My Le Tour challenge…

This summer I am riding seven stages of the Tour de France route in support of the William Wates Memorial Trust (WWMT), and I hope you can support me.


The WWMT is a UK based charity that has been set up in memory of William Wates who died at the age of 19 as a result of street crime in Central America whist on a gap year from university. They are a charitable fund who support a wide range of projects in the UK which assist in encouraging young people experiencing disadvantage to keep away from anti-social behaviour and criminal activity, enabling them to fulfil their potential. They do this through financially supporting a wide range of smaller charities and projects which are sport, art or education based.


This short video explains the reasons behind the charity and what they do far better than I ever could:



So, a really valuable cause!



My challenge:

It seems that for all of my life I have done some form of exercise or other, so it almost doesn’t feel right asking for you to support me in riding my bike across France for a week! But, on reflection, the last time I asked for sponsorship was also for a ride, Land’s End of John O’Groats, that was completed on 16th July 1988!


My last charity effort back in 1988, it’s time to do my bit again!



So almost 30 years to the day (July 14th 2018) I will set out to ride seven of the Tour de France stages a week ahead of the professional riders. But to be honest, I am cheating and riding only one third of the number of stages in the 2018 race (and just 31% of the total distance of the race), although a quick look at the ride profiles, these stages are going to be tough, and are as follows:


Stage 14: Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux – Mende. 187km.

I’m hoping for a summer holiday feeling for the first few miles of today’s stage, as we wend our way out of the medieval fortified town of Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux and roll through fields of lavender and sunflowers towards the winding roads of the Cevennes (hamlets, rivers, ravines and a noticeably slower pace of life). The afternoon will be more demanding as the route carries on into the foothills of the Massif Central and through the craggy gorges of the Ardèche river, towards the final leg-busting climb up to the aerodrômeabove Mende, the sting in the tail of a stunner-stage.


Stage 15: Millau to Carcassonne. 181km.

Passing under the impressive Millau Viaduct (the tallest bridge in Europe when it was opened in 2004), today’s stage throws up some amazing geological features. I’ll get gorges, caves, cliff faces and green, green plateaux and pastures in between. It also features the Tour’s first ever ascent of the Pic de Nore – relatively gentle gradients, but topping out at 1,211m – before rolling down towards the flatter lands of the wine-growing region of Languedoc-Roussillonand our destination Carcassonne, a fully restored and breath-taking medieval city.


Stage 16: Carcassonne to Bagnères-de-Luchon. 218km.

We’re back in the mountains today, with a 218km stage taking us across the plains of Aude and Ariège and into the Pyrenees, with a brief incursion into Spain the only time this Tour breaches France’s borders. A stage of two halves, hopefully it will be a 120km peloton parade to start the day and then all of a sudden we’re in the mountains. The Grimpeurswill be pleased with the triple of Col de Portet-d’Aspet, Col de Mentée and Col de Portillon. The rest of us will be glad that we tackle the final climb from its gentler side, and have an 11km descent into Bagnères-de-Luchon to end the day.


Stage 17: Bagnères-de-Luchon to Saint-Lary-Soulan. 65km.

This stage is a treat in many ways, but it is also my biggest worry. It’s the shortest stage the Tour has seen in 30 years, at 65km, and more than half of that (38km) will be uphill. What’s more, it features a brand new climb – the Col de Portet – which is not only making its Tour de France debut, but will have been especially paved for the race (it’s currently a dirt track), and is described by Christian Prudhomme as having “all the assets to become a new Tourmalet”. The unusually short parcours, whilst striking fear into the hearts of the pro peloton (who will have to cover the 3,100m of vertical gain at a near-sprint), means that hopefully I will be able to take this stage at a comfortable pace, enjoying the views from the Col de Peyresourde and the Col de Val Lauron-Azet before celebrating the Pyrenees’ highest ever summit finish.


The shortest Tour stage for years, but certainly not an easy day!


Stage 18: Trie-sur-Baïse – Pau. 172km.

A brief respite from the mountains, this stage will be a chance for the pro sprinters to get back in the game (depending on how many of them have survived the gradients of the last few days) and for us to stretch our legs and remember what ‘flat’ feels like. We’ll enjoy blasting along the warm southern tarmac, perhaps stopping for a few selfies among the fields of sunflowers as we head for Pau, a Royal town (birthplace of Henri-‘Paris is worth a mass’-IV) which the Tour loves so much that this will be the 70th visit. This stage won’t feel easy after the last couple of days but it will be a very manageable 100 miler in the glorious French southern sun.


Stage 19: Lourdes – Laruns. 200km.

Our final day in the mountains, and we’ll be making the most of it with what Prudhomme has described as “the frightening Aspin-Tourmalet-Bordères-Soulor-Aubisque sequence”. The high point of this stage comes roughly halfway, at the top of the Tourmalet (one for all col baggers: it’s the most climbed mountain in Tour history), but the real struggle will take place in the final third, with an ascent of the picturesque but little-known Col des Bordères, followed by the vertiginous balcony road of the Cirque du Litor, and finally the magnificent Aubisque. Whilst being a mighty test for pros and Le Loopers alike, the Aubisque really is one of the most exceptionally beautiful climbs: a spectacular way to say goodbye to the Pyrenees.


I’ve ridden the Aspin and Tourmalet before and they were tough! This is going to be a HARD stage at the end of a long week!


Stage 20: Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle – Espelette. 31km.

The struggle isn’t quite over. Today’s stage is a time trial (ergo blessedly short), but it’s a punchy one, with quite a bit of climbing, and a 10% stretch 3km from the finish.

This will be my salute to a week on the Tour, those doing the full loop will be transerring to Paris for their final day, whilst I will be heading home for some well deserved rest and recovery! I am sure my legs (and other bits of my anatomy) will be rather tender by this point!


So, if I tot this up, it amounts to a total of 1055 km in the seven stages. I dread to think how many meters of vertical ascent I will need to be doing, but if I can complete this little lot in anywhere near 50 hours I will be stunned, and I think it may take nearer 60 hours of ride time!



Why I am doing this I hear you ask. Well I needed a challenge, and in the past 15 years of supporting Sportstest clients, I have seen three other rides complete the whole of the Tour route, and in chatting to Michael Leather, who is now doing this for his third consecutive year, I wanted to be a small part of the challenge, and to take on some of the stages myself. So in part, looking to support Michael, and in part the personal challenge sees me heading to France in July!


So to keep me focused I would love to think I can raise just £1 per mile, so my target would be to achieve £655 for the William Wates Memorial Trust who are hosting the event.


I am sure it will be both a mental and physical challenge, but your supporting me in supporting the WWMT will make the process just a little easier!


If you do feel you are able to support me, please visit my charity page


Thanks Garry