If you’re taking on the Etape du Tour on Sunday (July 19) and feel underprepared then don’t panic – there’s more to the Etape than just being fit. Local knowledge and smart riding will make a big difference as to whether you get round.
More than 10,000 riders will attempt to tackle stage 19 of the Tour de France, following the142km route from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to La Toussuire in the Alps, and scaling the Col du Chaussy, Col du Glandon and Col du Mollard, before the final ascent to the ski station of La Toussuire.
We caught up with London-based cyclist Lindsey Stopp, a ‘local influencer’ for Strava, after she recce’d the course last month, to find out what she wish she’d known before riding the route.
What are your tips for tackling the climbs on the Etape du Tour?
Col du Chaussy (1,533m)
This is the first climb of the day, with an average gradient of seven per cent over its 13.7km length, but these numbers hide some steep sections on the climb. It’s easy to get carried away at the start of the Etape but remember there’s a long way to go, so ride within yourself. The balcony road is really beautiful so make sure you look up and enjoy the view. See the Col du Chaussy on Strava.
Col du Glandon (1,924m)
Pace yourself as this is a long climb (, there’s still a long way to go before the finish, and it gets tougher towards the summit. Once you reach the top it’s not quite over as there’s a very short descent and another short two kilometre climb to the top of the Col de la Croix de Fer at 2,067m. All in all, the Glandon and Croix de Fer combined make for 22.4km of climbing at as average gradient of 6.9 per cent so it’s all about pacing. See the Col du Glandon on Strava.
Col du Mollard (1,638m)
The Col du Mollard is a really nice climb. It’s pretty and peaceful – and not too long with a gentle six per cent gradient. You might find you enjoy this one! See the Col Du Mollard on Strava.
La Toussuire (1,705m)
This is the last climb and another long one so be sure to eat something before you start and hope you’ve still got the legs for this one final climb! It’s time to grit your teeth and haul yourself to the top. See La Toussuire on Strava.
Where’s the best section to recover?
There’s a 25km flat section between La Chambre and the start of Col du Glandon. Try and get in a group that matches your fitness level for this long flat stretch and save your legs for the rest of the climbs. You’ll thank yourself later.
What’s the most difficult section technically?
Dropping down off the Croix de Fer is tricky because it’s fairly steep in places and after the effort to get to the top, you can lose concentration. But it’s also really beautiful at the top so try and take in the scenery! I would always advise caution when descending an unknown mountain for the first time. Relax and try to follow the line of someone with more experience and whom you trust, but don’t get too close and use the brakes sparingly.
What was the toughest part of the route?
The hardest part of the ride is the top of the Col du Glandon, it’s so steep for the last 2-3km so it’s important to save a little bit of energy on earlier sections of the climb, and remember to keep eating and drinking.
What would you do differently if you were riding the route again?
I would eat more – getting your nutrition right is so important on a long ride in the mountains, so don’t forget to eat little and often. And look up more, the scenery is spectacular!
What’s the best or most beautiful climb?
I would say the last section of Glandon and then the climb to Col de la Croix de Fer. If the clouds roll in it feels very intimidating, but it’s extremely beautiful. It’s also impossible to take a bad photo on the balcony road on Col du Chaussy.
Any tips for clothing?
The correct clothing depends on the weather forecast, but generally I always feel cold at the top of the climbs and on the descents, so definitely take arm warmers and a lightweight gilet or a rain jacket. Even if it’s warm in the valley or on the climb then it can be chilly on the descent.
If it’s particularly wet and cold you might want to consider taking shoe covers, gloves and knee warmers. It is always so surprising how quickly the weather can change in the Alps – a glorious morning in one valley often turns in to rain and wind halfway up a climb – so pay close attention to the forecast in advance and be prepared.
If you’re riding this year’s Etape du Tour, Strava are holding a segment challenge on the day on the Col du Glandon. To find out more about Lindsey and the rest of the Strava London local influencers, visit the Strava blog.