Ilkley chef: I won’t let bike crash stop me riding with Lance Armstrong

The task of training to take on the entire 3,300 kilometre Tour de France route while fitting in a job at one of Yorkshire’s top restaurants would seem daunting for even the most enthusiastic amateur cyclist.

Chef Simon Gueller with Lance Armstrong in USA training for the ride this July

But the challenge for Simon Gueller became even more demanding when a crash during a training run saw him rushed to hospital with two broken ribs and a collapsed lung less than a month before the charity ride.

The owner of Ilkley’s Michelin-starred restaurant The Box Tree was told by a doctor that his chances of taking part in the One Day Ahead challenge, where riders take on the course of the 2015 Tour a day before the official race, were minimal.

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But undeterred, the 50-year-old has since made what he describes as a “miraculous” recovery and is throwing everything into his efforts to get back on track ahead of the start of the event on July 3.

Simon Gueller in the saddle in training in Ilkley

He hopes to ride alongside former England football star Geoff Thomas and disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong in a bid to raise £1m for charity Cure Leukaemia, and had just returned from a high-altitude training camp with Armstrong when he crashed on June 6.

He told The Yorkshire Post: “I have been doing everything I possibly can. You can’t just do nothing, that is not a good way to heal. I have been doing very short spin sessions to get the blood flowing.

“I have been doing lots of walking the dog with my wife and trying to eat the right foods and getting as much sleep as possible.

“I am doing it, whatever shape I am in. The thought of not doing it has never entered my head.

“I have 15 days to recover. I have got an X-ray between now and then that should tell me how I am doing.

“At the time of the accident I was as fit as I have ever been. I had just got back from a week of altitude training and I think that has made a big contribution to how quickly I have recovered.

“I think the doctor was surprised, when I went in he said ‘forget July, that is not happening’. When I left I was definitely in better shape than he thought I would be.”

Mr Gueller, who 13 years ago was told he may never walk again after a benign tumour was found and removed near his spine. was cycling at Leathley Bank near Pool-in-Wharfedale when he crashed.

He said: “I don’t remember too much about the actual crash. I do know that I was out on a ride with a group of friends and I had just had a collision, which was very superficial, five minutes earlier.

“I got back on my bike, I felt OK, a little shaken up, but I got back on. I can’t remember whether I hit a pothole or whether there was a gust of wind but that is the last thing I remember.

“There was no touch of wheels, the group were spread out on the descent. It was no-one’s fault.

“I cycle a lot, I am in training and have been doing about 15 hours a week, I have now ramped it up to 20 hours a week. It is 300, 350 miles a week for several months without incident, and then out of nowhere you get caught out.”

He added: “It was a bolt out of the blue and I just came off and was in terrible pain, really nasty. But total rest and rehabilitation is paying off now and I’m determined not just to start, but to see it through to the end after a year of training.”

Lance Armstrong, who in 2012 was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles as punishment for his years of systematic doping, is expected to take part in two stages.

And Mr Gueller said it was “quite a surreal experience” talking to and training with the notorious former champion.

He said: “We all know what he’s done, what he’s admitted to and been found to have done.

“But this isn’t about anything other than fighting cancer and raising money to one day beat it. If people like Lance, who’ve been through it and survived, can help raise money, then so be it.

“I call people as I see them, and he seems really up for helping in whatever way he can. That I can’t fault one bit.”

He added: “At the end of the day he is just a bike rider, when you are out on a bike with him he is just a bike rider.

“It is not one of those sports where you can be a superstar, if you want to go fast uphill it is going to hurt whether you are Lance Armstrong or a lesser rider, the same sensations apply.

“I would never defend what he did but I am also well aware that there is a lot hypocrisy in the sport in general. I think his punishment doesn’t fit the crime.

“I stuck my neck out, I think he has been very harshly treated for what he has done. He would probably be the first person to say he has made mistakes, he is paying for them. At the end of the day maybe it will make him a better person.”

To donate to Simon’s challenge, visit