RCUK members take on the Etape du Tour

As preparations and media coverage for the Tour de France hot up in the professional world, hundreds of amateur cyclists are preparing for their own tour challenge, the 237km Etape du Tour from Limoges to St. Flour.

The race takes in the 1589m Col du Pas de Peyrol with it’s final 2km of Puy de Marie at 17%. Andy Waterman has already been and ridden the course and his verdict? It’s a “real killer”. You can see a profile of the challenging course on this page.

Among those preparing are several of our own RCUK members, all of whom have varying degrees of experience and different expectations of the race. Here’s who they are, what they’re riding and how they’ve been preparing for the big day.

Maurice Burton

Profile: Maurice has won three British titles raced on the Belgian 6-day circuit between 1977 and 1984. He retired from competitive cycling in 1984 after a serious racing accident.

In 1987 he took over De Ver cycles and is now both an RCUK member and advertiser on the site. His career achievements include: British Junior Sprint Champion 1973, British Senior 20km Champion 1974, British Team Commonwealth Games 1974, British 4km Team Persuit Champion 1975, 4th, European Championships (Madison ) 1980.

Bike: Colnago

Training: Maurice has been putting in the miles including a London-Oxford-London ride with him and 2 mates last Sunday in 8 and a half hours including a stop for tea!

Jonnie Woodall: 58

Jonnie had to laugh when Keir O’Donnell wrote that he was nearly too old at 35! “I took up ‘performance cycling’ last year to reduce BP and lose weight, both of which
have happened and got me back to mid 30s fitness and weight levels.”

committed to L’Etape in July and ordered an Airborne Zeppelin from Paul
Hewitt at the Bike Show in September, which I rode the 82 miles, my longest ride since leaving school, from Leyland to
Shrewsbury as a gesture of commitment when I collected it at the end of

Training: “I’ve joined i-team, the internet cycling club
who have provided me with a ‘track to cycle on’ and given me huge support
and motivation in completing the 3,838 training miles I’ve ridden in
preparation for L’Etape. Riding solo 5 days a week with max 120 miles to a
varied programme designed by i-team head coach Guy Watson. My last ride was
110 miles at 18.3 mph (including 50 at 19.1) and now it’s tapering, carbo
loading and nail biting.”

Aim: “To get to St Flour – hopefully still on my Zep….”

And what’s more: “I went to Italy for the Gran Fondo Campagnolo on 20 June to try riding at altitude and got the main climbs (2680m over 43 km) under my belt, but had to retire after 65 miles with hypothermia – like everyone else in summer kit!”

Good luck to all fellow Etapers and especially the i-team squad.

Adrian Davies, 34: 2nd Etape

Profile: Adrian hails from Chorlton in Manchester, he’s 6’3′ and 78kgs “too big for mountains, too skinny for sprints”.

Bike: 2001 trek 5600 in the white USPS colours (second-hand
from the GB performance Squad annual bike sale, hence all USPS logos have
been removed): Dura Ace 9 speed group set, ITM millennium bar and
stem, Mavic SSL Ksyrium 2002 version wheel set, Michelin prorace tyres,
Dura Ace seat post, Flight Evolution 3 carbon saddle.

“I was also informed it was previously set up for Bradley
Wiggins (60cm frame, long cranks, 14cm stem etc) so I feel unworthy every
time I ride!”

Past record: Etape 2003, 7hours 50 mins – silver; Polakdot challenge grandfondo 2004, 6 hours exactly.

Training: “Most of the training I do on my own: November to Feb 1,800km base miles on the turbo and on the road;
March, 10 days in Majorca doing 1,000 kms after which I had a six week lay off; I’ve done 1,400kms getting back on the bike.

“Training rides are based arround the Peaks and the Pennies, so plenty of
climbing – Cat and Fiddle etc. I’m doing rides up to 160km max at the moment and if the week goes to plan (like it ever does!) then I should have done this: 3 weekday evening rides of 50 to 60km, interval sessions most lunch times and a 100 and a 160km at the weekend.

“How it’s going so far? It was going great until March when I crashed and broke a rib. So I’ve not got not much riding done for a while: reduced motivaton and a long holiday abroad letting it all hang out seemed to put me right back to sqaure one. The last 6 week’s
training have been a test in will power, everything seemed harder and slower than ever. But it seems to have come together with a good time in the Polkadot chalenge.

“I’m planning three 200km plus rides over the coming weeks in the Peaks, Dales and Lake District.”

Sean Dukes: Second Etape

Bike: “Trek – 5500 frame OCLV 120. I built it up myself with full Ultegra, very nice Thomson seat post, ITM Millennium bars and stem and Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheels.”

Training: “Of course my training hasn’t been quite as planned – best intentions and all that. It was going quite well until I went to the States on business for ten days and spent a few days with my sister who led me astray. In short I did ‘a bit of an Ullrich’ – picture is of me ‘carbo-loading’ in the Outback Steakhouse.

“Up ‘til now the hardest thing I’ve done was the Wight Diamond Challenge at the end of May: 7hrs/5hrs mountain bike orienteering. I came 4th in my class which was OK and it gave me a good chance to try out hydration and eating strategies. It wasn’t 150 miles, but it did include some reasonable climbing and some serious puncture repair practice – two flats!

“Plan from now – one month to go – is as follows:

    Ride to work as often as possible (2×7 miles 3 or 4 days per week)
  • Whyte Solstice Challenge 90k mountain bike enduro [now actually the weekend just gone. Ed.]
  • Try the full carbo/food combination to see if it works – essentially High 5 Energy Source to drink, High 5 Chocolate Covered Orange Sports bars, ham sandwiches and a gel flask full of CarBoom (a tasty energy gel discovered in the Sates)
  • Next weekend hoping to do a double randonee on the island (Isle of Whyte) – about 210k and fairly hilly and after that nothing very strenuous at all

Aim: The main point of going is to have fun and – well basically to enjoy the day. So this year the triple chainset is definitely coming.

Paul Howard (aka Pigeon Legs), 34

Profile: Paul comes from near Guildford and tells us that his nickname was provided by his lovely wife. “I should be easy to spot (if that’s possible amongst 8,000 cyclists) as I’ll be wearing my yellow & red Berks On Bikes MTB kit, a peak on my helmet and hairy legs! ”

Etape no: 7265

Bike: Cannondale R500 in stealthy gloss black

Training: “A mix of road and offroad having ridden 3,000 miles already this year with a few century+ road rides and lot’s of MTB cross
country/enduro races.

“Latest long ride was a 2-day, 240 mile round trip to Weymouth to camp with my mates, they obviously think I’m mad as they all
drove down there.”

Aim: “Endurance = 20% physical, 80% mental ;-). I’ll be riding with my roadie training buddy Paul Miller –
a stocky body builder type in complete contrast to me. This is also a good
training ground to prepare for riding Sleepless in the Saddle solo this

James Hampshire: 3rd Etape

Profile: 6ft tall and 10 1/2 stone with blue eyes, blonde hair. James is also keen to tell us that he’s got hairy legs and a camelbak “because I’m an mtber really (I do take the peak off my Pneumo though…)”

Bike: ’03 Trek 2300

Past record: Etape 2002: Bronze. Etape 2003: Silver

Training: “Hows it going? Not as planned! Combination of not getting confirmation of my place till late and seeing a sports physio for an injury, sustained late last year and left untreated till March, has left me short – race and mileage wise.

“Currently running twice a week (physio stuff), and riding off/on road twice/three times a week (also physio planned/approved) including a long ride at the weekend. Plus extracurricular things off-road such as dawn rides in the Peak District and 24hr racing with my team-mates at CLIC24 and SSMM04 etc.”

Aims: “New year’s dreams of getting the gold standard have evolved into taking part, because its such an ace event, and not getting caught by the broom-wagon!”

Keir O’Donnell, 35

Reason for riding: “Want to experience what a stage of ‘Le Tour’ really feels like before I get too old. This will be by first attempt at l’Etape.”

Etape no: 6516

Bike: Airborne Valkyrie, mostly Campag 9 speed set up, Campag Eurus wheels

Training: “Approx 10 hours per week, starting in December last year. Mixture of some gym work, long training runs, some surrey league RRs and evening events and a few MTB enduro and XC races. A big thanks to my wife Anne for all her support during this time.

Aim: “given the severity of the route I’ll be really pleased just to get to the finish…..I do have a target in mind but I’m not going to tempt fate by mentioning it here!”

Other: “Rode the South Downs Way in day taking about 9 hours to finish. Rode Marmotte last year taking about 8 hours to finish. Really looking forward to the challenge of l’Etape and praying it won’t be too hot for us gingers!”

If you’re doing the Etape and want to add your profile then mail us, with ‘Etape du Tour’ in the subject line.
Don’t forget to attach your photo!

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