The Etape is as close to riding the Tour de France as you are going to get! It’s a full mountain stage of the Tour a couple of days before the pros ride it. I rode it in July 2017 and the high (and low) points were the Col de Vars and the mighty Izoard. It’s a fantastic experience, incredible scenery and wonderful closed roads. It’s timed and it’s tough as hell though. This year was 125 miles and over 12,000 ft of climbing. Miles and miles of false flats, some fairly technical descents and some killer climbs. Great support along the route, fun passing through all the towns and seeing fans already camped out for the Tour.
Le Lac de Serre-Ponçon was absolutely stunning, beautiful clear waters shimmering down below and the Casse Déserte towards the top of Le Col D’Izoard was eerie and awe inspiring, honestly it was hard to take it all in and was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Up there with childbirth in terms of pain and reward!
I went out fit and excited but nothing can prepare you for the Alps if all you’ve ridden is stuff in UK. As I crossed the finish line I swore I would never ride it again and know exactly why people call Izoard “It’s So Hard”. However, as soon as I had my medal and had descended down to Briançon I felt like a complete hero and vowed I would do it again with more hill training and an extra gear on my bicycle!
The route for 2018 will be announced in mid October and I cannot wait to see where I will be cycling next July!
- Stay as close to the start / finish as you can.
- Get extra gears.
- Make sure there’s plenty of life in your brakes.
- Fuel lots.
- Pace yourself.
- Shove an extra layer in your jersey pocket for the starting pen and the descents followed by a large dose of Rule Number 5.