The Etape du Tour is top of most cyclists’ to-do lists – and this year it will be ticked off mine.
The Etape is run over a mountain stage of the Tour de France each summer. This year’s edition will see thousands of sportive riders – me included – tackle stage 20 of the Tour de France on Sunday July 7, two weeks before the race itself.
I’ll be riding with Sports Tour International and, in the build-up to the Etape, will guide you through my preparation for the biggest date on the international sportive calendar: from training and nutrition to bike preparation and, of course, the ride itself.
The Etape was split into two editions and held over two stages in 2011 and 2012, owing to the popularity of the ride, but the 2013 Etape will focus on one stage. The route follows a 130km (80-mile) parcours starting in Annecy and tackling the climbs of the Cote du Puget (796m) and Mont Revard (1,463m) before finishing on the ascent of Le Semnoz (1,655m).
It’s not a classic stage on paper. The 100th edition of the Tour de France features many of the race’s toughest climbs, including the Col du Tourmalet, Mont Ventoux and a double ascent of Alpe d’Huez, but, perhaps turned off by the high number of riders who did not finish recent ‘epic’ editions, the organisers, ASO, have plumbed for a route which looks well suited to Etape novices and the lure of the event, and the opportunity to ride a stage of cycling’s most famous race on closed roads, remains.
Besides, cycling is rarely dictated by what’s written on paper. The route still packs approximately 4,000m of climbing into just 130km and the opening climbs of the route will serve to soften the legs before the super-steep climb of Le Semnoz.
With an average gradient of 8.5 per cent for nearly 11 kilometres, any riders who have taken the task too lightly will soon be found out – and I don’t want to be one of them. The climb will also provide the final shake-up in the general classification when the Tour comes to town, with the 2013 champion effectively crowned at its summit.
The ambition for any rider who signs up to the Etape is to finish well, with enough in the tank to tackle Le Semnoz head on, and not to grovel over the line.
With a little under 11 weeks until the start of the Etape, it’s time to focus my preparation. I have wintered reasonably well, and staying largely illness and injury free has allowed me to rack up a decent, if unspectacular, number of miles – but the Etape is looming large and it’s time to step up a gear.
RoadCyclingUK’s George Scott is riding the Etape du Tour with Sports Tours International, who offer a comprehensive range of cycling tours and holidays, as well as packages to European sportives including the Etape du Tour, La Marmotte and the Paris-Roubaix Challenge.