got there eventually. It was hard work.”
The 52-year-old aircraft technician from Base Auckland was one of the oldest of the group, whose ages ranged from 40-55.
The group stayed a day ahead of the racing cyclists the whole way.
“We’d ride and it would take eight hours. They would ride the same course the next day and it would take about four hours,” said Flight Sergeant Thomas.
Flight Sergeant Thomas took up the cycling challenge for two reasons, the first as a personal test and the second to help people who were suffering silently from mental health problems.
“When I first decided to do it I thought I hadn’t been affected by mental health, but then I thought about it and realised that years ago I lost a cousin to suicide. I think probably most people have been affected in one way or another,” he said.
“It’s pretty incredible. We’re hoping to raise some more by putting out a documentary of the trip to show in theatres.”