Saturday sees the start of The Asthma Society’s global awareness campaign. 176 chronic asthma sufferers will cycle 2,082 miles of the roughest French terrain to raise awareness of the effects of this crippling lung condition.

The Asthma Society has turned the event into a global publicity campaign showing what can be achieved even by those worst affected by constant breathing difficulties.

The Tour is led by one of the riders most affected by asthma, Chris. His struggles with the lung disease and his heroic battle to overcome it have been widely reported in the national press. There were serious doubts about Chris being able to join his fellow sufferers for the ride. However with the support of his medical team and the backing of his sponsors and the help of WADA he will be at the start on Saturday. He hopes to lead the wheezing, gasping, asthmatics into Paris three-weeks later.

The Tour riders have been divided into groups of eight, with each group having a dedicated medical support team. The supporters consist of Doctors, Nurses, Physiotherapists, Urologists and ‘Pharmacists’. The riders will be constantly checked to make sure they’re physically able to complete the event, receiving any ‘treatment’ required.

An Asthma Society spokesman, Ian Napton, said, “This campaign is very important to us. We want people to understand the daily struggle asthmatics face. As children many of these riders would have a note from mummy, excluding them from PE, because of their asthma. Most people thought that, rather than having a serious illness, they were just wimpy nerds who were no good at sport. Now, by riding through France and risking, potentially fatal, breathing difficulties they are bringing the reality of living with asthma to world-wide attention.”

ITV 4, sponsored by Ventolin, will be providing live coverage of the event.