Zoe Ball on why cycling for Sport Relief has been the toughest and most amazing thing she has done

Last week saw Zoe Ball cycle 350 miles in five days from her birthplace in Blackpool, to Brighton, where she currently lives, for Sport Relief. The presenter aims to raise funds for and awareness of mental health issues. BBC1’s moving documentary Zoe Ball’s Hardest Road Home, will follow every mile of her journey. It will also see her meet people who are suffering from depression or who have lost loved ones to suicide.

Here, Zoe Ball tells TV Times why the Sport Relief bike ride of her life means so much to her…

TV Times: This is the first Sport Relief challenge you have done, why did you want to take part?

Zoe Ball: “I’m a bit of a wuss so this is definitely the most adventurous, brilliantly incredible, challenging, emotional rollercoaster. But it’s all for an unbelievable charity and an amazing cause. Losing someone very close to me last year [her partner Billy Yates committed suicide after battling depression] really spurred me on to raise awareness of mental health because my own personal bereavement left me searching for answers. Mental health is one of the issues tackled by Sport Relief cash. Knowing that every penny we raise will make such a difference to so many people’s lives is a great feeling. It’s amazing to be able to give a small contribution to such a wonderful charity.”

TVT Were you daunted about the challenge?

ZB: “It is very testing and I wasn’t looking forward to the weather and the chafing – oh, and over 300 miles of open road cycling! But I wanted to push myself to achieve something I never thought I could do and to meet people along the way who are hopefully inspired to take on a challenge themselves.”

TVT What training did you do ?

ZB: “I’ve been training my little heart out and hopefully it paid off. To say my cycling experience is limited would be a massive understatement. It’s very different to the days I would pedal around Blackpool as a kid. It’s been tougher than I ever imagined. But any special training diet went out of the window. I’m eating everything!”

TVT Have you had any injuries or incidents?

ZB: “I had trouble getting used to using cleats that keep my feet on the pedals. That caused a few tumbles and bruises. I’m not sure if I’ve embraced cycling and will keep it up afterwards! The cycling gear is not the most flattering thing I have ever worn either. But the padded trousers definitely do the job!”

TVT The documentary also sees you meet a range of people and visit projects connected to mental health. What was that like?

ZB: “I went to The Tomorrow Project in Nottinghamshire, which is a fantastic project that has been set up to assist individuals and communities to help prevent suicide. I just really hope my challenge will raise support and money to help fund places like that. It’s vital we also increase understanding of mental health, while reducing the stigma. Mental health is not something to be ashamed of and it’s something we should all talk about. There is some amazing work and help out there; we just need to know where to access it. We must keep talking.”

Zoe Ball’s Hardest Road Home airs on BBC1 on Wednesday 21st March at 9pm and Sport Relief Night is on BBC1 and BBC2 on Friday 23rd March from 7pm