Name: Jenn Brittain
Location: Canadian living in Australia since 2013
Jenn started cycling in 2007 and loves it, but she loves it even more since finishing completing the full TDF in 2016! Somehow she fits all this riding in around a job and 3 young kids too and is proof that where there’s a will, there’s a way. She finished the 2016 tour in style having got stronger and stronger through the tour until she was steaming up the Alpine climbs like a pro and returned to ride the Alps in 2018.
Le Loop will change you forever. Whether you choose to ride a Loop or the Grand Loop, each day and stage of the Tour offers the opportunity to learn about yourself.
I often compare the TDF experience to summer camp – the experiences and relationships are short-lived but intense. No one but your fellow riders will ever understand exactly what you’ve been through – the terrain, the weather, the mechanicals – and it very quickly becomes clear that teamwork is necessary for survival. I am fortunate enough to play the role of daughter, wife, mother and health care practitioner in my real life. During the TDF, I had the chance to be a cyclist, to test myself, to focus purely toward a personal goal, and at the same time contribute to the greater goals of the William Wates Memorial Trust. I learned so much about myself and from the staff and fellow cyclists. I can hardly believe that it was only a three week window of my life.
Of course, the TDF is basically about the cycling, and there is no getting around the fact that the more physically prepared you are, the better. However, the TDF atmosphere was perpetually positive. I remember making it to Feed Stop 4 one day, feeling ready to give in (it was late). Despite the fact that he MUST have been cold and tired himself, Ian (Loop staffer – ‘Coffee Ian’) smiled at me and said “Of course you’ll make it!” It is these small moments that mean so much. To those who are setting off this year I would like to say, be prepared to both help others, and to accept help in any form. Talk to people at home about what you are doing, use social media and email even when you’re too tired. Their good wishes might just be the thing to carry you through the next day.
Where are you now?
I have always defined myself as academic rather than sporty, so to have someone refer to me as an athlete still gives me goosebumps. I have entered a few Gran Fondo races here in Australia upon the suggestion of a few fellow Loopers and loved them. Whilst I have yet to place, I wouldn’t even have considered an entry before Le Loop.
The aftermath has held plenty of pleasant surprises for me (in addition to the athlete reference!). Several friends and strangers have told me that they have learned either from my experience, either in conversation or from my blog. I still receive emails from people who have been inspired by my TDF to challenge themselves physically or otherwise. I feel truly blessed to have had the chance to participate in Le Loop, and the gift continues!
I am still riding, albeit in a far less organized way. I went into the TDF secretly saying to myself that I could safely never ride again if I could just complete the Tour de France, and now that I have permission to retire, I am enjoying it more than ever!