Tour de Force 2016

And we're off. Grand departDeparting from the iconic Mont St Michel, the 2016 tour was dominated by the first week – the longest and highest stages for a first week of the tour in memory. With some long transfers between stages too, those who took on the first half of the tour proved themselves to be real heroes. This was tough … really tough!

But it was also beautiful, and character building, and humbling, and just the challenge that our riders were looking for. By the time we reached the Pyrenees we’d experienced all that is usually thrown at us during all 3 weeks of the tour, and we were still riding. Our first stages into the wild and savage Pyrenees cheated us of the views, but by the time we reached Andorra it was steaming hot and the llamas in the mist on Tourmalet seemed a bizarre dream. On through the heat of the South and Mont Ventoux – the bald mountain – was a bucket list ‘tick’ for our riders (unlike the pros who stopped short with dangerous winds on the top reminding us why her name is so appropriate!).

On into Switzerland and the Alps – a tough, wet and cold stage 17 was followed by the very best that the Alps have to offer – glorious stages to be savoured by all as we gradually pedaled closer to Paris.XR6B0904

Visited by 2 young people from charities supported by WWMT and our riders, we were reminded that the Tour de Force is bigger than any of us. Both Johnny and Tyrese did us and themselves proud while on tour and we are so pleased to be able to offer this opportunity to both them and our riders – a chance for everyone to understand each other better. 2016 sees in excess of £330,000 raised for the William Wates Memorial Trust, bringing us almost to the £3 million mark for funds raised by the Tour de Force event. 2017 will see us far exceed this enormous target and we cannot wait!

Tour de Force 2015

Tour de Force 2015 was largely about heat – lots of it! Our riders travelled from Utrecht to Paris under glorious sunshine which caused its ownFeature Bernard punching air challenges as our riders battled with heat exhaustion.

For the second year, we were joined by 2 Charity Visitors – youngsters from 2 of the charities supported by the William Wates Memorial Trust. Callum and Ruqiya both cycled a stage each with us and they or their key worker spoke to the group in the evening. The experience is immensely rewarding in equal measure to both the kids and the riders.

Our charity visitor project is funded entirely by a 2013 Lifer who wanted to remain involved with both the event and the charity. We’re enormously grateful to him.

In 2015 we raised £385,000 for the William Wates Memorial Trust.

Tour de Force 2014

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The 101st Tour will forever be remembered … not just because it commemorated the start of the First World War, taking in many of the battlegrounds in the North of France, but also because this was the year that Yorkshire claimed the tour for it’s own. The welcome there was extraordinary, as was the weather: fair! Which is more than can be said for our time in the Alps (very cold, very wet – biblical downpours) and the Pyrenees (searing, debilitating heat, enduring Category 1 and HC climbs in 40 degrees centigrade) where the weather tested us all to our limits and made this a very tough tour for those riding the mountains.

But the tour will also be remembered for the participation of Monty Wates – the first of William’s brothers to complete the Monty Watesentire route as a ‘Lifer’ (his brothers and father all take part each year for at least one stage each) and the extraordinary fundraising tally which took us to £515,000 this year alone – a staggering achievement made possible by the phenomenal dedication of our riders and their commitment to the WWMT.

 

Tour de Force 2013

2013 was our biggest and best year to date!Happy Riders

Over 180 riders took part, with 39 Lifers completing the tour. The sun shone on the epic route of the 100th Tour de France route and we had a ball!

Most importantly, our riders raised an enormous amount £425,000 for the William Wates Memorial Trust. Thanks to this, the charities supported by the Trust are able to launch new projects, support existing resources and continue to make a fundamental difference to the lives of young disadvantaged people. We are immensely proud of our riders who did us, and themselves, proud.

Tour de Force 2012

2012 was the first year that the Tour de Force operated for the general public, (previous participants were all friends and family of the WatesPhil and FT Family). Around 125 riders took part and raised a phenomenal £300,000 for the William Wates Memorial Trust. It was a tremendous tour that has set the tone for this unique event.

Tour de Force 2010

The Tour de Force was run in 2006 and 2010 exclusively for friends and family of the William Wates Memorial Trust. Due to its overwhelming success and interest from everyone we told about it, we have decided to open the 2012 event to anyone who loves cycling, is ready for a challenge and would like to support WWMT. Here is a short article about the 2010 event.

Tour De Force 2010
What is it about the Tour de Force that makes it so special? I have pondered this on many occasions and, of course, it is not one single factor but a combination of many.

To ride in the Tour de Force is a huge commitment. It is not just the physical endeavour required on the chosen stages but also the months of training beforehand. All of the riders are amateur and are fearful of the challenge that lies before them, be that a single stage, a few stages or the whole 3600 km Tour route. This creates an atmosphere around the event. Nervous laughter abounds at our pre-tour get togethers and training rides. We shake our heads at our own stupidity for taking on the challenge.  And yet on we go, training through the rain and snow, sacrificing family time and pushing ourselves in the knowledge that what is to come is truly terrifying. So the preparation and anticipation forms a vital part of what makes the Tour de Force special. Will the hard work be rewarded?

Like all big events the devil is in the detail. The event organisers ran it like clockwork. The correspondence before the event was timely, informative and friendly. It created a sense of security for riders to know that accommodation was booked, meals were arranged, bike transport facilitated and all of our needs thought through and taken care of. The foundations were in place and we just needed to get ourselves to France and ride what we had set out to do.

On the Tour itself the staff were exceptional. No stone was left unturned to make our journey as stress free as possible. Phil, Sarah and the team understood that the physical requirements of the Tour left very little energy for anything else so they organised us with military efficiency.

Our bags were laid out for us on arrival at each destination, every new rider was greeted personally and shown the ropes, bikes were sorted, food stops were a highlight and problems were solved which most of us never even heard about.  It was an awesome performance on their part carried out with flair and humour and a huge contributor to the happy vibe around the tour.

So to the Grand Depart in Rotterdam where the stage was set for the next 21 days. There was a sense that something extraordinary was about to happen but we didn’t know how that was going to manifest itself. We knew about the physical demands but what about the social demands of touring with strangers, new arrivals coming in every day and good friends departing.? What about the differing abilities across our groups? Would the routines work?

Somehow it did all work. Every rider showed a selflessness and generosity of spirit that belied the exhaustion they felt. The camaraderie we had never diminished and friends were made for life. There was laughter and tears, pain and triumph and it was a heady mix. Many had personal issues from home but through a combination of individual will power and collective strength the vast majority achieved what they set out to do.

Without this team spirit it would have been an awful lot harder to realise our dreams and that was special.

France is a beautiful country to cycle through. There were moments of extraordinary peace on lonely mountain rodes, wonder at the richness of the agricultural areas, fascination as we wound our way through the iconic Bordeaux vineyards, elation as we reached the top of Tourmalet in the stunning evening light and joy as we rode into Paris. There were so many highlights and France never disappointed. The people were charming, hospitable, encouraging and curious and the country left its mark us on all. France, and its people, made the Tour de Force special.

Much has been said of our physical endeavours but many would agree that our fundraising efforts were equally awesome. To have raised £450,000 says an enormous amount about the qualities of the riders on the event and their supporters. This figure tells you that they went the extra mile and were not satisfied with raising the minimum but wanted to go on and really make a difference.

The money raised will go to charities that help young people who have their own incredibly difficult challenges to overcome and with the experience the Trust has built up, since 1998, there is a confidence that the money will be well spent. £450,000 is a special amount to raise and the sense of achievement of all concerned should be profound.

So we cycled huge distances over fearsome terrain. We were supported by an amazing team, we achieved our goals, we made friendships for life and with a fair wind we would love to do it all again!! For our family though this was also about remembering Will and celebrating his life. So on behalf of us all I would like to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for helping to keep his memory alive in such an inspirational fashion.

Tour de Force 2006

The Tour de Force was run in 2006 and 2010 exclusively for friends and family of the William Wates Memorial Trust. Due to its overwhelming success and interest from everyone we told about it, we have decided to open the 2012 event to anyone who loves cycling, is ready for a challenge and would like to support WWMT. Here is a short article about the 2006 event.
Tour De Force 2006
The Tour de Force was the biggest fund raising event that the Trust had ever undertaken. 2006 represented 10 years since William was killed. The idea for the event was conceived in early 2005 and in June 2006 almost 100 riders tackled one or more stages of the world’s most fearsome cycle race, Le Tour de France. We wanted the event to be a fitting memorial for William; we wanted to raise some money for good causes and we wanted our riders to enjoy themselves and come home safely. We are happy to say that we achieved all our objectives.

The cycling, of course, was the focal point. Our odyssey covered all 20 stages of the 2006 Tour de France route, which amounted to 2,300 miles. It was quite gratifying hearing the professionals, who followed 2 weeks behind us, describing the route as unreasonably tough. We thought so too! In all 98 riders saddled up, doing anything from a single stage to all 20. We are really delighted to say that although we had a couple of nasty tumbles on the way around, no one was badly hurt or hospitalised overnight. The youngest riders included some of William’s nephews and nieces. The “old and the bold” included his parents Andrew and Sarah and one of his godfathers Brian Trafford.

Our journey began in Obernai and took in Germany, Luxembourg, Holland and Spain. The average stage length was over 100 miles, so although the riders enjoyed the scenery and the camaraderie of the “peleton” there was a price to be paid, usually in the form of sore knees and even sorer backsides. We had 2 days in the south where the temperature reached 110 degrees. At the other extreme we had 2 stages in the Pyrenees where it hailed at the top of the Cols. In between we cycled through some quintessential French countryside, as well as along the coasts, through forests, villages and towns concluding in grand style in Paris. It is an experience none of us will ever forget.

The event raised £340,000 for the trust which was overwhelming for us all. We have done great things for good causes with that money and it inspired us to carry on and organise the Tour de Force 2010 …