The Tour de France is the biggest annual cycling event in the world and we at VBike are super excited as six of our members are heading across to Paris with The Ride Holiday Company.  They have been in training with VBike in preparation for this ride. I imagine by the time they return, they will have earnt themselves the title “Mountain Goats”. My goodness there are some tough climbs.

L’ Alpe d’ Huez - Magnificent Hill of Pain - 81.4 km elevation gain 3097 metres
Col du Galibier- equally … enough said. – 106 km elevations gain 3142 metres
Col du Tourmalet - Ouch 105 km elevation gain 2128 metres

There are few things in sports that can match the excitement of two riders battling it out on a high mountain pass, or the drama of watching a lone rider try to hang on for a solo win. Social media depict it as an adventure novel packed with glorious exploits, colourful characters, and heart wrenching defeats. 

It’s an event to emphasise the bonds of camaraderie, perseverance, strength and belief, it’s one’s self and one’s team.

The Tour de France was an accidental invention in 1903 by Henri Desgranges, an impresario of a sports newspaper named L’Auto. Henri wanted to boost his dropping circulation and he saw a bike race as a great opportunity. In 1903 only 60 riders participated covering a course of 2428 kilometers of which they averaged just 25 kilometers per hour.  The initial Tour de France was divided into 9 stages over 19 days, riders had to make it to the end of each stage by a set time in order to continue. Interestingly the first stage was 467 kilometers and the winner took 17 hours to complete it.  Other stages ran as long as 300 kilometers. Riders raced on heavy metal bikes with at most two gears. They wore woolen shorts (OUCH) that chafed and sagged in the rain. Looking like artillery men they wrapped their spare tubes around their shoulders. 

Desgranges once said, “his ideal Tour de France course would be so difficult, only one rider could finish it” He was obsessed with continuing to change the rules to create the impossible race. 

Although the Tour de France has altered in some small way over time, the essence of the race remains the same. It is now comprised of (22 – 23) teams with 9 riders in each.  Riders face 21 stages over mountains, hills and high- altitudes over 23 days covering a total of 3540.56 kilometers averaging 40 kilometers an hour.  Desgranges could never have imagined by the year 2014 over 10,000 riders would have taken their chance on the tour, over 6,000 completed it, and 250 riders winning the yellow jersey. Nor could he have believed his inception would create a world following of over 15 million spectators watching the race live every year. 


This week I had the opportunity to interview two of our VBike ladies, who will be riding the Tour de France for 10 days from the 13th-26th July.

Anna Quinn
Anna started cycling as a child; growing up in the country meant - getting around on a bike.   Time in New York saw Anna cycling around Central Park on a mountain bike. Getting back into cycling happened a year or so ago as her kids increased their interest in cycling at secondary school. The school requires parental assistance; Anna’s preference is to be a participant not a spectator and ride a bike than a drive a car behind them. 

What inspired you to cycle and enter this ride?
It was an experience my husband Brynn and I could share whilst enjoying a lovely holiday and adventure together.

What has cycling given you?
I guess cycling has given me a great bunch of women buddies to cycle with which is really nice. You have a group you gravitate to as you are all doing the same thing.  I believe cycling, due to the focus required, encourages “mindfulness”.

Were there fears in the beginning that have since been disproved?
The hills on the ride are pretty monstrous, however we know there are rides each day for varying levels of ability, so I’m comfortable with that aspect. 

What sort of training have you been doing?
I’ve been doing a lot of my training at VBike; last week I did 9 hours, Jianni put together a program of specialised routes/hills of varying gradients. 
It makes me feel comfortable being able train to a route I will be riding with all the elevations. Jianni’s programs have certainly assisted me in feeling fitter and more prepared for this ride. I would have felt much more nervous without that preparation. I feel confident I will be able to do this. 

What keeps you motivated to stay on the bike?
I like cycling, it’s easy and it’s a good way to exercise. All the motivation you need is to just open the brochure and see a 1200m climb. That’s it … I had better get myself there!

What tips would you give to encourage women to cycle?
Try it once, if you have a friend to do it with you that’s great. Start slow, don’t bust your ‘bubble’ just give it a go! 

Bridget Gallen
 Bridget grew up in Wellington riding a mountain bike.  Life took her to London where she bought an old bike and continued her passion for leisure cycling.
It wasn’t until she returned to New Zealand she took up road cycling.
Bridget partially completed a route of Taupo in 2004.  Finding the whole experience enjoyable, she purchased a good bike, trained and completed the whole course in 2006.  In 2005 Bridget rode a stage of the Tour de France, having no idea of what to expect, nor the physical requirements that the ride demanded. In her words “It was an amazing experience.” Bridget vowed she would put the Tour de France on her ‘bucket List’ and return! Having taken a few years off cycling, she has recently returned.

What was your motivation to get back cycling?
I missed not having that level of fitness and comradeship that comes with cycling. It opens up all sorts of opportunities, friends, discussions, it’s great. 

How did you come to hear about VBike?
Through an existing member Debbie Watson. Debbie joined VBike and did really well in competitions. When I decided to do the ride in France she recommended I contact Jianni at VBike.

Tell us about your training?
It’s been a mix of training 3 times a week indoors at VBike, and outdoors.  I did 2 hours last Saturday, which I know is equivalent to 3 hours on the road. It was a good ride and I got to watch a movie. I loved it. As the weather has turned early riding inside is such a good alternative, it’s nice to know that even though it’s raining you can still get a good workout  and know that your training is continuing. Previously you’d be waiting for the next fine day, or being out in the rain, which is far less enjoyable. What I love about going to VBike is I know I’m going to get an hour of really good workout.

How have you found VBike experience?
I’ve told a few women in my cycling group to come and try out VBike. It took me at least 2 – 3 sessions to get in the swing of it and understand how the trainers work, and my fitness as I progressed, I couldn’t believe how much easier it was for me to get up the hill than I did last week. Previously I never worked with Heart Rate, now understanding my heart rate is knowing how hard I’m working and how much I could be working, or how much I should be pulling back, depending on where my heart rate is. The same applies to cadence the improvement for me is around being able to pedal at a better speed  and be more efficient.  I’ve done 2 FPT tests, did the first 3 months ago, saw a big jump up, fantastic to see yourself improving. I belong to Les Mills Gym, I used to do spin classes I have since replaced them with VBike as it’s more measureable. 

Do you feel better prepared for this ride and what’s your goal?
Yes much better prepared! I’m a better rider, I feel much stronger and that’s all thanks to VBike training.  My goal is to never have to get off my bike and walk. Or have to stop.
To be fit enough to enjoy the scenery and enjoy the ride. It’s not going to be easy there are some tough hills, but I feel confident I’ll do it, and will be able to enjoy it that much more. 

What does cycling mean to you?
It is the closest thing to being a kid again as you can get as an adult. I love the “sense of child” again. The freedom, the wind blowing through your hair. Riding at your own pace seeing things you would not normally see if you were driving, or walking as it would take too long. It can be challenging, but it gives you the chance to set personal goals and achieve them.

 Jianni’s Comment
All of them have ridden the courses L’Alpe d’Huez and Mont Ventoux.   Having done the course myself I have been able to set courses taking into consideration steep hills, altitudes, and gradients.  Auckland does not have the hills to do that sort of training, so our indoor cycling training has given them a big advantage.  … They have all done their training and are set to go. 

Good Luck VBikers!  Safe travels. We look forward to hearing all about your adventures of a lifetime on two wheels when you return.
However, spare a thought for all of us back here who are lovers of fine Chocolate and wine when cycling through the Cote du Rhone. The Syrah and Viogier are fabulous, Oh and don’t forget the cheese… oh dear I’m already dribbling… ! 

Au Revoir
Lizzie Lee