If you are reading this hopefully you have completed a previous stage of The Tour de France, or you are thinking about give it a go. And if you are thinking about ‘giving it a go’ hopefully you can take a few learning away from this post.

As a cyclist we all like to compare numbers, data, strava times, Watts, etc. If you do not and you are a purist then skip this little section!

My 2015 ride profile looked list this for 2015 (this does include the stage so knock off 4200m of elevation!

Distance

4,401.0 km

Time

162h 46m

Elev Gain

38,572 m

Rides

153


Watts per Kilo 4.24 for 20 minutes

So not the biggest of riders, not the fastest, but definitely more rides under the belt than a typical Sunday only rider. Like most people in the UK the hardest thing to train for are long, sustained climbs. They just do not exist in the South. Cycling up and down your local hills is great, but you get the rest and miss out that constant pressure of a long uphill. If you have not climbed a mountain before, then imagine alternate one-legged squats for an hour. That is very close to how it feels (not that I have tried 1 hour of squats (yet!))

l'Étape du Tour Elevation

So over 4000m of climbing in one ride. If nothing else completing this year’s eTape has given me a new level of respect for the pros out there. Not only are they racing the stages and powering up the climbs the do it for over 3 weeks in a row.

Like etape 2014 when I set off I wrote a fast and hard. But this year this stage was straight into a mountain. And I managed to put down my biggest ever-sustained Watts for 20 minutes. So it that the best strategy? Ride the hardest you ever had, straight out the gate. Probably not, but it felt great overtaking so many riders especially as I was in the second pen that set-off that day. Riders are put in groups of about 1000 and typically the lower number pens are for riders who have previously proved themselves. So there I am thinking, ‘well this is great. Look how fast I am.” At the top of that first mountain there were people there clapping and cheering in true French style. Time for a descent. When it comes to descending you can certainly say I’m an amateur. But courteous and one who doesn’t take very big risks. I did see a few accidents on the way downhill, and it’s mostly people being careless. The downhill was manageable and mostly very fun. Right into the flat section of the course. But this flat section does not last a long, and I found myself riding solo where I had missed previous group and the next group of riders was too far behind me.

l'Étape du Tour Elevation Start Line

Welcome Col de Glandon. This mountain was epic by all proportions. It went on, and on, and on. No thought about racing up this. And every few minutes quickly checking looking down to see if there’s any more cogs left that I can drop down to. Unfortunately no more easy gears are left. I found myself running low on water and because of that taking the opportunity to stop five or 10 K from the peak for a quick water refill. To me the food stations and drink stations are fine. Not too overcrowded, the drinking water was not too hot there was plenty of food. Some of the riders who started near the back said that there were so many people queuing it took quite a while to get drinks. I guess that is benefit starting nearer the front. My quick drink refill I didn’t even get off the bike; there is plenty of staff to help give you water and various other energy-based gels and drinks.

l'Étape du Tour Cyclist Climbing

The top of that mountain there were so many people clapping and cheering I pulled into the food station and started to eat is as many calories as I could get down my mouth in the shortest possible time. Plenty of fruit, lots of drinks. But I really did feel that if the race had ended at this point I would have achieved a great ride, plenty of climbing I’m been very happy that it to end there.

l'Étape du Tour Sprint Finish

The ride went on, the temperature picked up and it got hotter and hotter. But this is where a Sportif in the United Kingdom and one in France differ. The spectators are not amazing, and you will find people getting bottles of river water to throw over your back, non official drink stations with lines of people hanging out ice cold water. Kids singing and dancing with big clapping hands. Mums and dads cheering and shouting come on and of course alay alay alay.

l'Étape du Tour Review

The last 10 km of this ride was the toughest riding I have ever done. The temperature, the tired legs, pure amount of altitude covered. But its levels off for the last few kilometres it was great to have a sprint finish. Through the finish line there are people there to head out medals, give you your finish T-shirt and then it’s time for the pasta party. Don’t get too excited, even though I was famished their pasta and sausage was not the best French cuisine out there, but palatable nonetheless. 

l'Étape du Tour Finisher Photo

I’m sure many times during that day I was telling myself never again. It really is a tough challenge. But Once you get back to the UK and everyone is exchanging there war stories you find yourself keeping an eye on the official website for next years tour. Do signup to eTape 2016. But if you do, train hard, Train some more and if you think you have trained enough step it up even more and ride a little harder. Get miles in the bank!

This is a well-run event, plenty of marshals, plenty of support, more food and drink stations then you’ll need and everyone will end up with their own story to tell.

Biggest tips

  • Do not underestimate this event. If you are a weekend warrior and haven’t been training in the week it is going to be tough
  • Psychologically carrying any extra weight will play mind games with you, but don’t enter your water bottle out too early
  • Try and get accommodation close to the start (or even better finish)
  • Pay attention to the weather, prepare yourself with appropriate apparel, but also be prepared for it to be the exact opposite

Visit the official website for 2016 to sign-up http://www.letapedutour.com/ET1/us/homepage.html

  • Posted byDaniel Puddick /
  • Cycling

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