3 of our 2018 Riders share their stories so far …

Tom Wells

Tom rode 4 stages with us in 2017 and is coming back to ride 6 … in the mountains! He’s 30 years old and took up road cycling just 3 years ago. He’s blogging about his tour this year – check it out.

“I’m riding Le Loop mainly as a personal challenge but I do try to do one fundraising event each year so Le Loop ties both in very nicely. Being fairly new to cycling (I only bought my first road bike in 2015) I wanted to do something that meant I only had to think about the cycling and Le Loop offers exactly that! The organisation is absolutely brilliant so that was probably the main factor in deciding to take part in this event in particular.

Having ridden last year, I learnt a few things then that I’m putting into practice this year in my preparation. Firstly, it might sound stupid, but the importance of midweek training sessions has really hit home! Last year I got fairly complacent during April/May and didn’t put the hours or miles in that I should have done and as a result I don’t feel like I made the most of my time in France. I was struggling up the climbs, rather than being able to enjoy the surroundings. This year I have bought a smart trainer so I can train much more effectively during the week and not place such a reliance on my weekend rides.

Secondly (and this does sort of tie in to the first point), training every weekend is tough mentally so I’m making sure that I strike a good balance between training in bad conditions because you improve massively, and taking the odd day off if I’m not feeling quite right. Luckily, being able to use Zwift after work during the week means I can do 3 consecutive days of decent mileage before the weekend even arrives!

Oh and one more thing … I realised I mustn’t train too much too early on! I lost a few weeks last year due to overtraining injuries and that hindered me so I learned from that too! So I started slowly in December/January and have been gradually build it up from there… I learned that there’s a lot more time than you think!

The fundraising is probably my biggest challenge. I’m not fortunate enough to be surrounded with people who can sponsor me £100+ so I’ve had to think outside of the box a little bit, especially considering I also raised sponsorship last year. To get around this obstacle I’ve “sold” space on my official jersey to a few companies in return for a £250 donation to my fundraising page. Just this alone has raised half of my committed fundraising totals, with donations from family, friends and colleagues taking me the rest of the way and beyond. Having spoken to other people on the rides a few people have raised money in different ways so it’s very doable.

The thing I’m most looking forward to is the French Tour tarmac! It’s like riding on velvet compared to UK roads! Seriously, if you can ride 150kms in the UK then you can easily ride 200kms in France… More specifically I really am looking forward to climbing Alpe D’Huez as well as les Lacets de Montvernier on the same stage.

The food stops are actually one of the things I loved last year and am really looking forward to this year. They always seem to pop up just when you need them!

My advice to anyone considering riding in 2019 would be to just book a place and then worry about what you’ve let yourself in for later. It’s challenging but so enjoyable, and as long as you approach it without being complacent then you’ll absolutely be able to finish it. When you finish you’ll spend 2 days saying “never again”, then the next 4 months waiting impatiently for the route to be announced so you can go back and do it all over again”.

Jonny Wates

Jonny is one of William Wates’ brothers and a Trustee of the William Wates Memorial Trust. He has ridden in several tours, though has yet to tackle all 21 stages!

“My overwhelming motivation for riding Le Loop is to remember my brother Will. Secondly, it’s the best way to be an engaged Trustee. Le Loop is the source of funds for WWMT so it makes sense to support it, plus, cycling stages of the Tour de France route is a cool thing to do! And whilst there is pain involved, participating is good for fitness and all round well being.

The main thing I’ve learned over the years is that training to ride stages of the Tour de France route means getting physically ready and mentally ready. The mind needs training too. I have to get my head around the scale of the challenge, and the knowledge that at times it can really hurt and I’ll struggle … but that I can do it.

This year I’ve introduced an element of strength and conditioning work to my preparation. The idea is to develop more suppleness and all round physical durability to complement the pure cycling work. Let’s see if it pays off…

I know that the biggest challenge for me on tour is in fact the time off the bike – the constant moving, packing, unpacking, washing kit.. hamsters on a wheel! And this is part of what getting mentally prepared is also about; being organised and efficient. Oh – and the other challenge for me is remembering everyone’s names!

The thing I look forward to most is the same every time – I enjoy meeting people and sharing stories about cycling, fund-raising, anything really. We are fellow travellers … and I love the mountains!

My advice to anyone planning to take part in 2019 is to have faith in the event – it really is amazing. It’s very well organised and it’s friendly. Cycling-wise it’s a ‘broad church’ with all abilities very welcome. If in doubt, talk to Kate or if you like she can put you in touch with someone who’s ridden Le Loop before. Afterall, 1,000+ riders since 2006 can’t be wrong!”

 

Jackie Fraser

Jackie has signed up with her husband Stuart to ride Loop 1 – the first 2 stages of the tour (plus they’ve added on the Time Trial of stage 3).

“My motivation for taking part in Le Loop was to try and set new challenges and goals for myself.   After losing our oldest boy suddenly in 2012, at the age of 24, I felt that the best way to honour him and his life was to live mine well.  I wanted to live to a disgraceful old age and spend the kids’ inheritance on cruises and naked butlers!  What this meant for me was losing over 5 stone, quitting my 30+ year 20-a-day smoking habit, starting to exercise regularly, and stopping my long term use of anti-depressants.  My husband Stuart has supported me throughout, losing over 4 stone himself and through that and cycling, he is off statins and in the best shape of his life.

When I read an item about Tour de Force (as was) that appeared on my Facebook feed, I jokingly said to my husband Stuart that we should do this.​  The next thing I knew, we were looking into it, and were seriously discussing and planning how we could take part.  The first 3 stages of this years Tour de France are in the Vendee, an area of France that we holidayed in for many years when the boys were young.  We have friends, who we met then, that spend their summers there, so we are extending our stay in France to relax for a few days before and afterwards. The final decider was the fact that the stages are flat and my dislike of hills is legendary!  It seemed very serendipitous so we signed up and began planning our training and fundraising.

We enlisted the help of our highly recommended trainer, Tim Mackley of Velocita Coaching, to develop individual training plans that are building our fitness and stamina levels to where they need to be. The typical Scottish weather (we’re based in Aberdeenshire) has meant that we have spent a lot of time in the garage on turbo trainers hooked up to Trainer Road, but do go out as often as the weather permits.  We are currently cycling back-to-back rides of about 45-60 miles at the weekend and are participating in a 100km Audax in a couple of weeks, and have entered the Etape Loch Ness and Etape Caledonia.  Our next goal is to cycle a 100 miler.  The most important thing I have learnt is to keep going, and set achievable challenges and goals to incentivise.  It is also important to keep eating and drinking during longer rides, and I am still trying to find a good balance, as I don’t do gels and processed energy bars.  The rate I’m going, I may need a picnic hamper strapped to my handlebars!

The biggest challenge for me, will be to not allow my anxiety to overwhelm me.  I am a ‘plan for the worst and hope for the best’, kind of person.  I am worried about spending several hours in the saddle for 2 consecutive days, but I am doing the training and know that I will be physically fit for it.  I stand in awe of all the participants who are continuing on to cycle multiple stages and even the whole Tour, they are amazing!

I am most looking forward to being in the Vendee, cycling actual stages of the Tour de France, with Stuart and everyone else.  Almost as important is the food. I love food, all kinds of food, so I will be fully enjoying everything that France has to offer.

My advice to cyclists considering it? Do it, Do It, DO IT. If we, a 51 year old menopausal, anxiety ridden harridan and her long suffering husband of 25 years can do this, anyone can. Feel the fear and do it anyway!”

 

Huge thanks to Tom, Jonny and Jackie. We wish them luck for their rides (we know they’ll all smash it!) and we’ll clock back in with them after the Tour to see how they got on.