12 days cycling, 1 rest day, 1914km
See how the pros roll! Warm up with the only two flat stages of the Tour and then hit the tarmac running with climb after climb and view after view, all the way to Paris.
Feel what it’s like to ride day after day just like your pro cycling heroes with everything that’s good about cycling in France packed into this Loop.
You’ll experience twelve days of perfect tarmac, sunny roads, plenty of climbs, and big, open countryside. Regional differences and contrasting scenery wait around every corner and then you get Paris! Work will feel miles away!
From the only two flat stages of the Tour (excluding Paris) to the non-stop mountains that follow, this is a mega challenge. If you look more closely at the profiles and stage descriptions, you’ll see a huge variety in the climbing on offer; spikey & painful (Grand Colombier), bucket list (the Madeleine), surprising (Aravis), outright stunning (Cormet de Roseland), brand new (Col de la Loze), Tour history (Planche des Belles Filles) … rarely have we seen such variety and you can cycle the country in the tracks of your heroes and experience it for yourself.
In amongst all of this fun and glory, there’s a spa hotel for the rest day and a couple of stages short enough to let you recover in a hotel pool or with a celebratory beer. The atmosphere on Tour is relaxed and friendly and everyone helps each other through the good days and the tough ones.
So… if you’re up for it and willing to take on the training, this is a fantastic year to cycle from west to east with none of the logistics to worry about.
Note: Paris friends and family places (cycling and non-cycling) will be available for anyone who’d like partners or friends to join them for the last night in Paris.
Arrival day: Ile d’Oleron. Mon 29th June.
We have included travel to the Ile d’Oleron as part of your Loop. Your two options are:
11:30am from Bordeaux airport (ties in with the easyjet flight from Gatwick)
or 15:30 from La Rochelle train station (ties in with the 12h22-15h15 train from Paris Montparnasse)
We will email more details and arrangements in early May.
Stage 10: Ile d’Oleron-Ile de Re. 170km. Tue 30 June.
We ride from island to island today, on one of the Tour’s few genuinely flat stages, soaking up the mood of French holiday makers in paradise. That doesn’t mean it’ll be an easy ride though – this stage has been designed in the hope that brisk coastal winds will disrupt the peloton, so it’ll be a day for us to help each other out, ride in groups and maybe even be grateful for the cooling breeze. We leave the quiet dunes and pine forests of the Ile d’Oléron, and cross ancient salt marshes (now repurposed as oyster farms) en route to the old naval town of Rochefort. Then we rejoin the Atlantic coast, passing through relaxed La Rochelle before crossing the 3km Pont de Ré which is a suitably impressive bridge to end a very impressive stage.
Start: Ile d’Oleron hotel
Finish: La Rochelle (west) hotel
Stage 11: Chatelaillon Plage-Poitiers. 167km. Wed 1st July
We’re keeping our fingers crossed that the wind will be blowing us inland today, as we head across wide open landscapes. Salt marshes and mud flats are criss-crossed with canals and rivers, making for a fascinating and possibly unexpected landscape, home to geese, cattle and horses. There’s a rich history in this area and some beautiful villages and architecture which reflect the region’s 500 year old trade. The afternoon will take us into more forested terrain but still pretty much flat (this is, afterall, the flattest stage of the Tour). It’ll be a delightful ride, finishing in the lovely university town of Poitiers.
Start: La Rochelle (west) hotel
Finish: Poitiers hotel
Stage 12: Chauvigny-Sarran. 218km. Thur 2nd July.
This rolling-hilly stage will take us through some lesser known parts of central France; a proper Tour de France discovery stage with the dubious honour of being the shortest ‘longest stage’ the Tour has ever had. Chauvigny (twinned with Billericay!) is home to an absolutely stunning ruined castle – a view and a half to start a stage which sees us gain height via a series of ‘small’ climbs. The most notable is the last: the Suc au May, whose gradient touches 22% at some points and has been picked out by Christian Prudhomme (Tour chief) as one of the highlights of 2020. Coming in the final kilometres of the stage, when legs are tired and thoughts have turned to dinner, we’ll be grateful for the distraction of the quietly beautiful scenery of the Massif Central, possibly also inspired by ending the day in the hometown of former president, Jacques Chirac.
Le Loop Practicalities:
Start: Transfer from Poitiers hotel to Chauvigny
Finish: Transfer from Sarran to our hotel just south of Chatel Guyon (located in Gerzat, mid way from Chatel Guyon to Clermont Ferrand so that we can stay two nights in the same hotel and avoid an extra transfer)
Stage 13: Chatel Guyon-Puy Mary. 191km. Fri 3rd July.
There’s no doubt this stage will be a ‘high’light of the Tour, with its four categorised climbs and over 4,000m of climbing. We head south from our hotel, just south of the charming spa town of Châtel-Guyon, through Clermont-Ferrand, and up the Col de Ceyssat, a relatively undemanding hill, with a few steeper sections in its final kilometres. This is now deep into volcano country, full of domed hills, cattle, cheese and laid back, happy people. We’ll stay fairly high for the Col de Guéry and Côte de la Stèle, before dropping to the Dordogne river, and then climbing back up onto the plateau, whose remote and rugged scenery we’ll enjoy en route to our final climb – the spectacular volcano of Puy Mary. There’s a dramatic approach to the col du Pas de Peyrol summit finish which boasts panoramic views far and wide. And tonight there’s an all you can eat buffet and a second night in the same hotel as a reward!
Start: Clermont Ferrand hotel (located in Gerzat, midway between Chatel Guyon and Clermont Ferrand so that we can stay two nights in the same hotel and avoid an extra transfer)
Finish: Transfer from Puy Mary back to the same hotel
Stage 14: Clermont Ferrand-Lyon. 197km. Sat 4th July.
This long stage will take us from Clermont-Ferrand, in the hilly Massif Central, to majestic Lyon, on the banks of the Rhône. It manages to take in a great deal of climbing en route, thanks to the Forez mountains, with their rolling, rugged scenery and scattered herds of sheep. We’ll ascend the Col du Béal at almost 1400m and the Col des Brosses during the first half of the stage, continuing on quiet, remote-feeling roads until the last short climbs into urban Lyon with people, shops and busy life feel like a bit of a shock to the system. Don’t underestimate this stage; the length, the climbs and the need for a rest day will definitely test us.
Start: Clermont Ferrand hotel (located in Gerzat, see stage 13)
Finish: Lyon hotel
Stage 15: Lyon-Grand Colombier. 175km. Sun 5th July.
We leave sunny Lyon and head east towards the beautiful Jura mountains. The first part of the day will take us through the lush farmland and stone villages of the Rhône valley, with the green peaks of the Jura looming on the horizon and then with a quick fanfare it’s ready, steady, climb! We’ll get to know the Grand Colombier well today, since we’re climbing three different sides of it with a very clever route up and around the mountain. There will be gradients in excess of 20%, swooping descents and, if we’re very lucky, big views of Mont Blanc from the top.
Start: Lyon hotel
Finish: Short transfer to rest day spa hotel in Aix les Bains
REST DAY 2, Mon 6th July.
Full day and second night in spa hotel in Aix les Bains
Stage 16: La Tour du Pin-Villard de Lans. 164km. Tue 7th July.
Today’s ride will take us into the distinctive cliffs and crags of the Chartreuse mountains, with paragliders enjoying the views with us. Our first ascent is Col de Porte, and we’ll pass the headquarters of Grand Chartreuse on its lower slopes – home of the silent monks who produce Chartreuse liqueur (but apparently drink cider themselves). We’ll then head into what Christian Prudhomme describes as the “rugged terrain of the Vercors Massif”, climbing up from Grenoble to finish the day in a new world of chalets and Alpine meadows. The final climb of the stage, the beautifully named Montee de Saint Nizier du Moucherotte, takes you through the village of the same name, home to a French resistance fighters cemetery as well as a ski jump from the 1968 winter Olympics. Then it’s descent to the stage finish at the end of a pretty mighty 100 miles.
Start: Short transfer to La Tour du Pin
Finish: Villard sur Lans hotel
Stage 17: Grenoble-Meribel. 168km. Wed 8th July.
In terms of length, ascent and altitude, this stage includes the two toughest climbs of the 2020 tour. We’ll go up the steeper south-west side of the Col de la Madeleine on an exciting, narrow back road which joins the classic climb a few kms from the top and hands us a climb which measures 17.1km at an average of 8.4%. Then, after a sweeping descent into the Isère valley, we test our legs on the Col de la Loze. This 2,304m beast is not only a new addition to the Tour – it’s a brand new road, the 13th highest in France, paved in 2019, and purpose-built for cyclists (cars are not allowed). The final kilometres offer very uneven gradient, with some extremely steep sections, which will add considerably to the challenge. Meribel is proud to have the Tour pass through and the town will be decorated in style, ready to welcome us and the pros. We’ll actually pass our hotel as we pass through town with a few kms still to climb – so once you reach the summit, there’s a slow descent and a chance to cheer on those Le Loop cyclists who are still climbing.
Start: Short transfer to Grenoble
Finish: Meribel hotel
Stage 18: Meribel-La Roche s Foron. 168km. Thur 9th July.
This will be a fabulous day in the Alps, with over 4,000m of climbing, and scenery to die for. We ascend the Cormet de Roselend via the twisting turning road up from Bourg-Saint-Maurice, and enjoy the sight of its glistening blue reservoir before descending to Beaufort (home of excellent cheese). After Col des Saisies (lovely tarmac, splendid views) and Col des Aravis (very ‘Savoie’ feeling, little stone chapel at the top), we’ll tackle the forbidding gradients (6km at 11.2%!) of the Col des Gliéres, to be ‘rewarded’ with a short gravel section across the spectacular Plateau des Glières (with its monument to the French Resistance), and then the relatively gentle Col des Fleuries, before finishing the day with a welcome 10km descent to La Roche sur Foron and another 5km bonus descent to our very nice hotel.
Start: Meribel hotel
Finish: La Roche sur Foron hotel
Stage 19: Bourg en Bresse-Champagnole. 160km. Fri 10th July.
We’ll see the Jura mountains on the horizon for part of this stage, but the riding will be mercifully a little flatter than what’s gone before. This stage takes us east of the Burgundy vinyards and west of Geneva and the high Alps, giving us the best of both worlds… We’ll roll through lush farmland, meander past vineyards, and enjoy the quiet rural scenery and flawless tarmac of this less visited part of France. The second half of the stage involves significantly more climbing than the first half so it’ll be worth saving some energy for the challenge. Then, as we approach Champagnole, we’ll pass through some of the pine forests that give the region’s honey its distinctive flavour and will be rewarded with a fast, downhill, last 10km into town.
Start: Transfer to Bourg en Bresse
Finish: Transfer to hotel in Pontarlier
Stage 20: Lure-La Planche des Belles Filles. 36km. Sat 11th July.
The Tour’s only time trial, and it’s an uphill one. La Planche des Belles Filles is fast becoming a modern Tour de France favourite, having featured in several editions over the last few years. Today there will be nothing else to detract from this wonderful climb, with its unrelentingly steep gradient, and the ‘top of the world’ feeling that only completing the twentieth stage of the Tour can bestow. We’ll take a moment at the top to wonder who will don the yellow jersey here, a week hence.
Start: Transfer to Lure
Finish: Transfer to Mantes la Jolie hotel
Stage 21: Mantes La Jolie-Champs Élysées. 122km. Sun 12th July
Time for our lap of honour and the moment we’ve all been waiting for! Paris! 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 suburbs, passing through Mantes la Jolie with it’s awe-inspiring 12th century church, and sticking as closely as possible to the Tour route from that point – but not strictly because we can’t close roads. The Arc de Triomphe will greet us as we cross the sacred cobbles of the Champs-Elysées. We’ll have a few hours to savour the highs and lows of our achievements, and look forward to celebrating that evening.
Start: Mantes la Jolie hotel (actually in Orgeval, about 20km from Mantes la Jolie)
Finish: Paris hotel and Seine river cruise party included for all cyclists (tickets and hotel packages available for friends and family).
Departure day. Mon 13th July
Leave under own arrangements from the Paris hotel.
Due end Jan
Due end Mar
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due end April
Emily, Lead Cyclist:
“Riding these stages is as close to becoming a Tour rider as you could hope for, without needing to fight for a contract! It’s a tough route and there are a lot of metres to climb without much respite but with some serious training, it’s a pretty amazing challenge – and that’s probably what you’re after.”
Sarah, Event Organiser:
“Not every day will be cycling joy. Over this long a test, you’ll experience the full range of physical and psychological challenge which will make the finish in Paris and the lap of the Champs Elysees even more triumphant”
Chris, Alumni Cyclist:
“My advice? Don’t underestimate the toll that sleep deprivation can have on you once you’re a week in and the cycling’s (still) bloody tough. But that said, it’s without a doubt the best thing I’ve ever done and I’d go back tomorrow. It’s not just the cycling – it’s the people that make it.”
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.
We need to be clear about how tough the Tour can be in order to help you pick the right challenge…
As with the Grand Loop, the Second Half Loop is extremely testing. You should be able to complete full stages which will sometimes involve over 10hrs cycling and we do not expect you to take any of the Lite options.
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 you 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 a longer 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.
Included in all Loops
- Accommodation (Mostly twin share. Single supplements are available to buy in January)
- 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!