A top Army cyclist from Burnley got the chance to test out the Tour de France route for the world’s best athletes ahead of Le Grand Depart in Yorkshire.
Capt. Ryan Perry (27) was one of a 70-strong Armed Forces peloton that pedalled the two-day route from Harewood House on the outskirts of Leeds to the centre of Sheffield. Exercise “Maillot Jaune” or “Yellow Jersey” was one of a series of test exercises being run in preparation for the world-famous cycling race.
Capt. Perry joined the Army four years ago and as well as being a platoon commander in 1 Close Battalion Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers based in Catterick, he is also a full time athlete with the Army’s senior cycling squad. A former pupil of Welbeck College, he has served abroad in Germany. A member of the Army Cycling Union, he started his cycling career as a child following in his father’s footsteps.
“I come from a cycling family not racing so much but going out on the weekends with my dad probably just after I could walk,” said Capt. Perry.
“My dad Stephen still cycles and is an active member of Pendle Forest Cycling Club near Burnley. He is a regular and will go out three times a week with the club.
“I have dipped in and out of cycling my whole life really. I tried other sports and I boxed as a teenager but cycling is like an addiction – it is not just the sport, it is the camaraderie. It is the being out in the fresh air with your mates more than anything, exploring. It is more than that though. I love the technological side of it as well all the fancy bikes and the expensive kit.”
The first day saw Capt. Perry cycle the 118 miles through Skipton and the Yorkshire Dales past Aysgarth Falls and climbing the famous Buttertubs – an iconic 250m high ascent designed to challenge the Tour de France riders.
“I think it is really cool to be cycling the same route as the top continental cyclists and the countryside is absolutely beautiful round here.
“Racing is really addictive, the competitiveness, you always want to do better, you always want to win.
“Ninety per cent of my training is on my own as I have such a specific training regime. I am lucky enough to be a full-time athlete now so I have moved to Manchester for the summer to race.
“I am a full-time athlete and spend the whole winter in Cyprus doing 20 to 25 hours a week training and then I come back to Manchester at the beginning of April. I try and race once or twice on a weekday and then a big race at a weekend.
“I am very aware of how privileged I am to be able to follow my sport full time with the Army. There are only three of us who were made full-time athletes. Cycling encompasses everything. Not only is it hard physically, but you have to use your brain – there is a tactical element there as well. You have to be super fit and strategically good. It is like a game of chess while running.”