NAME: Phil Bingham
I was a bit of an amateur, frankly – despite running VeloVixen (and cycle touring the length of the Americas! Phil’s the modest type! Ed.), I’ve always thought of myself as a cyclist with a small ‘c’ rather than full on fanatic. But I got away with it, which proved to me that you don’t have to be superhuman to take on the whole Tour.
My proper training started way too late, and I relied on a combination of regular spin classes through the winter, a few good length rides in the weeks leading up to Stage 1, and muscle memory from some long distance touring! I’d done sportifs, including a couple of Etapes, but nothing to compare with the sheer relentlessness of 3 solid weeks of riding.
I used the phrase ‘I’m riding into it’ a lot. This achieved two aims – first, it reminded me not to push in any way hard in the early stages – it’s definitely a marathon not a sprint. Second, it sounded like I knew what I was talking about.
Either way, by deliberately keeping my heart rate really low in the first couple of weeks it meant that by the third week I still had something left in the tank.
Once you get your head around the sheer relentlessness of Le Loop, by far the biggest unexpected challenge was the lack of sleep. Brilliantly organised as it is, by the time you’ve finished the stage, eaten, washed, tinkered with your bike, chatted, washed your kit, and maybe even made contact with the outside world… it’s probably 11 or 12 and you know you have to set your alarm for 5.15am once again. It’s gruelling like that, but you won’t find many experiences that bond you with your fellow cyclists better – or give you greater bragging rights!
One top tip: make sure you find a way to escape the ‘bubble’ every few days, even for an hour or two. It’ll keep you sane!
Now running VeloVixen, the Home of Women’s Cycling Kit. The friends and contacts I made through the ride helped reinforce our place in the cycling sector and there’s no question that riding Le Loop gave me more confidence in my own cycling. And it’s provided plenty of indelible memories fall back on if ever times get tough!
I’ve done several more smaller chunks of the Tour since 2013, and each has been wonderful in its way. It’s the kind of event that hooks you in and makes you feel part of it forever.