12th October 2020

When former champion cyclist Tony Wills was diagnosed with dementia he got on his bike and raised more than £2,700 for Alzheimer’s Support.

The 85 year old had raced for England in his younger days but, after being diagnosed first with Meniere’s disease and then dementia, rarely used the static bike in the garage of his home near Melksham. While chatting to his dementia adviser Tara Slater about his former racing career, he came up with the idea of Tony’s Tour Challenge. He would cycle 100 miles of the Tour de France route in his garage to raise money for the Wiltshire dementia charity – and ask others to do their own challenges too.

Tony Wills competing in the 1950sHe said: “Being diagnosed with dementia was a complete shock, and very frightening. I had heard so many stories regarding this terrible illness.  

"Knowing Alzheimer’s Support is there for me has made such a difference for me and for my wife Mary, so I wanted to do another cycling challenge to raise much-needed funds for them.”

Tony cycled his chosen route in stages, before a final triumphal ride ‘up the Champs- Elysees’ as shown on the screen of the static bike. He said: “You can plug into many different stages of the Tour de France on the bike and ride the exact route, the bike has a set of gears that adjust themselves to it.”

And as he worked through the miles, Tony’s enthusiasm for his former sport was rekindled.

Tony said: “I beat my target of 100 miles and did 150! With every day that went by I felt fitter and stronger. It’s given me a real boost and I’ve been on the bike two or three times since the challenge finished. It was absolutely super and I’m glad to have done it for Alzheimer’s Support.”

Challenging others to join Team Tony 

He also challenged others to take part. Eric Windsor, who remembered Tony from the 1950s, raised more than £500 cycling through the lanes of West Wiltshire on his tricycle. Dementia adviser Tara and her friend Amy raised £200 in their Tour de Pewsey Vale and friend Mike Tucker raised another £200 in his TonysOnTour–inspired cycling challenge.

Alzheimer’s Support CEO Babs Harris said: “We’re so impressed by Tony’s Tour de France challenge as it shows that age and a dementia diagnosis is no bar to continuing to enjoy life and lifelong passions. The money raised will be spent supporting people living with dementia in Wiltshire and we’re very grateful to him, to the rest of TeamTony and to everyone who donated.”

Sponsor Tony