Three months have now passed since I completed my four stages of the Tour de Force - stages 17 to 20 through the Alps (including the Etape du Tour stage). I decided to head back to the UK directly from the Alps, missing the glory ride into Paris, in order to prepare for the opening of sales for 2017 just three days later!

I've had time to reflect on the past 12 months as well as enjoy my cycling fitness over the summer since completing the Tour in mid-July. It's been quite a year!

I cycled four stages of the Tour de France, experiencing the very best that the Alps have to offer: gruelling tough climbs, fabulous exhilarating descents, glorious sunshine (most of the time), gob-smacking views and beauty all around. My training paid off and I ate up the miles, finishing every day with a huge smile on my face, a colossal sense of achievement and the satisfaction of a job well done.

Ah... how time dims the memory! Rather like childbirth, it's easy to forget the pain (trust me)! In reality the Tour de Force was also tough... really tough... which makes it feel all the more glorious for having completed it. None of us signed up for an easy ride after all!

On the Col de Joux Plane with Mont Blanc in the distance.
On the Col de Joux Plane with Mont Blanc in the distance.

At the end of each stage, as I hobbled off the bike and into the shower, before devouring more food than is ladylike, I made sure I found 15 minutes to get a massage from one of the team of physios and massage therapists on tour with us. These guys literally put my body back together again each night, working miracles to enable me to climb back on the bike each morning and do it all again. As I woke up to ride stage 20 (the Etape du Tour stage) I was puffed up with pride that this was not the only stage of the tour I was riding, but it was my fourth... in a row!

With clear blue skies and perfect awe-inspiring views of Mont Blanc, this stage was quite simply the icing on the cake for all those months of training, sacrifice and effort. A day on the bike just doesn't get any better. In short - I absolutely loved every minute of it.

But this year wasn't just about the sheer bliss of riding my bike. By taking part in the Tour de Force, I have also raised £3,294 for the William Wates Memorial Trust (WWMT - the Trust behind the Tour de Force, which is their principal fund raiser) - well over the original £1,200 target and I'm so proud of that and grateful to all my brilliant and generous supporters. THANK YOU (you can read more about how I did it in my blog). The Tour de Force riders - 167 of them, each riding from 2 to 21 stages of the Tour - raised an astonishing £336,500 in total this year for the WWMT!

Tyrese is one of the children supported by the WWMT and rode stage 19 of the Tour.
Tyrese is one of the children supported by the WWMT and rode stage 19 of the Tour.

On tour, I was lucky enough to meet young Tyrese and his key worker, Thandi - two of the Tour de Force 'Charity Visitors' who joined the Tour for a stage. Tyrese is a member of the Westminster House Youth Club (WHYC), whose Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme is funded by WWMT. Both set out to ride as much of stage 19 as they possibly could - and they put in a bold and brave effort.

'We never give up on any of our kids' said Thandi - and in one phrase managed to sum up exactly why the William Wates Memorial Trust works with charities like WHYC. Meeting Tyrese helped me to understand better the kids we were all helping through taking part in the tour: brave kids, who take on the challenges that life throws at them head on.

Of the four stages I rode, the first - stage 17 from Berne to Finhault-Emmison - was always going to be the toughest. Terrible weather and freezing temperatures on the high cols made it even harder. I stopped just 2km short of the finish (just before it started to hail!) and made a quick video for my supporters to post on facebook that evening. I was exhausted and hurting - every bit of me ached - and daunted though I had been all day by the enormous climbs I faced, I knew there was absolutely no way I could let down all those people who had supported me, donated money and sent so many fantastic messages of encouragement over the days leading up to the ride. I was tired... and emotional. But more than anything, it was the recognition that however tough it was, I was doing something I love to do and challenging myself by choice.

For many of the kids supported through WWMT, every day is a Herculean challenge and their circumstances are not their choice. To keep themselves on track, to have aspirations and goals and opportunities, they are struggling every day. It made my slightly emotional video seem pretty pathetic - and I am humbled by the bravery and tenacity of these kids as well as the extraordinary teams of staff who dedicate themselves to the tough and poorly rewarded (financially at least) job of helping those kids every day.

Knowing that by sweating up a climb in the Alps, I am finding a way to support all their efforts not only inspired and motivated me - it reminded me just how damned lucky I am. Riding the Tour de Force is so much more than just a bike ride - and it's about so much more than my own personal achievement; it's about giving kids the chances in life that most of us take for granted.

Long live the Tour de Force!

Interested in riding the Tour de Force?

Sales for the Tour de Force 2017 open at 9am on Wednesday 9th November. Register your interest here for priority booking code:

You can contact Tour de Force on 01313 000 796 or visit

Learn more about the William Wates Memorial Trust here:

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Tour de Force training update: Raising fitness and funds