So how was it for you? – we catch up with 3 of our 2018 Riders

Back in the Spring we asked 3 of our 2018 riders to tell us how their plans were going, what were their biggest fears and the things they were most looking forward to:

3 of our 2018 Riders Share their Stories So Far

Now that the dust has settled on the 2018 Tour, we’ve asked them to tell us how it went!

Tom Wells

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

This year’s tour was mostly as I expected. The long HC climbs were a lot tougher than I thought they’d be, especially the second one on the third day (Col de la Croix de Fer).

Personally, I really struggled here. I made the mistake of stopping too often and focusing on the negatives – my feet were really hurting at this point and I knew I was running low on reserves. In fact, when I got to the top of this climb I pulled into the feed stop and told Ian that I was done for the day and I couldn’t do another pedal stroke. Luckily for me, a can of coke and a few choccy biscuits later I had perked up and decided that I’d crack on. After all, the whole reason I was on this Tour was all that was standing between me and the finish line so I’d regret it forever if I quit now.

And what was Tom’s whole reason for choosing these stages to ride? Alped’Huez!

The highlight was definitely climbing Alpe D’Huez for many reasons, mainly because it was the focal point of the week. The La Rosiere climb on Day 2 was a close second though … It was paced amazingly and I felt really good as I got to the top, even catching other riders in the last 5km. And my good mood got even better as I arrived in time to shower, eat dinner, have a massage and then watch the world cup in a brand spanking new hotel!

But on day 4 I got a string of punctures and as I was fixing them the freewheel hub stopped working. While the bike mechanic worked to fix the bike, I got to ride one of the spare bikes. Now I’m sure many of you have experienced this before in some shape or form but whenever you have something that’s yours and custom fit to you it is very hard to go to something that isn’t yours and definitely isn’t custom fit to you. It’s not so much physical, I mean a bike is a bike right – they’ve all got pedals and gears and handlebars and brakes and you use your legs to propel yourself forward, but mental. If something doesn’t quite feel right then all of a sudden it’s a massive deal and it’s so easy to get down about it. Especially on the 5th day of hard riding and less sleep than is optimal! That’s exactly what happened to me on this 5th day. However, I did manage to take in the scenery and made sure that I lifted my head up to enjoy where I was in the world.

And your advice for anyone considering take part?

I’d keep the same advice as before. Just do it. Prepare properly, do as much training as you can and you’ll be fine.

Jonny Wates

As one of the Trustees of WWMT Jonny was heavily involved in the very first Tour in 2006 and has ridden at least some of the tour most years. This year he joined us for the 2nd half).

This was a vintage renewal of Le Loop. I enjoyed it very much. I’ve been involved every year since the event started, so there aren’t too many surprises! At the heart of the enjoyment is the people. We always have lovely people, but this year’s group were especially good to be around. There was a great atmosphere, mixing friendliness and commitment to the task at hand. I had some great fun on the bike and everyone was welcoming. I also had a group of friends from the Family Business Network, something I’m involved in. They were like a team within a team. Having them there was special. I’d also mention the support team. They are in many ways the backbone of the event. They are all in the image of Sarah – totally professional, incredibly good at what they do and always friendly. Given the demands placed upon them this is remarkable.

My highlight was the company. I was immersed in Le Loop for 12 days and felt I was part of something wonderful throughout. I didn’t have any low lights at all. So instead I’ll pull out another highlight.. by my own standards I cycled strong this year! That will pass I’m sure, but in the meantime I’m banking that sensation of feeling strong on the bike in the mountains. Amazing!

Only one small thing.. I would not have worn a new pair of bib shorts! Doing so resulted in a rather sizable and uncomfortable saddle sore (now thankfully gone)

You really can have faith in the event. It’s very well run and the people are super friendly. And of course, you get out what you put in.

Jonny didn’t actually SAY that his highlight was the leg-licking sheep on one Pyrenean Col, but we’re pretty sure it was! (Ed)

 

Jackie Fraser

Jackie – far right

Jackie joined us for the first 3 stages of the 2018 Tour, along with her husband Stuart.

I have to admit that on the first night (the Grand Depart) I felt intimidated seeing everyone else looking very focussed, fit and confident.  The orientation and dinner that night, gave a hint of the herculean effort that is required to manage such an event.

I had done all the training and knew that I was physically fit for what I was undertaking.  What I hadn’t really factored in was the heat and humidity, I’m from Scotland!

But Jackie soon got into the swing of things, finding wheels to draft and groups to socialise with as she rode through the heat of those first 2 stages.

It was lovely to have the first 40km of the ride neutralised, allowing everyone to meet up at the first feedstop.  I found that I was able to cycle at a pace that put us in with the faster riders, and was enjoying group riding with a lovely bunch of guys … Cycling on day two was much the same, and I felt fresh and raring to go.

The highlights of Le Loop for me was meeting a group of people who were all up for an adventure.  The camaraderie was amazing and I was honoured to have shared a few days in the company of some lovely, funny, eccentric, driven, and slightly insane cyclists.  That, and being able to access every area of the support provided by Le Loop, all of the team were kind, thoughtful and bloody great at their jobs.

The lowlights for me were realising, that no matter how prepared you are and how much training you do, shit happens.  I would have loved to have done a longer Loop but my body would not have withstood it.  I ended up with a particularly nasty saddle sore I christened Donald Trump, as it was an immense pain in the arse which hung around far too long!  (Ed. possibly my favourite quote of the 2018 Tour)

Saying goodbye to everyone after stage 3, Stuart and I were on our own and feeling a bit discombobulated.  Even after only three days we felt lost.  How would we know where to go without having yellow arrows to follow?  Who would appear every 40km to feed us?  How would we know what we were supposed to be doing, without Sarah’s briefings and instructions?  Who would massage my weary body at the end of the day?  I can only just begin to imagine how the Grand Loopers felt the morning after Paris.

To anyone thinking of riding Le Loop, my advice is the same as before, do it, Do It, DO IT!  You will not regret it.  You will be excellently looked after by the Le Loop team, riding with people from all over the world and sharing the most amazing experience with them.  The camaraderie is uplifting and you will quickly become part of the Le Loop family, which welcomes everyone.  It was so inspiring hearing people’s stories of how they came to be doing Le Loop, sharing useful cycling tips and encouraging each other on.  I also loved the fact there was a healthy dose of banter, joking and dry humour!  I wish we had been able to stay longer, as there was so many Loopers that I wanted to get to know.  To be cycling stages of the Tour de France route with Le Loop, whilst raising money for The William Wates Memorial Trust, enabling them to continue supporting fantastic charities, is a win/win situation.  You are contributing to something worthwhile, whilst doing what you love.  We can’t wait to join everyone next year, cycling on great tarmac in the beautiful French countryside, what more could you want!

When my husband Stuart, and I signed up to do the first 3 stages of 2018 Tour de France with Le Loop, we didn’t bank on it becoming a minor obsession which would lead to our signing up for 2019!  Stuart is going for the Grand Loop and I am waiting to see what the route will be, before I decide how many Loops to go for.

2019 Route Rumours – Which Bucket List climbs should we expect?

The most likely answer is surely Ventoux, Ventoux and more Ventoux… which would make us very happy indeed! It’s been a couple of years since we had the pleasure and the route certainly suggests a bit of time in Provence.

The big question is maybe less ‘if’ and possibly ‘how many times?’. Imagine; twice in one tour! What would the pros think?

It would be possible to climb Ventoux on our way from Belgium to the Pyrenees – and then again as part of an Alpine finale. Alternatively (but we think less likely) might be a double ascent in one stage. We certainly won’t be surprised if we’re given two chances to cycle over the moon.

Regarding other big climbs to look out for, we’ll stick our neck out and say Hautacam in the Pyrenees and Izouard in the Alps. But we’re also very happy to wait for a couple of surprises.

Click here for more info about the 2019 AND 2020 routes.

Don’t just watch it. Ride it!

Tour Report 2018

With a stunning coastal Grand Depart, our first weekend of the Tour had a holiday feel, and temperatures that made that Atlantic look all the more welcoming – but we had some cycling to do! These first 2 stages were the perfect opportunity for less experienced riders to join the peloton for a big challenge. In particular we were delighted to welcome back the Alitex Team for their 3rd Tour with us, proving that you don’t have to be a mad keen roadie when you sign up to Le Loop … but with sensible preparation and a big heart, it’s still possible ride a couple of stages of the Tour de France!

North we continued, in slightly cooler (and occasionally damper) weather, through Brittany, which was shown in all its glory. There’s a reason this part of France has a strong cycling culture; the roads are glorious! During these stages, it was noticeable how strong the camaraderie had become. The ‘class of 2018’ proved to be one of the most welcoming, supportive, inclusive and delightful groups, remarked upon by all.

A small group of game Loopers joined us for a weekend of flattish and charming northern French countryside, paying homage to Roubaix as we reached the daunting, but ultimately satisfying cobbles of stage 9 before our first rest day.

Beholden as we are to the route designed by A.S.O, who organise the pro tour, our rest day was dominated by a long train and coach transfer to the Alps, but at least the legs got a rest!

This rest day welcomed a big group of new Loopers, as well as our first charity visitors (William and Jordan from Regenerate), eager to tackle the 3 big Alpine stages. Sun and blue skies showed off the stunning mountains in all their glory. These were gruelling but beautiful stages that would really test our mettle, but fortunately we had the luxury our aching limbs needed with two particularly fabulous hotels in La Rosiere and Alpe d’Huez.

Stages 10 and 11 were everything you’d hope for; dramatic, beautiful and exhausting (!) – but the memories that stick with us from these days in the Alps are the fun, chat and amazing feedstops as our Le Loop peloton laughed their way up and down the spectacular Alpine roads. What a way to experience climbs (such as La Rosiere) that would prove to be so pivotal in the pro race one week later!

Their culmination in stage 12 ensured that this would be 3 days of riding that would never be forgotten. It took us on a true cycling journey; the infamous Col de la Madeleine, the alarming switchbacks of Les Lacets de Montvernier, then Col de la Croix de Fer and ultimately, the iconic 21 hairpins of Alpe d’Huez. We had our longest day ever on tour, with our final heroic riders pedalling into the hotel at 1am, having started riding at 8am. Determination like that is quite something to witness and all our riders did themselves proud that day.

Next we headed South into the Cevennes and on through the Massif Central, enjoying beautiful villages, vineyards, sunflower fields and gorges. It’s easy for others to overlook these middle mountain stages but for us the beauty of the tour lies in the hidden corners of France that are best viewed from a bike. Stages 13, 14 and 15 which took us to our second rest day in Carcassonne were a joy from beginning to end and left us smiling from ear to ear: pure, southern French, cycling joy!

Stage 16 took us to Luchon, high in the Pyrenees with a little foray into Spain en route. Then stage 17 was a particular highlight: only 65km, but packed with climbs, leg-licking sheep, cows in pitch-black tunnels and views to die for. It was a day with time and energy spare to take photos, have fun and really enjoy this beautiful, craggy, atmospheric mountain range.

We were joined on stage 17 by Sarah and Skye from Access Sport and it was an absolute pleasure to share the Pyrenees with them and to watch them rise to the challenge of the Tour like absolute heroines. Chapeau!

An interesting flat stage 18 was a chance to ride in groups and chat as we ate up the miles (and baguette sandwiches). At just over 100 miles, this was the final challenge for some of our Loop cyclists, whilst also being a chance others to anticipate what was to come…

Stage 19 was the final big sting in the tail of the 2018 Tour. 200km that took in the Col d’Aspin, Col du Tourmalet and Col d’Aubisque, the rain and low cloud stole the views, but perhaps saved us from searing heat and dehydration. It was a huge day on the bike that marked the end of the serious stages of the Tour.

From here, we only had a time trial (a short but fascinating glimpse of Basque culture), flight to Paris and the glory ride down the Champs Elysee to complete. The sunshine, arrival of friends and family and sipping champagne on a private diner cruise down the Seine made this a very special day – a celebration – of a really fantastic tour.

2019 Route Rumours – Alps or Pyrenees first?

We’re all excited about the 2019 Tour route and what it has in store. The rumours are that we’ll head from the Grand Depart in Belgium down through the Champagne region and on to the mountains.

By rights in 2019 it should be the Pyrenees before the Alps (alternating each year which comes first) but it would take a creative route to go all the way west and then return to the east.

Looking at the 2013 Tour route, you can see how this worked when the Grand Depart was in Corsica (early Pyrenean stages, a big rest-day transfer and a longer-than-usual set of ‘between mountain’ stages before the Alps – all combining to make a genuinely exciting and very enjoyable Tour), so it’s definitely possible. But equally there have been a few years recently when protocol was broken and the same mountains took the glory stages two years in a row.

Either way, we can expect the trend for one or two short mountain stages to continue which is great news for us. Under 100km of pure climbing and descent: short enough to be manageable, tough enough to feel epic, amazing to watch on telly one week later!

Click here for more info about the 2019 AND 2020 routes.

More rumours coming next week. Join us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn to be the first to know!

Don’t just watch it. Ride it!

Stage 21: Houilles – Champs Élysées. About 100km

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Stage 21: Houilles – Champs Élysées. About 100km

It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for! But before we live out our maillot jaune fantasies on the sacred cobblestones of the Champs Élysées (one lap only for us – one is enough!), we’ll enjoy a relatively gentle roll in from the suburb of Houilles – a few hours to savour the highs and lows of the last three weeks, and look forward to celebrating our achievements in Paris this evening.

Stage 20: Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle – Espelette. 31km.

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Stage 20: Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle – Espelette. 31km.

The struggle isn’t quite over. Today’s stage is a time trial (ergo blessedly short), but it’s a punchy one, with quite a bit of climbing, and a 10% stretch 3km from the finish. Some of us will use this as an opportunity to empty the tank before the long transfer to Paris in the afternoon – others will take it easier, enjoying the Basque scenery and looking forward to seeing the famous (and recently very trendy on menus all over France) peppers of Espelette, hanging out to dry from all of the town’s balconies: one more regional snapshot before we head to the capital.

Stage 19: Lourdes – Laruns. 200km.

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Stage 19: Lourdes – Laruns. 200km.

Our final day in the mountains, and we’ll be making the most of it with what Prudhomme has described as “the frightening Aspin-Tourmalet-Bordères-Soulor-Aubisque sequence”. The high point of this stage comes roughly halfway, at the top of the Tourmalet (one for all col baggers: it’s the most climbed mountain in Tour history), but the real struggle will take place in the final third, with an ascent of the picturesque but little-known Col des Bordères en route to the fiercesome Col du Soulor. This is then followed by the vertiginous balcony road of the Cirque du Litor, and finally the magnificent Aubisque. Whilst being a mighty test for pros and Le Loopers alike, the Aubisque really is one of the most exceptionally beautiful climbs: a spectacular way to say goodbye to the Pyrenees.