On Saturday amateur cyclist Luke Milnes will embark on the most gruelling three weeks of his life, tackling the entire 2,100-mile Tour de France route just seven days ahead of the centenary race.
The so-called Tour de Force is a mammoth undertaking, but one that the 30-year-old, from Broomhill, is determined to complete after meeting Jonny Wates of the William Wates Memorial Trust.
Says Luke: “Jonny recounted a deeply personal and moving story about the tragic loss of his brother, who was murdered whilst travelling in South America.”
William, aged 19, the son of a businessman and racehorse owner, was working for a voluntary organisation in Honduras when he was shot dead and robbed of £10.
“I learned of the family’s pursuit for justice and the quite remarkable grace and emotional capacity they displayed when they returned to the UK having opted to drop all charges against William’s murderer – a deeply impoverished man who was trying to provide for his wife and two infant children.” Instead, the family set up a charity to bring change and opportunity to disadvantaged young people.
“It is, frankly, one of the most empowered and compassionate displays of human behaviour that I’ve ever learned of,” says Luke, who works for family audio firm, Wilson Benesch.
The Tour is the trust’s main fundraising event. Most cyclists ride a ‘taster’ package of two to nine days – a true test of stamina, burning an average of 7,000 calories a day.
But Luke is one of a few ‘lifers’ who take on the mega-challenge of completing the entire route.
Luke is also undertaking the challenge in memory of his grandmother, who died last year.
He aims to complete the race on July 14, riding into Paris along the Champs Élysées on Bastille Day. And the following week he will be back in Sheffield, continuing his fundraising with two events.
On July 25 he is staging a fundraising dinner at Nonnas in Ecclesall Road, home to La Squadra cycling club. Places at the dinner are £50; there will also be a charity auction with prizes including a leader’s jersey from the Giro d’Italia, sent by Sir Paul Smith.
Sir Paul also sent a personal gift to Luke – a St Christopher pendant engraved with the message ‘Keep safe Master Skywalker.’
His fundraising will conclude with a 24-hour static bike ride outside the Forum Café Bar on July 27.
To follow Luke visit his blog: www.tourdefiance.com, or sponsor him at www.bmycharity.com/tourdefiance