9 days cycling. 1418km
Cycle west to east, all the way from Brest to Tignes over a long week, and experience the magic of the Tour
With a Grand Depart in Brittany and the first four stages showing off the dramatic landscape of the far north west, this is surely the year to ride the first half of the Tour and experience the excitement of arguably France’s most cycling-mad region!
After those four spectacular Brittany stages, we get a time trial to spin our legs and recover (a bit!), before one delightfully short and one ridiculously long (distance PB anyone?) transition stage. And then, as a Loop finale, we head up into the Alps for 2 mountain stages and a finish in Tignes… this Loop is varied, treat-filled and adds up to the perfect challenge.
Fri 3rd September: Meet at hotel in Brest
Mon 13th September: Depart from Tignes hotel
Arrival day: Fri 3rd September
Arrival by 5pm to hotel in Brest under own arrangements
Loop payments include a Friday arrival with the rider briefing at 5pm followed by dinner. You can buy an extra night of accommodation in Brest if you’d like to arrive on the Thursday rather than the Friday.
Stage 1: Brest to Landerneau. 187km. Sat 4th September
We set off from France’s westernmost city, and our route initially takes us south, through the fresh salty air of the Atlantic coastline and the picturesque towns of Locronan and Quimper, before swinging north towards our finish town of Landerneau. This is an area known for its strong westerly winds as well as its scenery, so we can expect a buffeting from both sides throughout the course of the day. The second half of the stage takes us through the Monts d’Arée – a region of steep climbs, wooded valleys, rocky outcrops and wide open moorland that may remind you of Wales or Cornwall. Make sure you save some energy for the final 3km – the steep Côte de la Fosse aux Loups will ensure our legs are well-and-truly warmed up for what’s to come tomorrow.
Start: Hotel in Brest
Finish: Hotel in Landernau
Stage 2: Perros-Guirec to Mûr-de-Bretagne. 182km. Sun 5th September
This hilly, rural stage flirts with the Côte de Granit Rose (Pink Granite Coastline) during its first half, delivering us to a series of seaside towns, then intermittently plunging into the pretty – and punchy – Breton interior. Expect refreshing sea breezes and a summer holiday vibe. We’ll bid a final farewell to the Channel at Saint-Brieuc – famous for medieval atchitecture and delicious scallops – and then turn inland, where a quiet landscape of forests and farmland ushers us towards our second uphill finish: a double ascent of the fearsomely steep Mûr de Bretagne, cited by locals as their version of Mont Ventoux. (Grand Loopers will be able to verify this claim later in the Tour.)
Start: Transfer to Perros Guirec
Finish: short transfer to Pontivy hotel
Stage 3: Lorient to Pontivy. 182km. Mon 6th September
Today’s route will be flatter, though we may well still encounter some stiff side winds as we meander through fields and forests, crossing several estuaries as Brittany’s rivers empty themselves into the ocean. We’ll slow briefly to admire the ranks of prehistoric standing stones at Carnac and La Trinité-sur-Mer, and enjoy being dwarfed by Josselin’s towering fairytale castle. The final kilometres will be through vast open farmland, along smooth, quiet roads, and as the route swings round to approach Pontivy from the west, we may even finish with a tailwind behind us.
Start: Transfer to Lorient
Finish: 2nd night in Pontivy hotel
Stage 4: Redon to Fougeres. 152km. Tues 7th September
We’ve left the coast behind now – this stage is all inland, and takes us through Brittany’s rural hinterland, known as Argoat. Expect more of that immaculate French tarmac, gently rolling countryside, and big skies above endless fields of crops. This is listed as a flat stage, but Tour Director Christian Prudhomme has speculated over how the sprinters will cope with “hilly forest roads” and “unsheltered uplands”, suggesting that it might hold a few more challenges than we would otherwise have expected. A couple of hours before we reach our finish town of Fougères, we’ll skirt the divine old city of Vitré, with its step-back-in-time medieval streets, and yet another magnificent castle. And then it’s another pleasant rural spin, through fields of maize and past prosperous stone farmhouses.
Start: Transfer to Redon
Finish: Transfer to Changé
Stage 5: Changé to Laval. 27km. Wed 8th September
This would be a punchy little stage if ridden at full speed, but most of us will be happy to take it easy, enjoying the scenery and treating this as a recovery day between two big blocks of riding. We’ll start by climbing up out of the Mayenne Valley, quickly leaving the metropolitan area behind us and heading out into quiet country roads, fringed with trees and hedgerows. Our second climb (of about a mile) comes as we recross the river, and from here the road undulates gently through fields of cows – their milk will be used to make the famous Babybel cheese, produced just up the road in Évron. We’ll re-enter the suburbs of Laval from the east, and our final climb (a mere pimple compared to what we’ve seen elsewhere) comes at the very end of the stage – a smashing finish for the pros, and a nice roll-in for us.
Start: Morning time trial ride from the hotel door, followed by a lunch time transfer to Tours
Stage 6: Tours to Châteauxroux. 144km. Thur 9th September
This is one of those stages designed for the helicopters, with numerous architectural wonders en route. And since we’re not racing, we get to admire them as we pass, rather than focussing grimly on the wheel in front. We start out along the River Loire, then, after the statuesque bridges and graceful chateaux of Amboise (where Leonardo da Vinci is buried), we cross the river Cher, where alongside the imposing renaissance chateaux of Saint Aignan and Montrichard is the chateau of Chenonceau, built on a bridge over the river and used as a hospital for wounded soldiers in WW1. After our morning’s sightseeing, a manageable amount of climbing takes us through the quiet pastoral region of Indre, through ancient woodland and small, sleepy villages, for a nice fast run into Châteauroux.
Start: Tours hotel
Finish: Chateauroux hotel
Stage 7: Vierzon to Le Creusot. 248km. Fri 10th September
This is the longest stage the Tour has seen since a monstrous 249.5km mountain stage in 2000. And while we’re not going up any official mountains, there’s still more than 3,000m climbing to enjoy. The first few hours will look flatter, but might not necessarily feel it. We’ll cross a vast, prairie-like landscape, with the cathedral city of Bourges to offer respite from the sun and the wind. There’ll be more woodland, as well as water meadows and vegetable farms, as we approach the mighty River Loire, and ‘a bit of a hill’ at Nevers, to show us the sights of this historic city. However the real climbs are stacked towards the end of the stage. We’ll navigate the winding roads and wooded hillsides of the Morvan National Park, and the stage’s final reckoning is on the Signal d’Uchon, 5.7km of uphill tarmac, through scenery so serene that we’ll forgive its gradients.
Start: Transfer to Vierzon
Finish: Le Creusot hotel
Stage 8: Oyonnax to Grand-Bornand. 151km. Sat 11th September
Today we meet the mountains. The climbing will begin immediately as we leave Oyonnax, with a detour into the Jura mountain range via the Forêt d’Échallon. We’ll dip down to cross the River Rhône, and continue through the hills to Bonneville, watching the Alps grow larger and larger on the horizon. Our first big climb is the Côte de Mont-Saxonnex, which winds its way among the chalets and forests above Cluses. It’s nowhere near as high the Colombière, but its 8.3% average gradient will give a hint of what’s to come. The Col de Romme is a classic Alpine climb, with ringing cowbells and views of the surrounding peaks, and the Col de la Colombière is a psychological challenge as much as a physical one – you can see the gîte at the top from a long way down the road and the views will make it all worthwhile. The descent to Grand-Bornand is a fun one, with it’s swooping hairpins, magnificent views, and a mural of Bernard Hinault partway down to remind you that you are now also part of Le Tour.
Start: Transfer to Oyonnax
Finish: Le Grand Bornand hotel
Stage 9: Cluses to Tignes . 145km. Sun 12th September
Taking in some of the most beautiful scenery in this region of the Alps, today’s route starts off by rolling up the valley from Cluses, then the short sharp Côte de Domancy will awaken our legs, taking us up to the fancy ski resort of Megève. We’ll keep most of the height we’ve gained, following the River Arly until Crest-Voland, when we’ll encounter the Col des Saisies – 10km of gentler gradients, through Alpine meadows, overlooked by the jagged peaks we’ll be getting a closer look at later on. We’ll descend into pretty Beaufort (home of excellent cheese), and then take on the Col du Pré, a steeper, trickier climb, that may feel like the toughest of the day. Our reward is the stunning Lac de Roselend – we’ll ride straight across its dam, admire the stone chapel at its far end, and then gaze back over it as the road continues to climb towards the Cormet de Roselend. From here it’s a twisting technical descent to Bourg-Saint-Maurice, and then a long, steady climb up to Tignes, where we have a rest day to look forward to. This might only be 145km but it includes over 4400m of climbing; refer back to the first sentence for the scenic reward!
Start: short transfer to Cluses
Finish: Tignes hotel
Departure Day: Mon 13th September
Departure from Tignes under own arrangements
Due 18th April
Due 16th June
|Fundraising Target||80% Fundraising
due end July
Emily, Lead Cyclist:
“I just cannot wait! It’ll be a tough first week but if you want to test yourself, 9 days non-stop on these roads will be the best!”
Sarah, Event Organiser:
“Throughout the week, there will be huge changes in landscape, architecture, culture and challenge. This is the way to get to see how much variety the Tour de France offers.”
Annabel, Alumni Cyclist:
“I cycled the first half because I was happy with the challenge of long stages but decided the second half mountains were just one step too far. I remember a couple of the stages being pretty brutal but it was so memorable and sooooo worth it. Just take your time and you’ll get there!”
Le Loop is known for its camaraderie and inclusiveness and we strongly believe that there’s a Loop for everyone. We have no cut off times and cyclists will always be supported as far as safety and daylight hours allow. However, there is a speed and a level of training required for some of the longer Loops and the Grand Loop because we have limited space in our support vehicles and this event is not designed for cyclists who cannot complete full stages (Click here for e-bike and non-standard bike info).
We need to be clear about how tough the Tour can be in order to help you pick the right challenge…
The Grand Loop…
You should be able to complete 200km stages with 2500m of climbing in under 10hrs (including stops). Assuming a total of 90 mins stopping, this equates to an average cycling speed of 23.5 km/h (14 m/h) or faster, day after day over relatively hilly terrain.
On a mountain stage of 180km with 4500m of climbing, we expect Grand Loopers to take between 8 and 12 hours, including stops. Assuming a total of 90 mins stopping, this equates to an average cycling speed of 17km/h (10.5 m/h) or faster.
If in any doubt, please get in touch to discuss. Or consider joining us for a shorter Loop with a view to completing the Grand Loop once you have tested yourself over 3 to 5 stages.
Whilst we have back up vehicles for injured or exhausted cyclists, this is intended as just that: a back-up plan should something go wrong. If there is a reason why you cannot complete one or two stages (injury, illness, one-off extreme fatigue), we will of course help you and offer you space in a support vehicle. But if you are not able to cycle full stages without medical or equivalent reason, we will have to ask you to take public transport or find alternative arrangements to travel between stage starts and finishes.
If in doubt, please see below for our more manageable Loop options and use that as training for the Grand Loop at some point in the future.
As with the Grand Loop, these Loops are extremely testing. You should be able to complete full stages which will sometimes involve over 10hrs cycling and we would not expect you to need to take the Lite options in the Alps or Pyrenees.
For advice on average speeds, please see the guidelines above for the Grand Loop.
Alps, Pyrenees, Alps Lite, Pyrnees Lite…
The Tour de France mountain stages are extremely tough and completing back to back mountain stages is something that requires commitment and training. However, we are not all equal: in time available, experience, natural ability or desire for the toughest challenge. Which is why we have our Lite options…
If you sign up for the Alps or Pyrenees, you will be given the option to cycle the full stage or the shortened, ‘lite’ version. We usually take numbers the night before, giving you plenty of flexibility should you wish to go long or short.
Please, please avoid the temptation to view the Lite options as a weaker challenge: they are not! The extra transfers or short-cuts serve simply to open up the Tour de France to more people, encourage more diverse groups to join us, or offer an alternative to people who would like a really great day of Tour riding, rather than an overly-epic day which leaves them broken.
As a rough guide, a cyclist who can complete an undulating 100 km sportive in 5hrs or less in March and a hilly 100 km sportive in 5hrs or less in late April/early May will be well placed to join us in France.
Middle Mountains, Grand Depart…
The variety of the Tour de France route each year means that there can be quite a variation in the difficulty and length of stage within these options. Please see the Loop descriptions for more information and get in touch if in any doubt about your ability to take part.
Often the Mountains Lite Loops can be more manageable than the longer stages involved in other Loops. And sometimes morning transfers, hotel changes and other logistical variations can affect how difficult a Loop feels. So don’t be put off by the climbing involved in the mountains – with training and commitment, we believe that there really is a Loop for everyone and we’re always happy to discuss your options with you.
Included in all Loops
- Accommodation (Mostly twin share. Single supplements are available to buy once you\'re signed up)
- Food (3 meals and the best feedstops you’ve ever seen)
- Fully signed route, the stuff of legend
- Mechanical, medical and moral support
- Luggage Transfers
- Coach transfers to the next stage start where applicable
Not included in all Loops
- Travel to and from France (but we’ll give you advice on the best travel routes)
- Bike Transport (£30 each way if you want us to drive your bike there and back)
- Evening massage (£10 per massage)
- Beer/wine/dinner drinks!