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In training . . . Fernside’s Aaron Hill is preparing for the ride of his life. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

By DAVID HILL

A North Canterbury multi-sport athlete is preparing to tackle the Tour de France course.

Aaron Hill has competed in the Coast to Coast race 10 times, but says cycling the entire Tour de France course in July to raise awareness and funds for mental health will be his biggest challenge yet.

“My wife Sonya found a post about it last year, just after I did the Le Race (Christchurch to Akaroa).

“I kind of dismissed it at the time as being too expensive, but my wife said ‘you’ll regret it if you don’t do it’.”

Aaron says there were close to 100 applicants who wanted to join the tour, who will complete the gruelling 23-day Tour de France course just a day before the professional riders.

Just eight Kiwi cyclists have been selected, with Olympic medallist Hayden Roulston organising the training.

Aaron says the entire course is nearly 4000km, with 21 days of cycling and two rest days.

Adding to the challenge is the fact there are big gaps between each stage, requiring daily rides on the fast train.

To help get the cyclists in shape, Roulston has a five-day camp organised from Anzac Day, April 25, in Christchurch.

Each cyclist is expected to raise at least $3000 for the Mental Health Foundation and fund their own expenses for the trip, which is expected to be $17,000, plus airfares.

Aaron has so far raised nearly $3200 for the foundation, but hopes to raise $6000. He is also hoping to raise funds to help pay for his costs and is keen to hear from potential sponsors.

“I’m keen to take some enquiries from local businesses and if I can get some major sponsorship I can wear their kit in training and in lead-up races.”

He is planning a quiz night in April and an auction night with dinner or cocktails in late May or early June.

Aaron says he has personal motivations for completing the challenge as his sister committed suicide four years ago and his father suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.

“Since I started doing it, I just keep talking about it and everybody I talk to has been affected by mental health in some way.

“When my sister took her life, my brother and I were pretty negative about it.

“But when you start talking about how deep it is and what impact it has on people, it gives you a whole new perspective.”

To support Aaron or follow his journey, join the “Aaron’s journey to the Tour de France” Facebook group page on Facebook or go to events.mentalhealth.org.nz/fundraisers/aaronhill.