This July, Helen Bridgman is cycling the entire 3,460 kilometre route of the Tour de France, with InternationElles - to show that if amateur women can do it, the women's pro peloton certainly can.
She'll be bringing us weekly blog updates as the group make their way across Brussels, and then France. If you like dot watching, you can follow the team's progress here.
Whilst the legs are still fresh and free from aches, here's the 'who', 'what', 'why'...
In February this year I became part of a new team, the InternationElles. Made up of ten amateur females cyclists from all over the world, we are riding every stage one day ahead of the men's professional Tour de France race.
We are not racing, instead completing the almighty distance as a team.
I started cycling for fun about seven years ago and took it up a gear about two years ago when I started racing. To even contemplate riding 3,460km over 21 days is a little daunting to say the least!
Why am I doing this?
Along with my teammates, I am motivated to take on this challenge to highlight the inequalities that exist at every level within the sport I have quickly come to love.
Women's cycling has come a long way but it is far behind sports like tennis and football in terms of parity in TV and media coverage, sponsorship and prize money to name a few. I feel this at grassroots racing level and it can be seen on the roads I ride in Surrey and in sportives where women are always in the minority numbers-wise.
I’m under no illusion that there is a huge amount involved in putting on a massive multi-day stage race, but it isn't impossible.
The Giro Rosa and the Women's Tour of Britain are just two examples, but even they don’t have anywhere near the amount of media coverage that the men’s equivalent races have. Most people outside the sport of cycling won’t be aware these races even exist.
The Tour on the other hand is the jewel in the cycling crown. It transcends cycling. People all over the world have heard of the Tour. Most assume that there is also a women’s race, but they just don’t show it on TV and are shocked to know that there is no female equivalent.
It’s time for the professional women’s peloton to have a race of comparable stature to help the sport to grow and flourish and to inspire future generations of young girls to get into cycling.
If you have never seen or are doubting why anyone would want to watch women’s cycling, I challenge you to watch women’s pro races and not be excited by them. These women race from the gun and they race hard!
La Course last year arguably provided one of the most exciting race finishes of the year with Annemiek van Vleuten pipping Anna van der Breggen just before the line after a nail biting chase. And when there is coverage of women’s races, the viewing figures are there, and they are growing.
I could talk about this until the cows come home, but I’ll stop there for now!
How does an amateur cyclist train for such an event?
It’s basically been a big increase in training miles and back to back days of riding. Last year I only managed a total of about 9,000km of riding and I’d almost reached 7,000km for this year before I set off for Belgium.
I am very lucky that my work has let me take a three month sabbatical to enable me to focus on training and the ride itself. I've been making the most of it and training hard - lots of long rides mixed with interval training - and taking part in some audaxes and events like the Tour of Wessex.
A few trips abroad too, Mallorca, Girona, Corsica, to get lots of variety, and a bit more climbing than your average Surrey Hills ride. I've been lucky to have lots of friends to ride with to keep it fun and social so it doesn't feel too much like hard work!
You’ll be hearing a bit more from me as we undertake this big adventure. But for now, it’s time to tick of those first stages in Brussels...
Michelle Arthurs-Brennan is Cycling Weekly's Tech Editor, and is responsible for managing the tech news and reviews both on the website and in Cycling Weekly magazine.
A traditional journalist by trade, Arthurs-Brennan began her career working for a local newspaper, before spending a few years at Evans Cycles, then combining writing and her love of bicycles first at Total Women's Cycling and then Cycling Weekly.
When not typing up reviews, news, and interviews Arthurs-Brennan is a road racer who also enjoys track riding and the occasional time trial, though dabbles in off-road riding too (either on a mountain bike, or a 'gravel bike'). She is passionate about supporting grassroots women's racing and founded the women's road race team 190rt.
She rides bikes of all kinds, but favourites include a custom carbon Werking road bike as well as the Specialized Tarmac SL6.
Anna van der Breggen launches signature clothing collection
Double world champion adds new kit range to her list of projects in her final year as a pro
By Simon Smythe •
Specialized Expert Alloy Shallow bend road handlebar reviewed
Go-to handlebars if you like a curly drop
By Michelle Arthurs-Brennan •
Mark Cavendish joint favourite to win Sports Personality of the Year
The British sprinter made a historic comeback at the 2021 Tour de France
By Alex Ballinger •
'It’s been a nice run, but it’s time': Richie Porte says 2021 edition was his final Tour de France
The Australian leads his national team into the Olympic Games road race on Saturday
By Richard Windsor •
Mark Cavendish beats Tim Merlier to sprint victory in post-Tour de France crit
The British sprinter was on the podium again in the lucrative exhibition race in Flanders
By Alex Ballinger •
From Dulwich Park to Paris: The story of Fred Wright's debut Tour de France
The 22-year-old Brit, 'a child of the Herne Hill community', was the youngest rider in this year's race
By Jonny Long •
Health issues could force Dave Brailsford to step down as Ineos Grenadiers boss
The 57-year-old has been treated for cancer and heart issues over the past couple of years
By Jonny Long •
How much prize money did Tadej Pogačar get for winning the Tour de France?
There was around €2.3 million up for grabs in this year's race
By Tim Bonville-Ginn •
Mark Cavendish rues leaving Mørkøv's wheel on Champs-Élysées, but will he ride another Tour de France?
Cavendish remains on 34 wins but is all smiles as he wins green jersey in incredible comeback
By Jonny Long •
Tour de France 2021 team ratings: how did each team perform?
We rate the performances of each of the teams in the 108th editon of the Tour de France
By Stephen Puddicombe •