The Alternative Tour de France – Le Loop – As Ridden by Russ Middleton

The Alternative Tour de France – Le Loop – As Ridden by Russ Middleton

We first came across Russ when he entered our TdF Photo Competition, open to any followers who sent us a picture of their take on ‘Le Tour’ to win a Meccanica British made T-shirt.

The fact he was wearing one of our cycle shirts got our attention – his accompanying email deserved far more looking at…

“Hi

At 52 years of age I have just completed the biggest cycle challenge of my life. For the William Wates Memorial Trust I rode the full Tour De France route, 7 days ahead of the pros. 2150 miles over 21 days with 155,000 feet of climbing, one stage at a time back to back.“

We had to find out more…

 Stage 6 - Mur de Bretagne.

 Stage 6 Mur de Bretagne

 

“That photo is of me completing the Mur de Bretagne (Stage 6) wearing my Meccanica shirt.

Part of my ‘story’ is that I retired from policing in January this year and had set myself the TDF route as a retirement challenge.

I hadn’t really cycled much before then and when I retired after 30 years’ service I was very unfit and overweight; 52 years old and 18stone 8lbs. I’ve lost 25kgs since January and am feeling fitter now than I ever have. I loved cycling in the mountains but I’m certainly not built for climbing!

I also raised over £4K for charity and the group of us (who all rode for the same charity) have raised in excess of £340k this year.

The charity is the William Wates Memorial Trust who help young people from derived areas through sports and education.”

 Tour de loop Stage 11 - Col du Pre. Selfie with a view… well earned. Tdf 2018

Stage 11 - Col du Pre. Selfie with a view… well earned.

 

We talked to Russ and his short, but very full history on bikes. He was not a cyclist – his inspiration came on holiday whilst reading ‘French Revolutions’ by Tim Moore – itself, a ‘laugh out loud’ story about a guy who decides, out of the blue, to ride The Tour de France. Training started with riding to work but only got serious in January. Yes, January. This is a 6 foot four, 18 ½ stone 52 year old we are talking about.

 Stage 12 – Col de la Madeleine. Yes you did it!

Stage 12 – Col de la Madeleine. Yes you did it!

 

Russ decided to join The William Yates Memorial Trust – Ride Le Loop https://wwmt.rideleloop.org/

Riders sign up to ride from 2 stages to all 21 of the stages whilst raising funds. As he already mentioned they did rather well. It is a very worthy charity and worth checking out.

 Stage 17 - Col du Portet. Ski lift looks like a better possibility for most…

Stage 17 - Col du Portet. Ski lift looks like a better possibility for most…

 

“Le Loop involved us riding from the hotel very early each day to the stage start, riding the stage, then cycling to that nights hotel often in the dark. The days were very long with 40+ riders and sleep deprivation was the real issue; we only lost 3 riders to injury though.

 Stage 17 - Col de Peyresourde. Get down Shep!

Stage 17 - Col de Peyresourde. Get down Shep!

“The highlights were the mountains, it was like riding in mid-air sometimes. There were no low points really but the heat on the first stages (up to 38 degrees) and the cobbles were absolutely brutal. Those cobbles make you feel like you’re in a spin drier – you can’t even see straight.”

 Stage 19 - Col d’Aspin. Still smiling, though it looks like a 15%

Stage 19 - Col d’Aspin. Still smiling, though it looks like a 15%

Stage 19 - Col de Tourmalet. Shame about the view here #mist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stage 19 - Col de Tourmalet. Shame about the view here #mist

 

A favorite part of each day became Stop 4, the tea-time Coca Cola, crisps and cheese biscuits. The odd evening beer also sounded well deserved. The team managed to watch the occasional highlights on TV and Russ admitted to feeling strange and proud to be able to say ‘I’ve done that!’

 He certainly did.

 Stage 21. Bike, rider, Eifel Tower – all in one piece.

Stage 21. Bike, rider, Eifel Tower – all in one piece.

 

Russ rode a Colnago V2R which fitted his frame perfectly and performed excellently. He intends continue to enter other challenges such as the 2019 Tour of Cambridge Gran Fondo Road Race and LEJOG. Any ideas for other challenges please let us know – we’ll pass them on.