A note from the Editor followed by Ray’s own day to day diary of his epic ride following the complete route of the 2019 Tour de France
As the sun sets on this lovely summers evening, our thoughts should go out to our very own Mr Ray Robins who tomorrow morning sets out for Belgium in his quest to ride the complete route of this years Tour de France, all 21 stages and 3460km of it!!
From my own prospective I think he’s undertrained a little but I’m sure he’ll manage to get round!!
Anyway, I’m sure you’ll all join me and wish him the very best of luck starting after 43km on the cobbles climb of the Mur de Grammont followed 4km later by the climb of the Bosberg…….happy days!!!
Good luck Ray, stay healthy old chum!
June Le Loop update
The charity collection continues to climb, currently we have raised £3203.20, passing my target so thank you for your generosity. It is a great cause; take a look at the William Wates foundation and see the work
My training is now finished, I am packed and ready to travel, my bike has already gone on ahead of me.
This month training started with 3 hard days on the Brecon Beacons. I took part in the Dragon Tour, the conditions were dire with freezing rain and high winds, the roads were treacherous but thankfully I got through it safely. I found it good training, perhaps more mentally than physically as it was an event I did not enjoy at the time but was pleased to complete. The last couple of weeks I have been tapering off, doing less miles and just putting in a couple of hard efforts. I used a club Time Trial to help with this. A tough but enjoyable event, although I did not enjoy a friend putting 3 minutes into my time (Chris Hamblion) – note to self must train harder!
I leave early tomorrow morning, meeting up with my fellow riders in Brussels, first day riding is Saturday.
If the Tour this year has a theme it is one of high altitude. It is a record climb this year so we all will be tested. The Tour will surpass 2000 metres seven times. It is suggested that Day 6 is the first really hard day with 6 mountain climbs ending on the summit of La des Belles Filles Planches this Col end with 2km at 25% gradient – the last km on gravel.
I am hoping to provide daily updates!
June stats (so far)
Road miles 718
Gym sessions 6
Pilates session 3
Total road miles 2019 – 4886 miles
Le Loop tdf update – Stage 1 Bruxelles to Brussel
The opening stage is officially using Flemish & French to celebrate unity. It combines a mix of areas, Wallonia, Flanders and Brussels.
This year the Tour has a dual celebration; 100 years of the Maillot Jaune & 50 years since the great Eddy Merckx won his first of 5. The route takes us through the village he grew up in. It also passes through the site of the Battle of Waterloo 1815.
The Tour documentation describes this stage as flat, one for the sprinters to battle out next week. It didn’t feel flat! It has two cobbled climbs; Muur van Geraadsbergen which touches 20% and the Bosberg which touches 11%. Thankfully both sections were quite short. There were a number of Pave’ sections – not something I enjoyed. It has been a fairly gentle start to the Tour albeit warm One down – 20 to go. Nice easy one tomorrow – Team Time Trial.
Stats for the ride
Water consumed 5 litres
Time on bike 8 hours
Max temp. 39 degree
Le Loop tdf update Stage2 -TTT- Bruxelles Palais Royal to Brussel Atomium
Stage 2 pays homage to the past of both the Tour and the city. Brussels has hosted the grand depart once in 1958, the same year that the World’s Fair took place, an event which was marked by the construction of the Atomium. A representation of the unit cell of an iron crystal, which will overlook the finish line on this stage. This stage, a team time trial links the old to the new. It starts at the Palais Royal the old seat of the Belgian Royal family and finishes at the Atomium.
Whilst the Pro’s will have closed roads to put the power down. We navigated the course via a network of cycle paths. We added a little sight seeing into the mix.
Stats for the ride
Time of the bike 2.41
One ruptured tyre!
Le Loop tdf stage 3 Binche – Epernay
What a day to ride a bike!
We had an early morning transfer from Brussels. Day starting at 0500 for us.
We leave the medieval ramparts of Binche and finally arrive in France. Riding through ancient forests of Avesnois Park eventually hitting Champagne region. The ride has a sting in the tail with 4 category classified climbs. Ending in Epernay on top of a ‘wall’ of 15%.
Stats for the ride
Le Loop tdf stage 4 Reims to Nancy
Thanks again for your generosity – the sponsorship continues to grow.
A fairly hot hard day in the saddle. Less climbing then yesterdays flat day. Not sure my legs agree with the Tour’s definition of flat. The parcour for this stage has 2 categorised climbs; Cote de Rosiers and the Cote de Maron the latter has a 3.7km slope maxes out at 12%. Something the pro’s will not have to suffer is a further climb to their hotel – we did!
Having said that the ride took us through beautiful countryside and villages.
Le Loop tdf stage 5 Saint-Die-des-Vosges – Comar
We are in the Vosges area. Described by the tour as a hilly stage with 4 categorised climbs. Yes it was hilly, the hardest day so far! Another hot day but fortunately the climbs are in the shade of the trees.
A picturesque ride through the countryside and picture-post card villages. One for the TV helicopter.
Tomorrow is said to be the hardest day of the week. 😟
Le Loop tdf stage 6 Mulhouse – La Planche des Belles Filles
A brutal days riding. Our first stage in the mountains. With 6 categorised climbs ending at La Planche des Belles Filles a HC with ramps of 24%. This year they have added an extra section to this climb 1Km mixture tarmac and gravel.
First time over 1000 metres. Said to be one of the hardest stages of the tour.
For the cyclists, to answer some questions when on the flats, I’m in a small peleton varies between 8/10, riding mostly doubled up – 2 minutes on the front move over second 2 minute effort..you go up the hills at your own pace. A number of different speed peletons are available. Good riding etiquette is expected.
Next week this stage is expected to start to shape the GC.
The scenery is stunning with rural roads and panaramic views. Myth has it La Planche des Belles Filles is said to have got its name from The Thirty Year War 1630. With Swedish mercenaries invading, the women of the town ‘the belles filles’ fled. When discovered rather than submit they lept into the cold deep waters of the mountain lake..
Elevation 12,329 feet
Le Loop tdf stage 7 Belfort – Chalon-Sur-saone
It’s starting to hurt now.
Our day starts at 0500 breakfast getting baggage onto trucks. Then coach ride to start. We ride most of the day. Four feed breaks.
You work hard to stay healthy. The quicker you finish the more time to rest eat etc. On arrival you pick up luggage to room. Shower wash & attempt to dry kit. 2000 meal & briefing. Stretch and or massage. Bed. Repeat
The ride was long and hot. Through the rural landscape and sleepy villages.
Le Loop tdf Stage 8 Macon – Saint-Etienne
The weather played a factor today started hot and humid. We got into the mountains and it changed: thunder and lighting, heavy rain, hail stones & cold. Doesn’t help when wearing summer kit.
The ride has hit the middle mountains of the Massif Central. A testing parcour – the route takes you along the Beaujolais hills & Mont du Lyonnais, which separate the broad Loire and Rhone Valleys through rolling countryside and higher ground. Acres of vineyards.
It’s was relentless climbing. With 7 categorised climbs and a few unclassified. One stretch held an even 14%. Similar again tomorrow.
Le Loop tdf stage 9 Saint-Etienne-Brioude
This stage had a number of punchy ascents. We were met at the neutralized zone with a message, “Mur dAurec-sur-Loire 3k of near vertical tarmac”, something to get the adrenalin pumping. Well, Mur does mean wall. Although short, it was tough, with 17% ramps. Dropping to 10% felt like a rest.
We were rewarded with amazing descents with beautiful scenery. Rivers, Lakes and ancient stone farmhouses.
Historical note: Julian Briode was a fourth century obscure Saint, a Roman soldier, converted to Christianity who offered himself for Martyrdom and was beheaded in Brioude. They celebrated his Martyrdom by constructing a basilica with Romanesque brickwork in the 12th century It remains the focal point in the town.
I am getting a number of messages re my condition. Like everyone I have aches and pains. The quads are sore. Small things can cause problems. First day was hot, which caused my feet to swell. Then riding the cobbles bruised a toe. Following day it was bleeding. I lanced the nail and the pain dissipated. Saddle sores are a worry for the professionals as well. So far so good. Using a fair amount of chamois & soothing cream. Hope that’s not too much information.
The doctors and physiotherapists are being kept very busy.
Le Loop tdf stage 10 Saint-Etienne -Albi
Last ride before rest day! Another beautiful scenic ride to start. Initially starting in the volcanic region of the Cantal. Famous for Cantal cheese, which we enjoyed at the feed stop. The route took us through the Gorges de la Truyere. We passed by spectacular rock formation stretching above us.
After the second feed the scenery dropped as the route used the dual carriageway.
The riding in formation made up for the lack of scenery. We pushed on at a fair speed. I really enjoy riding in a well organised chain gang. Today we were joined by the team doctor!
We arrived in the medieval city of Albi home of Sainte-Cecile Cathedral of Albi First built as a fortress in the aftermath of the Albigensian Crusade; begun in 1282 and under construction for 200 years, it is claimed to be the largest brick building in the world.
p.s. late submission as we were fed a little later than normal. Some rides were still out on the road at 2100. Rest day today I’m writting this sitting in a launderette.
Need to clean bike, shop, hopefully will have a short swim. Stretch in gym & rest…..
Le Loop tdf stage 11 Albi -Toulouse
Back on the bike after a rest day! On paper a slightly easier day. Respite before the big mountains.
Today was a gentle rolling day, through the beautiful “Departement Tarn”, leaving the Cathedral City of Albi riding to Toulouse the ‘Pink City’ named after the local reddish bricks. Both cities are worth visiting. Toulouse being fairly opulent as it was once a major trading route linked to the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea by canals.
The weather was perfect for riding. Another scenic route, we were treated to various landscapes. At one point there were acres of Vineyards to my left and acres of Sunflowers to my right dissected by smooth tarmac. We climbed for a while, on a gentle gradient 5% and had a long descent into the Aveyron gorge. Through the beautiful town of Galliac, and through the Gresigne forest.
The peloton was a little larger today but again good disciplined riding.
Mostly the French drivers are more tolerant of cyclists than there English counterparts. I met the exception, driving a rather large haulage lorry – squeezed me towards the verge. I decided the verge was a better option than being squashed, so I went off road for a few yards. I managed to stay upright!
To answer another question re the the psychological side of sport, taking part in a muli-day endurance event. I do not think about the amount of days or miles. I break it down it bite size chunks. How far to the next feed station? How long is this hill? I think no further than that. I know some of the riders have done their homework, and know exactly how far, how high etc. I just try to take it as it comes.
Le Loop tdf stage 12 Toulouse – Bagneres- de Bigorre
This is likely to be short one. We were transferred by coach after a long ride climbing two cat 1 climbs. Not had much rest.
We Left Toulouse this morning, I forgot to mention that it is famous for its sausages and has a fairly decent Rugby team.
Negotiating the City traffic wasn’t much fun, but again when we got onto the country roads. It was beautiful. We left the flat lands, vinyards and sunflowers to head into the high mountains.
A really tough day in the saddle. We have been joined by new riders. There is over 90 riders. The dynamic has changed. The chain gang was not as smooth.
Group riding etiquette is for everyone’s safety. Most is common sense. A couple of riders were told to leave the group…
We are now in the Pyrenees with a difficult weekend ahead of us. Tomorrow a nice easy day just the TT. This will give us chance to spin the legs.
The Pyrenean spa towns such as Bagneres-de-Bigorre were opened up by the railway in the early 20th Century. Another worth while area to visit & explore
Le Loop tdf stage 13 Pau – Pau TT
Pau is known as the gateway to the Pyrenees
A nice easy stage for us, but not for the Pro’s. A tough testing circuit with 400m climbing near the start and some challenging surfaces.
It was a chance to spin the legs and recover from yesterday’s efforts before we take on Tourmalet tomorrow.
Pau has been represented 71 times in the Tour, standing third in the most visited cities. Although this is only the second time the Time Trial, the last time in 1981.
When does it become acceptable in polite society to enquire about the health of your lower regions. As a collective, we have reached that point. It’s common chatter at breakfast and on the coach. With tips and advice being shared. The doctor has suggested to a few who are suffering to use blister plasters. The advice goes on.
The weekend is a massive challenge. Fingers crossed!
Le Loop tdf stage 14 Tarbes – Tourmalet Bareges
We are into the big mountains now. First time we have been over 2000m. Our ranks have swollen to 102!
We had a presentation by the co-founder of ‘Regenerate’ based in Roehampton. A charity which is supported by William Wates Foundation. Some of the young people being supported by the charity are with us helping at the feed stations and taking pictures. It’s nice to see how the money is benefiting others.
The Col du Tourmalet is one of the Tour’s iconic climbs. We went up the western approach following the Cat 1 climb of the Soulor. It’s a gruelling 19k. The story of the first rider to cross the Tourmalet in the climbs first appearance in 1910, Octave Lapize accused the organisers of being ‘assassins’. It’s a wild terrain. There are a number of ramps that sting the legs.
A giant 3 metre statue ‘Le Geant du Tourmalet’ is installed for the summer months near the summit. See pic!
My first wobble yesterday, felt rough after the ride, so took myself to bed with a couple of paracetamols. Felt ok today!
Sleeping high on the summit this evening.
Quite long transfers tomorrow with another tough ride.
Le Loop tdf stage 15 Limoux – Foix Prat d’Albis
Late post owing to very late finish yesterday. Writing this one up, sitting on a coach transfer.
Stage 14 finished on the Tourmalet. We stayed high on the mountain in a 1970’s Ski Hotel. The upside we had wonderful panaramic views of the mountains. A lovely French buffet. Downside 5 guys with all our kit with 2 bedrooms and one toilet!
For stage 15, I was up at 0450. Breakfast was open at 0645 we needed to be packed, luggage on ground floor and ready to leave at 0715! We had 2 lifts over 100 cyclists. I guessed it would be a tad difficult.
I wasn’t wrong… Breakfast was mayhem! One member of staff, over 100 hungry cyclists, a buffet with one 2 litre milk bottle. Not quite the way to start a tough day.
We had a 4 hour coach transfer to the start. Eventually rolling out of Limoux late morning.
This was the land of the Cathars in the middle-ages. Everything divided between good and evil, represented by different gods. The Cathars were crushed by the Catholic crusades. One massacre took place at Montsegur, our first climb of the day.
This was not a pretty ride, we passed tired shabby looking villages and towns in contrast to the previous stages. It was another testing day with 4 categorised climbs.
With 91 miles in our legs already and 2 climbs completed, we we on a gentle climb of Col de Caognous with steady gradient of 5%. A sudden left hand turn onto another Mur (wall) – Mur de Peguere, with warning signs for motorists 18% 3.5km. It hurt, I watched the gradient % on my Garmin for the first 2k a steady 14-16%, with 18% ramps. Last K at least it dropped to manageable 10-12%.
For some this was too much and they took to walking. But the ride was not finished one more effort to get up the last climb. We were rewarded with stunning views and a warm bowl of pasta.
Le Loop tdf stage 16 Nimes – Nimes
Nimes is an old Roman City, “the most roman city outside Rome” surrounded by Provenance. An area I have been looking forward to visiting.
On our way out we went off piste! Visiting Pont du Gard a Roman aqueduct 50k feeding the city fresh water from the river Eure. An amazing engineering feat in the 1st century. It’s one of the most visited sites in France.
The ride on paper a relatively easy day, according to Tour standards. Our adversary today was the wind. The Mistral wind. The Tour organisers plan the route with the wind in mind to play havoc with the peloton. We had 10 in our group today and we took turns into the wind.
My first mechanical problem; the front brake has moved out of alignment so I had to push a few extra watts with the brakes rubbing. Hopefully the mechanics will have it back on the road tomorrow.
The route takes us past the Roman amphitheatre in the Nimes city centre. Another major tourist attraction since the 19th century.
Le Loop tdf stage 17 Pont du Gard – Gap
One of the best days I’ve had on a bike! Didn’t start that promising, as I had a dodgy stomach overnight. So, poor sleep & very light breakfast.
Good news bike was fixed.
We had a short transfer, to Pont du Gap on the coach, and rolled out early. I felt fine on the bike.
The ride was a treat for the senses. The pathway from the Rhone valley towards Gap and the Alps is one of the oldest human routes in France. For centuries BC, farmers drove their animals into the mountains for spring & summer, forming pathways that predate roads. As you pass Orange , you can see the spine of the Alps in the distance. And the mighty Mont Ventoux way off to your right.
This is Provence at its best. Vineyards as far as the eye can see. Olive Groves, crossing the Rhone on a suspension bridge, Pine Forests, deep gouges with exposed rock formations, fields of Lavender in bloom full of scent.
A gradual climb and an 18 mile descent! Beautiful villages and Towns this is definitely one for the helicopter next week.
Tomorrow is a pain day – first of 3 days in the Alps.
Le Loop tdf stage 18 Embrun – Valloire
This update is another short one as only just finished the day.
If I was asked where is my favourite place to ride without any hesitation, I’d say the Alps.
It’s beautiful, with majestic mountains. Meadows covered in Alpine flora. The sound of cow bells and rustic villages. I’ve enjoyed a number of training holidays over the past few years. It is steeped in Cycle folklore.
But today was just brutal, punishing from the start with 4 categorised climbs, including two giants; Col d’Izoard & Col du Galibier. Sadly no group riding. The Galibier was approached via the Col du Lautaret 20 k of climbing at 3-5% into a strong headwind (this climb is not even classified).
My body is now showing signs of the strains. Muscular pain is normal, but joints are creaking. Cold sores have started. Only 2 more hard days to go!
Le Loop tdf stage 19 Saint-Jean-de-Maurinne – Tignes
We hit the highest point of the tour today Col de I’Iseran at 2,770m. It was a day of climbing, with 5 categorised climbs. There’s no flat either ascending or descending. Another tough day coming straight after yesterday’s efforts.
My last attempt to climb the I’Iseran was thwarted a km from the top owing to snow! So at least I can now tick that one off. It was hot in the valley but windy and cold at the top! Amazing views of the snow capped mountains.
Tignes has an interesting history. In post war years with the demand for electricity growing. A vast dam was built to harness the flow of the river, creating the Lac du Chevril, where the original village stood. Every decade or so the lake is drained for maintenance. The remains of the village reappears.
I’m measuring my efforts. For me it’s about survival. Again no group riding in the mountains, so just tapping out a rhythm. Yesterday with 113 miles in my legs we hit the Galibier today with over 70 miles we hit Montee de Tignes with 10-13% ramps in the last few km. The organisers know how to inflict hurt.
I’m writing this just before midnight on our last day in the Alps! We have just completed part transfer to Rambouilet for the final stage. Up at 0400 for breakfast before final transfer
Alway a lot of faffing! Charging Garmin GoPro and phone. Sterilising water bottles, applying cream to sensitive parts..
Another day of climbing, whomever wins the Tour will be a climbing specialist. With tests in 4 of France 5 mountains ranges.
Todays stage had 3 climbs; each very different.
The first Cormet de Roseland was 20km with a steady 5/7% gradient – cat . The descent starts fairly open where you can let the bike go, but it changes with tight corners and becomes very technical. Still enjoyed over taking cars on route down. A warm morning, but the climb is shaded by large Pine trees. Near the summit is a beautiful lake. I’m not good with colours but I’d go with turquoise. My favourite climb of the day.
The second was steeper and narrow, Cote de Longefoy – cat 2, the descent was technical from the off.
For us with 100 odd riders spread over the mountains, not really a problem. But tomorrow is the L’Etape with over 16,000 cyclist – there’s going to be a high risk of injury.
Riding through sleepy villages, not a person in sight. Just the sound of flags & bunting flapping in the wind. What a contrast tomorrow and next week with the Tour will be.
The final climb Val Thorens is a giant, our last HC. Not a pretty climb just a long hard slog. 33 4km 2,365m making it the third highest summit finish ever used in the Tour.
I was in a melancholic mood so I rode alone pushing hard at the start.
Tomorrow is our final ride. Riding into Paris meeting with my wife looking forward to sipping champagne on the Champs-Elysees.
Le Loop tdf stage 21 Rambouillet – Paris Champs-Elysees
Managed a couple of hours sleep. For those who have ridden with me or shared a room, normal start to the day with 5 Espresso’s…back on a coach for final transfer. Trying to write this as I go.
Our numbers have dwindled a number of riders who came out to do the mountains left us this morning. Although tired, with the end in sight, I think we were running on adrenaline.
Lovely weather for a ride.
Fast start to the day. Jumped onto a new train riding hard up to the neutralised feed stop. No idea why I pushed so hard just to wait. Food was nice tho..
Nice gentle ride into Paris – much more sensible! Then the Champs-Elysees. Not something I’d recommend. But so pleased I did it.
Modern Paris owes much of its geography to Napoleon III Baron Haussmann. In 19th century the centre of Paris was overcrowded where disease was rife. Haussmann solution – eradication of slums and the building of broad avenues. The Champs-Elysees was transformed. (I doubt the inhabitants of the slums agreed).
It also acts as a spectacular race track once a year. The Tour enables France to show itself to the world.
Stopping for pictures then quick change and River Boat celebration meal with that long awaited glass of champagne. Beverley has joined me!
I took on this ride as a challenge to myself. Can I do the mileage? Can I cope with the climbing and the elements? The highs and the lows.
Hopefully to raise money for a very worth while cause. We were informed this evening that as a collective we raised £335.000. If we can improve the lives of some young people it’s all been worth while. Thank you again for your sponsorship.
I’ve learned more about myself. I’m not a great athlete but I work hard (some may say obsessively) hopefully this may inspire others to be more active and more healthy.
Resting for a few days. Not sure when I will post again. I’ve got a few ideas for future challenges..