When I first heard about Le Loop (formerly known as the Tour de Force), I was immediately attracted to the idea – after all, what could be more appealing to a cyclist than riding every stage of the current year’s Tour de France one week ahead of the pros.
Raising money for the amazing William Wates Memorial Trust was a further draw in helping them with their work with troubled young people, trying to break the cycle that leads to gang violence, drugs, school suspension and, in many cases, prison. https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/CharlesHyatt
Reality quickly set in though – I did the 2013 Etape du Tour in Annecy, where one does a single mountain stage and found that very hard. How could 21 stages back-to-back be doable for me as a moderate level recreational cyclist? Through a combination of being inspired by others, though, and then setting out on an intensive and far reaching training and preparation program, the project slowly came to life.
Waking up at 5am on a freezing cold and dark winter’s morning to set out at 6am on a 200km solo ride (after all, no one wants to ride with you if you are riding very long distances with very short petrol-station/village shop type food breaks) tested the will. These outings though were pivotal in building the endurance and mental toughness needed for the event.
With up to 102 fellow cyclists on the road each day, you would think that finding like-minded and similar-level riders to ride and share the load with would be easy, but actually it is quite tricky and sensitive. I was so pleased to be part of such a group, varying in size from a core of 7 up to quite a few more on occasion, we rode at a steady pace, never surging or attacking. The continual rotations within the group, so hard to achieve on our busy roads here, makes riding long distances so much more achievable and enjoyable.
I am a long term Satmap user. I bought my first unit, an Active 10, for a walking trip with my wife in the Lakes back in 2008 when getting lost was not an option, and have used Satmap walking and cycling ever since. The ability to see one’s location on a good quality proper map, not the sort of map that is used by typical bike computers, is invaluable. I plotted the route for every stage of this trip using the public Tour de France information and loved being able to have the peace of mind and additional level of information over and above Le Loop’s excellent signage. Satmap was also brilliant for those long training days, both when I was improvising routes on the fly to get the mileage, and also when following pre-plotted routes.
Le Loop for me in numbers came out like this:
8,726 miles in 106 outings on the bike
67 indoor bike (turbo) sessions totalling 83 hours and a nominal 1,180 miles
A sports test and VO2 Max assessment by a sports physiologist
20 runs totalling 132 miles
385 short abs/core/upper body sessions, and some weight and pool sessions
My 15kg weight loss is stabilised – I am now at the 70kg I was at “when I was young”, and have actually been buying some new clothes myself: something of a first for me
A CPET/VO2 Max and comprehensive cardio checkup at the Sports Cardiology unit at St Georges
All-in-all then, it was a truly memorable trip and one that I would commend to anyone.