Oh the anticipation! The sweating, the tummy rumbling
The waiting time for the Tour announcement and that of the Etape Du Tour is more agonising than a child waiting for Christmas day! With all the rumours flying about, it’s hard not to get excited at every one but it was incredibly exciting at the prospect of it coming back around to our neck of the woods after only a year away and what a moment when it was finally announced.
Being a 10hour drive away didn’t stop us from bolting back home to ride it as soon as we could. We wanted to see for ourselves exactly what every rider of the Etape will be letting themselves in for!
So, what does the Etape Du Tour bring with it this coming summer? We may have mentioned that last year’s route would separate the men from the boys but in this case, it will be the men from the gods! Wow! What a meaty one this is gonna be and if the scenery doesn’t grab your attention, then the climbs certainly will!!
An early start in the morning got us on the road just as the sun was rising and the mist was lifting sleepily off the lake of Annecy. On the day of the event, there will be the buzz of riders and their bikes hooning around the lake but for today, it was the usual hum of traffic and the buzz of the morning commute.
Once on the other side of the lake, it was calmer on the road with some spectacular views over the water which is enough to lead you in a false sense of a relaxed start to the ride until you suddenly spot the first kick which rudely brings you back to reality and to the start of what will be many.
Col De Bluffy and Col de la Croix Fry are the first climbs of the day and not to be taken lightly. These lesser known climbs and that of Fleuries, which comes later and is a non categorised climb could easily have your eyes skimming over the profiles during your preparation for this event whilst you are fixated on the others and that of the famous Colombière. Be warned, do your homework and remember, you will have these climbs in your legs before it even starts to get tough!
You get some great descents in this Etape and after the descent from Bluffy which has the feel of the main road as it is one! You get this lovely sweeping 20 kms from Col de la Croix Fry which oozes a feeling of a typical Col on a secondary road with steep banks, trees, open views and chair lifts!
Enjoy this rest as you are going to need all the rest you can get given what is to come!
You’ve heard the expression “entering the belly of the beast”, well this is the belly. You are entering dangerous ground and there is no turning back. You will need to be prepared months in advance for this one if you wish to keep on peddling and not end up walking it. You will also need the right group set! Glières is relentless and your only rest is a gentle 10% for 400 meters before continuing above 12% to the top. Then if that isn’t enough, don’t think the last 2km at 3% is going to be a holiday. It’s a gravelled road, although that is putting it a little lightly and you will be using any
strength you have left in using your bike handling skills over this mountain track. Our only hope here is that the day of the Etape, there is a modified surface to give you some relief but we’ve heard it on good authority that the will NOT be tarmacking the road for the event. Enough said and bon courage!
Enjoy the rest at the top, refill your water bottles, re fuel, fix your bike and if you get a moment, glance over to the huge memorial that is not exactly easy to miss and pay your respects! It will remind you of exactly where you are and you are lucky to be alive and free to ride. This is resistance country and it is a reminder to us of all of the brave men and women that fought the Nazis during world war 2. A real feel of its history right beneath your wheels.
The descent is a great one but technical so keep your eyes on the road and you have some nice resurfaced hairpins and overall good surface to cruise down to Thorens-Glières. However, don’t get too complacent on the way down as there is a 600m kick at 9% just down the first straight before you get let off to free wheel it all the way down.
Col des Fleuries is your next climb before you head for the valley floor. It’s calm and steady but you have to remember that even if you are still feeling good at this stage, that you still have 20km in the valley to do and two more climbs to the finish line. If finishing is what’s most important to you and not the time frame, then take this easy.
Isn’t it a shame that most of these alpine valley’s are just massive industrial estates, unattractive housing estates or motorways but there is usually no other way (at least no other direct way) to get from one end to the other, so from one col to another. Finding a group here as always in the valley sections, is a real must. It’s a chance to rest and take turns at the front trying to conserve as much energy as possible before the next climb.
Romme! Romme is rude to start with and you’d easily not have any idea that this is right on the edge of an industrial estate one minute and then practically hanging on the side of a rocky mountain cliff the next. It’s a great climb with some amazing views over the péage of the A40! Seriously! It’s actually quite impressive!
This route is certainly an adventure and will not only keep you on your toes but it will keep you guessing. How much more is it going to throw at me?
The village of Romme is cute and the views as you come out the other side are heavenly. To some, the flat section which stretches out of Romme before the descending to Le Reposoir will most positively feel heavenly.
This is it! Here it comes, this is the daddy of the day as not only is it the legendary iconic climb of the end of the stage but it is in its own right a difficult hors cat climb on a normal day and you have just ridden 150 km and climbed over 3000m upon the approach! The icing on the cake is it only gets harder the closer to the top you get. We aliken the last few kms of Col de la Colombiére to that of our local Avoriaz climb. Why? Well, it soul destroyingly shows you the end which appears, to be closer than it really is. What you see is an illusion, so if you are lucky and you are chewing your stem by this point, then you won’t have to put yourself through this agony as you
won’t be looking straight at it!!!
With the finish line practically within licking distance and the uphill all now under your wheels, it’s time to enjoy a marvellous descent and a euphoric feeling to know that the only way is now down. Down off the mountain, down to grab your medal, down to have a shower and down to a nice cold rewarding beer! Santé!
Chapeau to anyone completing this Etape du Tour, wear your medal with honour and be proud of all you have accomplished. You are the masters of Rule #5 and you are most certainly a badass (raining or not!) Rule #9. Bonne chance and Good luck!
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