THIS summer, at the age of 58, Ray Robins will be tackling a fearsome challenge that tests some of the world’s greatest endurance athletes.

The Colchester Rovers and Tiptree Velo cyclist will be riding the route of Le Tour de France a week before the professionals hit La Grande Boucle.

Here the cyclist from Tolleshunt Knights tells the Gazette Sport’s Simon Spurgeon what is motivating him to take on this monumental feat:

Just why would someone who definitely doesn't consider himself to be an athlete be prepared to put himself through a torment that tests some of the world's toughest sportsmen to the limit?

That's a question that I've found myself asking and indeed being asked, but I am doing it!

What 'it' is is Le Loop - basically doing Le Tour de France a week before the professionals do it this summer.

I'm sure most readers will know what Le Tour is and cyclists will certainly know; it's the pinnacle of the sport.

This year's will be over 23 days in July, with 21 days of riding, starting in Brussels in Belgium and finishing with the iconic laps of the Champs Elysée in Paris.

In just over three weeks, both the pros and those of us riding the full Le Loop will have covered 2,150 miles, including days of brutal climbing in the Vosges mountains, the Alps and the Pyrenees.

It's a gruelling prospect for professionals whose bodies are conditioned over years of competing and training for it and downright intimidating for those of us who are essentially just recreational cyclists.

So back to the question - why are you doing this?

I’m not an athlete, I’m just an average Joe, but there are a few reasons why I want to do this.

One, it is a personal challenge for me.

I enjoy riding the bike and I suppose this ride is the ultimate for cyclists.

Another is that I work in the fitness industry as a personal trainer with Fusion at Witham Leisure Centre and I help people with various issues.

I specialise in doctor referrals working with people who have health problems and working in the gym environment I often hear excuses not to exercise!

A common excuse being: "You can’t do that at my age.”

Invariably this will be from people younger than myself.

I don’t agree with that and it’s a way of me showing people that as you get older, you don’t have to stop.

I'm 58 and am semi-retired after a career in the police force, but I want to show you can still carry on setting goals and pushing yourself; not necessarily with such an extreme example as the Tour, but there are things you can do.

Set yourself a goal and go for it, whether it be a walk, run, cycle swim or gym test.

The other reason is that I’ve made a lot of friends through the cycling community and one of them did the same thing a few years ago.

It was called the Tour de Force then and he told me about the charity that it raises money for and I started researching it myself.

The William Wates Memorial Trust was set up by the family of a young man who was murdered and helps disadvantaged young people keep away from a life of crime and violence.

They've turned a tragic incident into something positive and to support that is special.

I just thought I’d give it a go and it’s such a good cause.

If you can keep young people out of trouble then that’s got to be something worth supporting.

I've got a fundraising page on the internet at and it would be great to get support for this very worthy cause.

So here I am, training for what is a massive physical and mental challenge.

Nothing will fully prepare you for something like this but I’ve been building up hundreds miles on the road with the two clubs that I ride with - Colchester Rovers and Tiptree Velo - as well as doing gym sessions for strengthening and also pilates.

I try to do a longer ride on a Wednesday, then a slightly shorter run on a Thursday and two long rides at the weekend and the only rule I have is that I don’t go out if it’s less than 3C.

I’ve had a few moments in icy conditions in the past and I can’t afford to be off the bike with an injury but when it’s been cold I’ve been working on a Wattbike indoors.

I’m lucky to have that option, but thankfully the weather has been nice and I just like to be out.

I have done lots of hard rides In the UK and France including Lands End to John O'Groats, Coast to Coast in a day, the Fred Whitton route and a number of mountains in France including the Vosges region, Central Massif, the Alps and Pyrenees.

I've also completed a stage of the Etape du Tour in 2016, but I'm under no illusion that this is going to be the toughest of the lot.

The biggest concern I have is the cumulative effect of continuous riding and the attrition caused to my body.

The one thing I have noticed as I’ve got older is that age doesn’t stop me doing things, but it does take longer to recover from doing them.

When you’re younger, you can go again and again and again but what it’s going to do to the body day-in day-out is the interesting one for me.

That’s going to be the biggest challenge, getting back on it day after day.

It’s going to come down to being sensible because it’s not a race.

The professionals will be doing it two or three times faster than we manage but it’s not a race for us on Le Loop.

Another of the key aspects of this year’s Tour de France route is the amount of climbing it includes – it’s a record amount this year.

There are 27 miles of vertical climbing over the 21 days of Le Loop.

The stage I’m most looking forward to is the one that ends with an ascent of the Tourmalet in the Pyrenees.

That’s one I’ve done before and it’s a beast, but I’m really going to relish that day.

I wouldn’t say climbing is a passion, but I do enjoy it.

The training has been going well with hundreds of miles on the road throughout winter.

I have a number of training events coming up.

They include a collaboration event between Colchester Rovers Cycling Club and Cranleigh Cycling Club in Surrey to complete the routes of ‘Legs of Steel' and the Octopus - eight times up Leith Hill in Surrey - in a weekend.

I'm also heading off to Mallorca for a training camp in May and on my return, I will ride the Dragon Tour in Wales about three weeks before the Le Loop. The Dragon is renowned as one of the toughest sportives in this country, something that I have participated in for the last few years.

If you don’t prepare then a challenge like Le Loop becomes something that’s dangerous in my opinion.

You have to put the effort in to be in condition.

That's what I'm doing now and I can't wait to get started on June 29.

  • Ray Robins is organising a fundraising social cycle ride heading off from Witham Leisure on Saturday, May 11 to raise more cash towards his total for the William Wates Memorial Trust.
    Two routes are planned - over 20 and 50 miles - with registration taking place at 8.30am for a 9am depart.
    Registration will be on the day and routes will be by GPS and maps, but not signed.
    All money raised from the event will go to William Wates Memorial Trust.