Emily’s March Training Advice

Well, if you’re still out riding your bike in this weather, I salute you. If you’ve been doing your best, but finding yourself thwarted by cold winds and icy roads – don’t worry, you’re not the only one.

A note on training through winter

It’s hard to keep up a training regime when the weather’s being as uncooperative as it has been lately. I’ve been getting through it by using one of the mantras that’s got me through long-distance races – just do what you can, when you can. This means taking advantage of the good times as much as it does nursing myself through the hard times. If there’s one day in a week when the wind dies down, the roads are dry and I’m ready and raring to go, I’ll make the most of it – even if I wasn’t necessarily planning a long ride that day. This means that, when it’s blizzarding it down outside and I can only ride for an hour before my toes fall off, I can slack off with a clearer conscience.

There are also (apparently) alternatives to cycling that aren’t quite so torturous in cold weather. Running is slower (so you’ll have less wind chill), and you’ll get a decent workout in less time (so you can get back to your warm house quicker). Swimming can happen in a heated pool, and is a great way of building endurance and stretching out your muscles. If you’re going to take this opportunity to spend a bit more time with your family, I’ve found that sledging (and running up a steep slippery hill in between each run) can be surprisingly good exercise.

There’s also the trusty turbo, and if you haven’t already, now might be a good time to go and sweat in good company at your local gym or Wattbike studio.

The long-range forecast says that things should be more-or-less back to normal by mid-month, so with a little creative cross-training, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be on track to hit March’s targets.

Backing it up

Don’t try this at home!

Now that the weather’s set to warm up (eventually), it’s time to get used to back-to-back days in the saddle. If you’re riding the Grand Loop, you’ll have nine days on the bike before your first rest day, so it’s important that you’re accustomed to getting in from a ride, showering, eating, sleeping, and then getting up and doing it all over again. Distance is less important at this early stage, which makes the back-to-back thing slightly easier – two consecutive days of 100km will fit into your diary much more readily than three 200km rides in a row.

That said, by the end of March Grand Loopers should aim to have ridden 150km (that’s approximately 100 miles) two days in a row, including at least 2,000m of climbing.

A very good stepping stone towards this target is our Cheltenham training weekend at the end of March – and this is also your first chance to get to know some of the people you’ll be cycling through France with in July. Please do join us if you can – it’ll be a lot of fun, and you’ll probably find out you’re in much better shape than you thought. (And in the unlikely event that you’re not, we’ll be able to help you plan out the rest of your training so that you’re definitely ready by July.)

We’ll be riding 60 miles on Saturday (with an additional 20-mile loop if you’re keen), and 55 miles on Sunday. If you’re preparing for one of the shorter loops, this’ll put you bang on target.

Know thyself

Although it’s tempting to give up on leaving the house entirely at this time of year, I’d re-emphasise how important it is to get yourself used to the rhythms of outdoor riding – and the simple fact that you can’t control the natural environment as easily as you can your own living room.

As well as improving your fitness, a crucial part of your preparation should be getting to know yourself as a rider – which will include:

  • Figuring out how your energy levels typically vary over an all-day ride. Some people sprint off at the start, but find themselves flagging towards the afternoon. Others take a while to get warmed up. I tend to have a slow couple of hours after lunch. Knowing and anticipating your high and low points will help you to pace yourself over the course of a ride, and stop you from beating yourself up quite so much when you find yourself hitting a difficult patch.
  • How you respond to various sorts of weather. For some riders a pair of shoe covers can make the difference between completing a ride and bailing out with frostnip; others find they’re always at least two layers ahead of their riding buddies. Riding in different weather conditions will help give you more of a sense of what you need to wear and carry in order to keep yourself comfortable, as well as giving you a chance to practice dressing and undressing as you start a long descent, or stop for a quick comfort break behind a hedge.
  • How you deal with a crisis. No one wants their ride to go wrong, but if something does happen, it can be a useful opportunity to recognise how you react to a crisis, even if it’s just a puncture when you’re running late. Anticipating that you’ll be momentarily angry, or weepy, or panicked, will help you to deal with these feelings better, take a deep breath, and then plough on with finding a solution.
  • What sort of food works for you. The basics of sports nutrition are fairly straightforward, and you probably know them already. (It tends to boil down to ‘carbohydrate for energy, protein for recovery’.) What you might not know so well is how your body handles eating over the course of a long ride, since everyone’s digestive system is different. As you start to increase the distance you ride, you may find you lose your appetite, or struggle to get in enough calories to keep you going. Use these early rides to experiment with different foodstuffs, and figure out what quantity and frequency works for you.

(A note on Le Loop food: Sarah and the team lay on a wonderful spread at each food stop, and I’d strongly recommend you get yourself used to eating ‘real’ food, rather than subsisting entirely on caffeinated energy products. These are likely to mess your stomach up over a multi-day ride, and are expensive and much less enjoyable.)

The F word

Training – especially for a ride longer than you’ve attempted before – is about finding what works for you, as well as just increasing your fitness. So inevitably there will be an element of trial and error, and sometimes (deep breath) actual failure.

It’s easy to beat yourself up when you’ve made a mistake, or that you’ve not hit a target you set for yourself, but this just wastes more energy. Instead, look on each failure as an opportunity to learn, and a valuable part of the training process, as you now have conclusive proof of what doesn’t work. Often getting something wrong will be just one step along the path to getting it right.

Sometimes it might be more complicated than that, and you might find yourself having to realign your expectations of yourself. This can be a difficult (though ultimately rewarding) mental journey, and definitely one that it’s best to start in training, rather than on Le Loop itself.

And with that in mind, here’s this month’s book recommendation:

Lanterne Rouge: The Last Man in the Tour de France, Max Leonard

“I was bored of listening to winners,” says my friend Max, at the beginning of this wonderful book about the unsung heroes who finish cycling’s greatest race in last place. Not only does he shine a light on some of the unsung heroes of the Tour’s history; he also offers a lot of insight into the stamina and persistence that kept them going when there was no hope of distinguishing themselves, and when many others would have given up. It isn’t always about winning, I realized as I read it. In fact, many of the most inspiring stories come from failure.

Buy Lanterne Rouge



2017 Eyewitness

No one tells it better than our riders themselves. Our thanks to Gavin who put this report together after his 2017 Tour.

Twelve months after signing up as a ‘Lifer’ to the Tour De Force 2017, with a heavy training schedule completed and numerous purchases of new cycling kit I found myself in a hotel in Dusseldorf with a bunch of strangers ready to take on all 21 stages of the Tour de France, a 3,500km adventure through Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and France.

I would not describe myself as a cyclist rather a middle aged amateur who bought his first bike 5 years ago and occasionally goes out for a 30 mile jaunt around the country lanes of Somerset.

I had only cycled 200km once in my life and now I was facing five 200km+ rides in the first week and this before we took on the horrors of the Jura Mountains, Pyrenees and Alps.  The next 3 weeks can only be described as the most unbelievable, at times dreadful but ultimately life-enhancing experience I have ever had.

There are countless things that stick in my mind: the stunning waterfalls and pine forests of the French Alps, the sock drenching rain, the heat of the Dordogne, the pain in my Achilles,  the amazing efficiency of the organising team, the hypnotic beauty of the moonscape that is Galibier, the smoothness of French tarmac, the power of the wind coming into Salon de Provence, being wrapped in a blanket after cycling through freezing rain on top of the Massif Central, how much I love brioche, my numb big toes, the relief when the climb markers showed the gradient falling from 15% to only 10%, the humour of the wine drinking masseuses, Ian’s coffee at feed stop 2, the comfort of my own pillow which I took with me, the heart rending stories from the charity workers who came out to join us for a few days, the delight at finding an occasional bath in a hotel, the joy of finding a pair of clean socks, crying with emotion at the top of the last big climb on Izoard, how delicious coke is on a sweltering day and the sheer elation of being hugged by my wife and children as we reached Paris but the best thing about the entire event was my fellow group of adventurers.

The team of riders and Tour de Force helpers was an eclectic bunch held together by a common cause to tackle the world’s most iconic cycling ride. Everyone had their highs and lows but it is amazing how quickly strong bonds were forged and for a sport where you can spend so much time locked in your own personal despair, this really was a huge team effort. We helped each other take the wind in the peloton, encouraged each other uphill, repaired each other’s bikes, shared food, swapped clothing, clapped each other in late at night, stopped for each other and above all laughed and at times cried together. This was camaraderie at its best. And it was this camaraderie that allowed a 49 year old rank amateur to complete every km of the 2017 Tour de France route. Not only that we together raised a huge amount of money for the WWMT charity.

I can’t believe I am saying this but I am already planning when I can do the whole thing all over again.

Gavin White

Charity Visit report – Regenerate

Last week we had another great visit to one of the charities supported by WWMT. 

Tour Manager Sarah joined 8 cyclists plus 3 of their supporters to find out more about Regenerate. One of those supporters, Emma, put together this report:

The amazing Regenerate youth centre in south London is a charity funded project with one of their largest donors being the William Wates Foundation.  This is just one of the charities we’ll be fund raising for on the Le Loop bike ride challenge at the end of June.

The youth centre runs positive activities for children and young people (many who have been in and out of prision), giving them a chance to change their lives and contribute to society.

One of their fantastic initiatives is the Feel Good Bakery with re-enters NEETS (not in education, employment or training) 16-25’s into employment through mentoring and coaching.  Individuals, who have no hope of securing steady employment (hardened gang members, some who’ve been to prison for knife crime, some who are the main drug dealers in South London and all who are waiting for an opportunity and the support to turn their lives around and be proud of themselves), are given an opportunity to work for six months in the bakery, providing sandwiches for local business.  Every sandwich purchased buys a meal for a child in Africa – read more at www.thefeelgoodbakery.com.

We met Andy who founded Regenerate 18 years ago with his mum, both of them were living in the Ashburton council estate (one of the largest in Europe) and wanted to make a difference to the lives of the people around them.  Andy has an incredible spirit, passion and drive to help and care for those who have not had a good start in life.

He also set up an initiative to support the elderly on the estate ‘Regenerate – RISE’, many of them were isolated in their own homes and afraid to go out into the violent neighbourhood.    His mum now runs RISE while he focuses his efforts on his work on the youth programme.

We also met Jordon, whose life has been transformed by Regenerate, after a rough start he now works for the charity as a mentor and is helping others to change their lives.  He’ll be riding on one of the stages of Le Loop as the chaperone for William who is currently being supported by Jordan and the team – William will also be riding a stage with us in France as one of the charity visitors. Andy told us an amazing story of one other member of the youth club who after serving a sentence for gun related crimes, secured a job as a mechanic and attended a Regenerate volunteer trip to Kenya to work with street kids facing poverty.  This trip had a big impact on him, so much so he decided to raise funds to buy some land on which to build a garage, enabling some of the children he met to transform their lives by going into work and becoming apprentice mechanics.  He single handily raised over £30,000!

Regenerate is an incredible initiative and it’s well worth visiting.

Enormous thanks to Emma Parkin from the Alitex team of supporters for putting this together for us.

To blog or not to blog … ?

There’s a strong case to be made for starting a blog or vlog to record and share your epic Le Loop adventure. Every year we relish the efforts of our riders and have showcased some of the best here: Riders’ Blogs Showcase

For some, it’s a great way to record a significant milestone in your cycling ‘career’. For others, it a way to help engage with potential sponsors and keep everyone up to date on your progress. For potential riders considering take part in Le Loop in future years, they’re a fantastic way to really understand what it’s all about out on the road. We know it’s not for everyone, but if you fancy giving it a go we really encourage you to embrace the idea! It should be fun and rewarding! So we’ve put together some handy hints to help you decide whether to do it and some useful pointers:

What to do and what NOT to do

Be creative! We know that you are passionate about cycling and your bike, but chances are, your audience have vaguely heard of ‘Froomey’ and the Tour de France, but not much more than that. So don’t assume they’ll understand what you’re taking and on don’t be a cycling bore! You may think your cadence, heart rate, chainset, carbon wheels etc are all fascinating, but your audience probably doesn’t (I know  – philistines!). You don’t have to be a stand-up comedian or a poet – but do think carefully about what is interesting or entertaining for your audience.

There’s nothing worse than a blog that starts and then … just fizzles out! Particularly mid-tour. So if you decide to do this, make a real commitment to it. This means you must be realistic about what you take on. Some riders end each day on their laptops writing wonderful blog posts that amuse, entertain, record the day and more. But that can mean they’re up a bit later than everyone else to get it done, when sleep is a precious commodity. The result is a wonderful record of their ride and a huge support team back home following their every word and sending messages of encouragement, so it can be well worth the effort. Others will post a couple of photos and a line or 2 on twitter each day. It’s up to you – but whatever you start … finish it.

Several of our riders have turned their blogs into books for friends and family on their return. It’s easy to do and gives you a permanent, hard copy of your adventure. We’ll have some hints and recommendations on this when the time comes.


Choose your platform

  • There are masses of simple free blog providers out there – just choose one from a quick google search (eg. wordpress, blogger, Wix … there are many to choose from)
  • Facebook offers a very simply way to blog directly from your phone while on the road – you can even live stream a video. Set up a page for the event if you like – and that way your friends and followers will be instantly informed when you post anything. Photos too can all be easily loaded. Having a facebook page for this blog is a useful way to share news without having to connect supporters with everything else that is going on in your life that you share on facebook (which might be more appropriate if you’re asking lots of colleagues and clients to follow you).
  • Twitter and Instagram. Both also good options if you’re happy to miniblog – you don’t have to write a dissertation every day! One of the funniest blogs we’ve had simply recorded a few simple statistics each day: mileage, hours on the road, general physical condition (always highly entertaining), roadkill noticed, colour of wee (and therefore level of hydration) and favourite post-ride drink (always something local) – simple, but effective and amusing. The lesson? Be creative.
  • Vlogging has become incredibly easy. There are loads of apps out there – try a couple and see what suits you. You can even just take a bunch of footage and the app will spit out an edited video for you if you don’t have time to tinker with it yourself. Or use Facebook to live stream a video – you can use it to update folk and to make a straightforward plea for donations (or a funny one). Or you could say ‘If I get £x in donations between now and the end of the month, I’ll do Y’. We’ll leave the rest to your imagination! Wherever you vlog, make sure you share it far and wide through whatever social media streams you use.

Use images

Photos and videos are more engaging than straight text, so make good use of them. Smartphones have incredible cameras on them so it’s easy to take glorious high quality photos.

Take a second to share your status

Posting a status on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram immediately updates everyone about your training and fundraising. You could even write a few chosen posts in advance, and drip-feed them over a week or so to help raise awareness for your efforts on the bike as well as charity news updates. We post news from the charities regularly on facebook, so there’s always content you can easily share.


Link it all in

Don’t forget Linkedin. Make sure your business contacts know what you’re doing, provide status updates and link to a blog or your Virgin Money Giving page for more information.

Mind your Ps and Qs

Post a personal thank you to anyone who donates to you on your Facebook page or wherever you’re blogging. It’s nice to be nice. Plus it keeps your fundraising front of mind without having to ask for donations all the time.

That’s quite interesting…

Post facts on Facebook about WWMT/Le Loop/training with a link to your fundraising page for more information. The more interesting and detailed, the more likely people are to go to your page. We’ll be posting plenty of content on facebook and in our own blogs on the website that you can easily share with your supporters.

The practical bit

The good news is that you no longer need to worry about extortionate roaming charges while on tour … but you might want to take a careful look at your data package and maybe boost it while you’re riding in France so that you have plenty of data available for your needs. A spare battery for your phone is also not a bad idea, particularly if you’re taking lots of photos and videos which can suck up data and power faster than you can pedal.

While most, if not all of the hotels have decent wifi, the reality is that 80+ riders all trying to get online at the same time in the evening will make wifi slow. Bear this in mind and be prepared to use your mobile phone to toggle if needs be. It can be frustrating to have written your fabulous blog, but then not be able to upload it.

The fun bit

The most important thing is to have fun with it. If you’re having fun, so will your audience. Enjoy it – it’s enormously rewarding and satisfying. Taking the time to reflect during your months of training and particularly on each day of the tour gives you the chance to really soak up the experience and share it with all those people back at home who have been supporting you for the past few months. They’ll love you for it!

Let us know!

We want to know if you’re blogging or vlogging – so send us the link! And we’ll add you to our current list of bloggers & vloggers on our ‘About Us’ pages (and if we LOVE it, we’ll add you to our showcase!).



Emily’s February Training Advice

So, how was January? Congratulations on whatever riding you managed to get in. It’s been a tough month, and anyone who’s managed to get out on their bike, even just a handful of times, deserves a pat on the back. If 2018 has yet to see you put tyre to tarmac, don’t worry – there’s still time.

Time to set targets

February’s when things start to get serious. Time’s ticking by, yet you may feel there’s still a horrifying hiatus between what you’re capable of now, and what you’ll be asking of yourself in June. This is why it’s so important to set intermediate targets – having a series of stepping stones leading towards the main event will help to break the challenge down into more manageable chunks.

Two targets I’d really recommend are our training weekends in March (Cheltenham) and May (Tour of Wessex). Both are a chance to get to know other Le Loop riders in advance of the main event, and many people find that this instantly makes the whole thing less scary. You’ll meet riders with a wide range of abilities, speeds and levels of experience, and everyone is made to feel extremely welcome.

The Cheltenham training weekend ensures that you’re able to ride back-to-back 50+ mile days by the end of March, and the Tour of Wessex effectively mimics a few days of Le Loop: consecutive 200km days, with plenty of climbing – so both will ensure that you’re on track for a good ride in July.

I’d recommend setting yourself a few more targets in between these. If I’m preparing for an ultra-distance event, I’ll generally try and have something big in the diary every 3-4 weeks in the preceding months – a sportive or an audax, or just a full weekend on the bike. It’s a way of keeping yourself sharp, and keeping an eye on your progress – with this amount of riding you’ll probably be fine, but if there’s anything lacking, you’ll have ample opportunity to notice and address it. You’ll also get to enjoy a regular glow of success, as you hit each target (or you’ll learn from your failures, which is even more valuable in the long run).

If you’d like any help finding events or figuring out your schedule, drop me a line.

Targeting your weaknesses

Emily facing her nemesis

We can all be guilty of denial when it comes to training. It’s all-too-tempting to spend all our time doing things we’re already good at (because it’s fun! and look at how many hours you’ve put in!), when what we should really be doing is focussing on those areas that still need work.

You probably already know where your weaknesses lie. Often they’re the parts of a ride we’re most nervous about – for some it will be the climbs, for others it will be riding in a group. You might find there’s a particular heart rate zone you avoid, or just a certain sort of weather. My personal nemesis is long technical descents.

I’d recommend planning at least one session a week where you focus on areas where you’re less confident or less able than you’d like to be. Set yourself mini targets within these areas (gradually reducing your time on a particular climb, for example), or at the very least just spend time making yourself more comfortable with riding on someone’s wheel, or riding in the rain, or whatever it happens to be, so that when you’re confronted with it this summer, you won’t panic.

This is where keeping a training diary can be really helpful. Not only can you plan out what your targets are (and tick them off as you hit them), you can also track how you feel physically and mentally over the course of your training, and spot patterns. It’s easy to fall into a spiral of negativity if you’ve had two or three bad rides in a row – but if you have a training diary to refer back to, you may easily notice that you’ve been riding faster for the last two weeks (so are tired), or that your energy is always low at this time of month, or that despite this one bad week, you’ve been on a roll for months, so really have nothing to worry about.

And so, the details!

By now you should be aiming for four sessions a week – more if you’re a Grand Looper, or riding a longer or more mountainous loop – and at least two of these should be outside. This is not only to give you experience of riding in different weather conditions, but so that you’re used to dealing with the logistics around long outdoor rides – carrying the right sort of kit, managing your eating and drinking, and dealing with whatever the road might throw at you.

Aim for a mix of intensity, with a few shorter, sharper sessions to build fitness (this could be a brisk 45-minute commute, a spin class, or a ParkRun), and a couple of longer, gentler ones to work on your endurance. If you’re riding the Grand Loop, you should be able to ride two back-to-back days of 100km (60 miles) by the end of February – those riding shorter loops should aim for somewhere in the region of 80km (or slightly shorter if there are a lot of hills), but still try to get in at least two back-to-back days this month.

And don’t neglect your flexibility and core strength – as I said last month (and will remind you every month till we meet in July), a little light Pilates or yoga can make a world of difference. Improving your core strength means you’ll ride more efficiently, and probably faster too, as you’ll waste less energy trying to hold your position on the bike. And maintaining your body’s flexibility means that things are less likely to be dragged out of position, which can lead to discomfort and injury. If you’re looking for a good set of post-ride stretches, British Cycling’s website is a good place to start.

Next month’s blog post will look at nutrition on the bike, how to manage your recovery, and the importance of failure in your journey as an athlete.

In the meantime, here’s this month’s reading recommendation. Every month I’ll be suggesting a different book, usually something that’s helped shape my own approach to training, the Tour de France, and the world of cycling as a whole.

Faster: The Obsession, Science and Luck Behind the World’s Fastest Cyclists, Michael Hutchinson

Some of you will already be familiar with Dr Hutch, from his well-regarded (and often hilarious) column in Cycling Weekly. In this book he introduces us to the mind-boggling science behind what makes some people really, really fast on a bike, based on his own experience as a national time trial champion, and extensive interviews with other cyclists, sports professionals and researchers. Hutchinson is unashamedly geeky, but also an excellent writer, with a knack for demystification, an ear for comedy (especially at his own expense), and an unabashed love for his subject.

Riders’ Blogs – the showcase!

No one tells this story better than the riders themselves.

We show all the riders’ blogs and vlogs (that’s a video blog, to anyone over the age of 40!) from the most recent year (or at least, the ones they tell us about!), and the best blogs from earlier years. So if you haven’t already done so, settle down with a cup of tea and a biscuit and catch up on a few.

2017 Blogs

Chris Stephens: https://www.instagram.com/chrisandthetour/

Barry O’Sullivan: https://www.instagram.com/barryos/

Roly Kitson: rolykitsontourdeforce.wordpress.com

Ian Coop and Chris Lewis: https://crankman26.wordpress.com

Neil Nash Williams: https://www.saddlesorestylist.wordpress.com

John Griffiths: http://johnstourdeforce.wordpress.com

Michael Dean, ‘Deano’: https://www.facebook.com/DeanoTDF/

Ben and Robyn Reeve: www.ratherberidingmybike.com

Michael Leather: http://www.leatherstourdeforce.co.uk/rider-blogs/michael-leather/ 

Some of the best from previous tours

Jennifer Brittain (Lifer 2016): http://www.mytourdeforce.org/

Andrew Steel (Pyrenees 2016): https://andrewsteel24hours.wordpress.com/

Team Leathers (2015) – a great corporate team blog: http://howdoyoucelebrate25yearsinbusiness.com/

John Griffiths (Big Foot Half Lifer 2016 – and check out his Lifer blog above from 2017): http://johnstourdeforce.wordpress.com

Mandy Hibberd (Lifer 2015): https://mandyhibtdf2015.wordpress.com

Lifer Ian Greasby (2014) – who did most of his training on a static bike in Siberia … honestly! We particularly recommend his final blog post: http://www.iangreasby.co.uk/blog.aspx

Neill Kemp (Lifer 2013) – got to be honest, this is a fav. Highlights are Stage 15 ‘Flying Solo’ and Stage 5 ‘Hobbits have 2 breakfasts’ : http://neillkemp.blogspot.co.uk/

Simon Adams (Lifer 2013: https://www.facebook.com/SimonsTourDeFrance2013?bookmark_t=page Probably the best example of a facebook page for the Tour

Peter Addison Child (Lifer 2013): http://www.willbradleycatchme.com/


Emily’s January Training Advice

Hello! This is the first of my monthly training blogs, to help you get body, mind, bike and spirit ready for your Le Loop adventure this summer.

This may be the biggest thing you’ve ever attempted on a bike, or you might be perfectly accustomed to riding back-to-back 200km days over mountains in 30-degree heat. I’ll try and make my advice relevant to as many people as possible, but of course you may want to take it with a pinch of salt if you already have your own tried-and-tested training plan, and you might not need to take things quite so seriously if you’re riding a two-day loop rather than the whole thing. (Though I’ll always encourage you to get out on your bike as much as possible, no matter what you’re training for!)


Get yourself outside…

I find training in January both easier and more difficult than the rest of the year. It’s difficult because (if you live in the UK) the weather’s usually cold and wet and windy, the days are short, there’s mud and ice all over the roads, and all you really want to do is curl up at home and watch movies. But it’s easier because the bar really is low at the moment: January is all about long slow winter miles. It doesn’t matter so much about the quality of these miles – you can do them at a snail’s pace with regular cake-stops, cram them into a few big rides or eke them out over multiple smaller outings – all you really need to worry about is racking them up, and creating a good base that you can build the rest of your training on later in the year.

It’s up to you how you get the miles in. Some people will carry on commuting by bike through the winter; others will schedule in one big ride every weekend. You might find that setting a weekly target works for you, or you might prefer the freedom of just riding for hours without having to worry about your numbers. Think about the part cycling plays alongside the rest of your life. For some it’s a chance to escape and be solitary for a while; for others it’s a means of catching up with friends and club-mates.

…and also stay indoors

I’ll always encourage you to spend as much time cycling outdoors as possible (it gives you so much more than just increased fitness), but inevitably at this time of year a lot of people will turn to their turbo trainer – it’s a good way of squeezing a quality session into a busy schedule, and means you can keep your training up even when the roads are knee-deep in snow.

If you plan to use the turbo as a regular part of your training, you’ll probably find it useful to figure out your maximum heart rate, and establish your training zones. There’s an explanation of how to do this here. You can do it on your own, with a heart rate monitor, you can find a gym with a Wattbike and conduct a ramp test, or you could enlist the help of a coach or personal trainer. British Cycling now recommends testing for functional threshold instead of heart rate, which involves slightly less suffering – you can find out more here.

Turbo sessions work best when you set out a clear objective – it’s not enough just to climb on and pedal for an hour. Later in the year you may want to isolate specific aspects of your performance to work on (e.g. cadence, strength, speed), but for now it’s all about endurance. Here are a couple of sample workouts:


Session 1 – approx. 1 hour

10 min – warm-up: gently spinning legs; increasing heart rate

15 min – 70-80% max. heart rate

5 min – recovery: steady spinning

10 min – 70-80% max. heart rate

5 min – recovery: steady spinning

5 min – 70-80% max. heart rate

10 min – warm-down: gently spinning legs


Session 2 – approx. 2 hours

10 min – warm-up: gently spinning legs

40 min – 60-65% max. heart rate

5 min – recovery: steady spinning

30 min – 65-70% max. heart rate

5 min – recovery: steady spinning

20 min – 70-75% max. heart rate

5 min – recovery: steady spinning

10 min – 75-80% max. heart rate

5 min – warm-down: gently spinning legs


It’s not vital to use a turbo trainer – so if you glazed over during that last section, don’t worry. And if you want to have a go, but don’t have one at home, I’d strongly recommend attending some Wattbike classes at your local gym. It’s easier to learn things in a group environment, and a good instructor will help you get your head round the mysteries of intervals, zones, HRMs and FTPs much quicker than you would on your own.

Don’t be an ostrich

Preparing for a multi-day event like Le Loop isn’t just about increasing your fitness and endurance. You’ll also need to make sure you’re as comfortable as possible on the bike, both physically and mentally. Minor gripes like saddlesore or a stiff back can be ignored over shorter distances, but quickly get out of hand after several days’ riding, especially when other factors, like exhaustion and dehydration are taken into account.

Tempting though it might be to dismiss minor aches and pains, I’d recommend you pay attention to them now, while there’s still time to sort them out. It could be that a bikefit, or a few sessions of massage or physiotherapy will put you on the right track, and save you significant amounts of time and money in future, not to mention improving your chances of completing (and enjoying) this summer’s ride.

Now is also the time to get into good self-care habits, and work on your flexibility and core strength – both of which will make a huge difference to your comfort and wellbeing over big kilometres of cycling. There are various ways of approaching this, and as always, it’s best to figure out what’s going to fit in around the rest of your life and commitments. When I lived in London I could access unlimited yoga and Pilates classes, and book a massage whenever I needed one. Now that my location and budget have changed, I use a lot of online yoga videos, and have developed a love-hate relationship with my foam roller. I’ve also evolved a nice little end-of-ride ritual where I spend five minutes or so stretching out my quads and hamstrings, while I drink a cup of tea or a recovery shake. It may take some trial and error, but once you’ve figured out what works for you (and what you actually enjoy) you’ll be much more likely to stick to it.

Everyone’s different. As you plan out your training, be aware of what your own specific needs and preferences are. Some people benefit from one-on-one attention from a coach. Some prefer the freedom and responsibility of charting their own course. Others thrive in a group environment.

In next month’s blog post we’ll talk about getting to know yourself as an athlete, identifying your strengths and weaknesses, and setting targets.

But for now, here’s January’s reading recommendation. I’ll be suggesting a different book every month, to give you a bit more background on the Tour de France, and cycling in general.

French Revolutions, Tim Moore

A chronicle of Moore’s ill-advised attempt to ride the entire route of the 2000 Tour. It’s an indulgently hilarious read – just the thing to raise your spirits in the dark winter months – and his almost complete absence of training will make you feel smug about how much further than him you’ve already got. Well done you.




Q&A with Kate

December/January is a time to get focused on your challenge ahead, if you haven’t already. It can be a daunting, nerve wracking prospect (not just the cycling, but the fundraising too), but we know from years of experience that it’s eminently achievable. So we decided to talk to someone who’s done it all before – and helped hundreds more to achieve it too.

Our very own Kate is based up in Edinburgh and has been helping Sarah to run the Tour de Force/Le Loop since its public launch in 2012. She’s ridden from 2 to 4 stages on three tours – most recently in 2016 when she tackled stages 17 to 20 in the Alps (including the Etape du Tour stage). She also fundraised in 2016, setting herself the additional challenge of not asking a single friend, colleague or aquaintance simply for a cash donation. Instead, she tried a different, less direct fundraising method each month, from cake sales to sponsored spins and raised well over £3,000.

  1. Can you briefly sum up your general level of fitness, lifestyle and family commitments?
    I’m a 45 year old busy Mum with a 7 year old son and husband. I work part time for Le Loop and do a couple of other bits and bobs of work too which all gets crammed in around school runs, kids activities, friends and family, keeping a house etc – life is busy and full. I love to trail run and ride my bikes (commute to school, mountain biking Scottish trails and of course the road bike). I’ve always been active and while I’m no whippet, I’m fundamentally quite strong. My fitness fluctuates of course, but my endurance is never too hard to claw back. I really really hate turbo trainers.
  2. How do you approach your training in a year when you’re riding Le Loop?
    Philosophically! I’m busy and it just have to fit in with everything else that is important – so I have a keen eye for spotting a training opportunity and squeezing it in.I have a turbo trainer that a 2012 Lifer gave to me – and I loath it, but in a Scottish winter it can be a necessary evil. I’ve been known to attend a spin class too. However, I’m much more likely to pile layers on and head to Glentress (Scottish mountain biking mecca) or the nearby Pentland Hills for a hard workout on the mountain bike than risk icey roads in lycra from December to March. I commute on the bike to school daily and trail run regularly. In a perfect year, I do the odd swim and some pilates to help with my ever-decreasing flexibility.As soon as the clocks change, I’m out on the road bike regularly (and before, whenever there’s a bright weekend day). By the end of March I want to be able to clock up 70 mile rides, so it’s a fairly quick increase in mileage but I’m usually at a Le Loop training ride in March and the fear of being tail-end-Charlie goes a long way to getting me out on the bike in preparation. By the end of April I aim to have ridden at least one 100 miler and I’ll have started to fit in at least one long evening ride a week – aiming for 3 hours as the long Scottish evenings stretch out. I also start to ride at least one early morning each week, heading out at about 5.30/6am for an hour and a half – back in time to shower, grab breakfast and head out on the school run. I keep trail running at least once a week for 1 to 2 hours.In May I usually ride in the Etape Caledonia – 81 miles as hard and fast as I can. Teamed up with a ride the day before or after, it’s now that I build up the all-important ‘back to back’ rides (I may even have managed one in April if I’m lucky). At the end of May it’s the Tour of Wessex which is probably the most valuable weekend of training in my whole diary – 3 days back to back of hard, hilly, sociable riding with TDF/Loopers old and new. Whether I’m riding the long routes or the shorter (still pretty epic!) routes doesn’t really matter – it’s the getting back on the bike each day that matters and pushing hard. I can’t recommend the Tour of Wessex highly enough. If you can’t make it – mock up your own long weekend of big hilly miles over the bank holiday weekend, wherever you are – it will massively pay off when you hit the roads in France.June is pretty full on in Le Loop HQ, so I aim to maintain my fitness, which is made a lot easier in Scotland by the long bright days. By the time I reach France, I’m raring to go!
  3. Is it enough? Well I reckon I could always do more (over training isn’t something I’ve ever fallen foul of – though plenty do!) but the above plan will get me over the course with minimal discomfort (inevitably) and I’ll still be able to look up and enjoy the view from time to time. I’m never near the front of the pack, but I have a lot of fun towards the back!
  4. How did you prepare for the mountain stages?
    “Hills are your friends”. I get the map out and I look for closely spaced contour lines! And then I go and ride them. There’s no point avoiding hills – that’s just denial. They accelerate fitness like nothing else I know. It’s the same with my trail running – if in doubt, bash up a big hill. If you don’t live somewhere so gloriously mountainous as Scotland, work out a good hilly circular route and keep repeating those hills. Set yourself challenges, play mind games, race a mate – but whatever you do, ride hills.
  5. Give us your top riding tips?
    Even the most focused and motivated rider is going to have off days. I rely heavily on my husband persuading me out of the door to train on cold wet days and I arrange to do most of my rides with a mate – I don’t want to let them down, so I don’t even consider the option of bailing out. So my advice is to get your family/friends/colleagues on side and ask them to keep a check on whether you’ve done your training sessions and to support your efforts, as well as find folk to ride with. A cold wet day on the bike is made much more bearable by good chat and a sociable coffee stop en route.Wear kit that keeps you comfortable – decent over-shoes, gloves and waterproof all help to get you out of the door and staying longer on the bike. I don’t have a Garmin or use Strava, but I know that lots of people find these incredibly motivating and helpful. If it works for you – why not use it?Eat, drink & rest well – on and off the bike – and give yourself recovery time. My husband is an ironman – he talks alot about ‘jelly beans in the jelly bean jar’. In other words, you have only so much energy – when you use it up, you need to replenish it with food and rest. It’s not just time on the bike that uses up the jelly beans – it’s stress, work, family etc. Don’t end up with an empty jelly bean jar!Find your motivation – when you’re half way up a Pyrenean climb and your legs are empty, or you’re finding it hard to do the next training session, where does your soul search? Do you think about family? Epic heroes of the Tour de France? A famous explorer whose book you just read about losing their fingers and toes to frostbite (that’s got to be worse than this, right?)? What inspires you?Add to this list the kids we’re helping through the William Wates Memorial Trust, because believe me, if you think you’re suffering (while doing something you love, out of choice) then there is nothing more humbling than remembering some of the stories of the kids we support. If you can – go and visit one of the charities that has a WWMT grant (either come to one of our group visits (dates and details coming soon), or email me to request a visit to a specific charity at any time) so that you can see for yourselves the challenges they face on a daily basis. And if you can’t manage a visit, check out some of their case studies here and keep an eye on our facebook page, in particular for our weekly CHARITY TUESDAY posts.Watch this extraordinary TED lecture from one of the WWMT grant recipients:

6. What are your top fundraising tips?

First things first – if you haven’t already, set up your Virgin Money Giving page asap. It really doesn’t take long. Put a profile photo up there. Share it on facebook/instagram/Linkedin/Twitter. Add the link to the bottom of all your emails.

Get organised and be bold. Don’t leave this to the last minute because you need to reach 80% of your target by the end of AprilPlus, from April onwards you’re going to really want to be focussing on your training and not on organising a big fundraiser. Get started now. Be innovative, try to find ways that avoid simply asking folk for cash donations (though of course, if you have generous contacts with deep pockets, ask away!). Remember to explain to supporters that you are paying for your participation on Le Loop from your own pocket and that none of their funds go towards your ‘holiday/sufferfest’. Share stories from the charities (via our posts on facebook is easiest). Be prepared to invest the time now so that you’re not worrying about it while trying to hit a 200+ mile week on the bike.

This is not a 5 mile fun run that you’re doing – and don’t assume that people understand what you mean by ‘I’m going to ride 3 stages of the Tour de France route’. Spell it out to them. Give them stats. Talk about saddle sores! You will be surprised to know that your own encyclopaedic knowledge of the Tour de France is not shared by regular folk – so you really do need to explain to them exactly what it entails. They’ll think you’re mad of course – but that’s quite useful when you’re asking for donations!

Think about your audience – by that I mean that you have your friends, family and colleagues that you can approach, but there is also the big ‘general public’! For example, setting up a static bike in a shopping mall or supermarket accesses a huge potential audience of donors. Try it!

Check out our fundraising resources page for more ideas.

7. Any final words of wisdom?
Enjoy it! Seriously – appreciate every second of it. Most of us don’t get the chance to do something as huge as this every year. It’s an incredible opportunity, so make the absolute most of it. Be as fit as you can be so that you can soak up as many views out on the road as possible. Raise as much money for WWMT as you possibly can, because your sense of satisfaction is going to be all the greater when you realise it’s not all about you (or the bike!). Your lE lOOP legacy is not just a fitter, leaner version of yourself, but a bunch of kids getting a chance in life that they didn’t have before you decided to don your lycra!

Life on tour is absolutely about living in the moment – something that is so difficult to achieve in our crazy, hectic lives. Le Loop will stay with you for a very long time. Be excited!!!

See you on Tour!


PYCP Charity Visit Report

Visiting a charity is the best way to really understand why Le Loop exists. I’ve visited several of the charities supported by WWMT over the 6 years that I’ve been working on the event and I never fail to be overwhelmed by the extraordinary work that is being done, by extraordinary people.

Last month I visited Pilton Youth and Children’s Project in Edinburgh, along with Tour Organiser Sarah and a couple of our Edinburgh-based riders. As ever, I left feeling energised and enthused, as well as in awe of the fantastic people who work at ground level with often very challenging young people.

2 years ago I championed PYCP for their application to WWMT for a grant because I wanted to ensure that my fundraising efforts while riding part of the 2016 route had a local impact. I already knew the project and the importance of their work in one of Edinburgh’s most struggling communities. They were successful, and were awarded a WWMT grant of £20,000 over 3 years.

James and Katie who deliver the FACENorth programme

WWMT funds their FACE North project which engages with 68 specially identified young people who are already involved in crime and antisocial behaviour.

The project is delivered by Katie and James who are clearly passionate about their work and the kids they are helping. The range of their efforts is huge:

  • Health, sex and drugs education
  • Activities ranging from sea fishing (an unexpectedly hugely successful activity, that includes learning to prepare and cook their catch), a residential at the Iona Community-run Camas project on Mull, to cycling and community projects – often carried out late at night until the early hours of the morning to keep young people off the streets and out of trouble
  • Violence intervention
  • Family support, even helping parents with organising their finances better to help secure their home environment as well as mediating in family relationships
  • One-to-one support including helping with college applications
  • Getting young people involved in pre-employment training
  • Improving school attendance by facilitating some classes within the club house that would otherwise not be attended

Katie and James’ success is entirely dependent on the trust they build with the young people. They act as mentors, friends and even parental figures to the kids, many of whom depend on them being therefor them. Katie and James promised us that they do sometimes turn their phones off, but the impression is that they are available for these kids almost 24 hours a day.

2018 Gavin Mooney had this to say after his visit:

“The challenge I face next July is nothing compared to the challenges these young people face. I am more determined than ever to make a difference. Thanks for the opportunity to see what we are contributing to”.

Like many charities throughout the UK, PYCP is suffering from a big slash in government funding. This makes them increasingly dependent on the grants from Trusts like WWMT. It is clear that without this external funding, vital charities like PYCP will cease to exist. If that were to happen, we could expect to see more youth crime and anti-social behaviour, decreased school and college attendance and employment as well as a general reduction in health and well being among the most needy young people in the UK.

The funds raised by the Le Loop are critical to our ability to support this incredibly important work. If you would like to visit one of the charities supported by WWMT to see the work for yourself, come along to one of our group visits in the New Year (see ‘Dates for your Diary’ in your Rider Zone). If you can’t make one of these, contact me, Kate, to arrange something specifically for you. We will always do everything we can to help you visit a charity.

Regenerate – a WWMT charity

On Thursday I visited Regenerate, a charity in south London which helps young people on the local estates.

The place is amazing. Really amazing. Partly because of the work they do and partly because of a very special attitude that they can help young people in London by helping less fortunate communities in Kenya and Romania.

I chatted with Andy, the founder of Regenerate who grew up on the estate and decided in his twenties that more could be done to unite people. Fast forward 15 years and he runs a youth centre, mentoring programme, sports groups and more recently, and employment project called the FEELGOOD BAKERY.

The bakery is brilliant – it employs ex gang members or young offenders and gives them training, a routine and income, which is a stepping stone to a job elsewhere. However, the idea goes even further than this by providing a meal for a child in Kenya or Romania for every sandwich bought…

Andy is keen for the young people who use Regenerate to understand the world outside their estate and to see that there are people in other countries who have far less than them. The centre organises trips to Romania and Kenya for their South London young people – many have never travelled outside the UK before and many have their lives transformed by the experience.

I urge you to watch one or two of the regenerate videos, like this one – especially those about the trips abroad. You’ll see quite how clever it is to take young people in trouble out of their environment in London and give them an opportunity to help.

And better still, as well as watching the videos, why not join me to visit Regenerate on my next visit (date TBC but we’ll let you know in the December or January newsletter).

And lastly, if you or anyone you know works in an office in London, please, please pass on this link: http://www.thefeelgoodbakery.com/

Sarah (Tour organiser)