Rolling into Paris
We left the comfort of St Gervais after a blissful rest day followed by a seriously fun ‘Time Trial’ stage. Huge smiles and lots of laughter along the way, with one or 2 riders going ‘full gas’ – just for kicks. But mostly it felt like another day to recover before the colossal Queen Stage to Courchevel.
Waking up to torrential rain, thunder and lightning wasn’t part of the plan, but the Tour gods were with us and by some sort of miracle the storm passed before we had to head out. Threatened by the prospect of a return of the downpours, we couldn’t quite believe our luck when 166km later we rolled into Courchevel having survived relatively unscathed through what became a glorious day (until fog on the final climb to the Col de la Loze for the riders further back in the pack). There was a distinct sense of having ‘got away lightly’, despite the punishing climbs and 166km or riding.
The Mountains Week Loopers had reached the end of their journey, and so we continued with the much smaller band of riders made up of our Grand Loopers and 2nd Halfers. Stage 18 was a stage to tick off – fast, flat and fun – get it done. Stage 19 was marked by beautiful villages decorated for 14th July. Bastille Day – a day filled with photo opportunities. But Stage 20 had a kick in the tail – multiple energy-sapping climbs through the Vosges, rewarded by the final killer climb up to Le Markstein for ice cold, celebratory beers. When you’ve made it this far, with only the glory ride into Paris, you don’t need much excuse to start the celebrations early!
And finally! Paris! Just over 3 weeks ago in Bilbao, we hardly dared to dream about this moment. Along this beautiful adventure we have made great friendships and supported each other through the highs and the inevitable lows – they don’t call the Tour de France the toughest cycle race in the world for nothing!
We’ve seen the beauty of Northern Spain and France: parts of those countries that many of us already know, and some that were new to us all – nothing disappointed!
There have been many highlights along the way: the cities and coastline of Basque, the extraordinary visit from James from the STAR Scheme, the feed stops and Ian’s coffee, the majestic climbs and the sweeping descents. The smoothest tarmac we will probably ever cycle and the iconic sunflower fields that say ‘Tour de France’ perhaps more than any other scenery. The heat bouncing up off the road as well as the shivering cold of the descents in the Pyrenees – neither will be easily forgotten. The jubilation on reaching the highest cols. That beer at Le Markstein.
To ALL our riders this year – whether you rode the first few stages from the Grand Depart, the mountain stages, half the tour or all 21 stages – you’re all heroes to us. Not least because aside from your epic cycling efforts, you’ve managed to raise over £500,000 and counting for the William Wates Memorial Trust. We salute each and every one of you AND your generous supporters! Bravo et Chapeau!
And if you’ve been following the tour here with us this year and suffering from chronic FOMO, why not join us in 2024!? Sales open this Friday, 21st July at 9am. Full details on the website. But first, let’s celebrate a stunning 2023 Tour!