THERE was great excitement at the home of Widnes Vikings as TV star Zoe Ball completed the first leg of her BT Sport Relief Challenge to raise awareness of mental health issues following the death of her boyfriend Billy Yates.

Widnes Vikings players met her in Halebank and cycled the last few miles beside her.

Runcorn Belles cycling club turned out to cheer her on.

Louise McSorley, from the club, said: "Zoe has taken on a massive challenge as a novice cyclist being such a public figure but we are sure she can do it.

"Keep pedalling, Zoe!"

Novice cyclist Zoe sets off from Widnes tomorrow morning on the next part of her gruelling 300 mile charity ride over five days. 

The mum-of-two’s Hardest Road Home journey will take her from her place of birth, Blackpool, to her hometown of Brighton.

The Strictly: It Takes Two host wants to help people cope with bereavement after cameraman Billy, who struggled with depression, committed suicide last May, aged 40, and was found dead at his home in London.

Zoe, 47, said: "I lost someone very dear to me who really struggled with depression and so it was really important that I did something."

In the UK, one in four people will experience a mental health problem over the course of a year.

Zoe said: "I've been training my heart out for the last few weeks in preparation for this epic, BT-sponsored challenge for Sport Relief.

"A few predictable and embarrassing falls and lots of chafing cream applied but thinking of the reason I signed up for this challenging adventure will spur me on.

Her route will take her through Widnes,Upton Magna, Shropshire; Stratford-upon- Avon, West Mids and Marlow, Bucks.

Zoe added:"Knowing that every penny we raise will make such a difference to so many different people's lives is a great feeling.

"I'll also be joined by my incredible family and friends, who will be pushing me along the way. I hope that my endeavours inspire others to do something that moves them for Sport Relief too!"

Zoe's challenge will be broadcast in a BBC1 documentary during the week of Sport Relief from March 17.

If you spot Zoe cycling through Widnes please send us your pictures.

To sponsor Zoe visit