With the 28th edition of the Etape du Tour taking place on the 8th July 2018, 15,000 riders will line up to ride one of the mountain stages of the Tour de France - the same towns, routes and climbs, and under the same conditions, with closed roads throughout.
This European cyclosportive is a colossal, yet hugely rewarding challenge, and will take riders through some of the most stunning parts of France, with breathtaking scenery and unforgettable climbs. This year, the Etape will be following the same route as the 10th stage of the 2018 Tour de France.
By now, you should have trained hard, prepped your bike and sorted your kit and nutrition. Now all that's left is to check out our list of essential items to consider along with some tips to help you enjoy the ride.
Along with the standard travel essentials, before you depart you should ensure you have considered the following:
Essential in order to participate, a completed medical certificate must be presented in order to collect your race number. It must be dated within one year of the event.
In case anything happens, you should have health and travel insurance for yourself and some form of insurance for your bike.
It’s best to test anything you plan to use in advance, both to see if it agrees with your stomach and if it has the desired effect. Getting your nutrition right is essential when it comes to enjoying this ride. You will need more than you think so ensure you have enough to eat little and often. Take advantage of the feed stops, although they are likely to be busy so carry plenty as a back up. A mixture of energy bars and chews/gels should provide variety for what is sure to be a big day in the saddle.
The weather can be changeable, even in July. Take arm warmers and a gilet at the very least, and maybe a rain jacket such as the Castelli Idro 2 Jacket, which is easy to tuck into a jersey pocket when it's no longer needed. If it’s looking to be particularly wet and cold, overshoes, long finger gloves and knee warmers may be required. It may be hot in the valleys but the temperature can change dramatically the higher you get, and long fast descents can get pretty cold. Pack everything that you may require and keep an eye on the forecast when you get arrive - you can always leave anything you don’t need in your hotel room.
It’s a good idea to make sure anything you plan to wear has been tested beforehand. Try to steer clear of buying new shoes, bib shorts or other kit in the days before the event. There is nothing worse than being uncomfortable for hours in the saddle, and the wrong shoes or shorts could ruin your ride. Good bib shorts and chamois cream should prevent the potential discomfort of chafing or saddle sores. The sun can be strong in the mountains, make sure you remember to take suncream and choose a lightweight and breathable short sleeve jersey, such as the Castelli Flusso Short Sleeve Full Zip Jersey.
By this point you should have done plenty of training on the bike you plan to take, but ensure everything is in working order before you leave. The gears should be running smoothly, and you should check for excessively worn tyres, brake pads, cassette and chain, and replace if necessary.
Gearing: You will need easier gears in the mountains compared to what you are used to at home. Consider compact gearing (50/34); a low gear of 34 - 28t should suffice.
Saddle bag essentials
Look after yourself
Hopefully something you have been doing throughout your training, but it is just as important in the final weeks and days. Eat well, ensure you stay hydrated, stretch, use a foam roller and book in for a massage the week before you go to ensure you are in the best possible shape.
The start: Annecy
This year the L’Etape will be starting on the shores of Lake Annecy. The jewel of the Haute-Savoie in southeastern France, Annecy's old town has a unique charm. This picturesque area offers plenty to see and do, and is nestled between the lake and the Alps. Its location on the doorsteps of both Switzerland and Italy makes this French town a major tourist destination.
This year's route includes four categorised climbs, making for a challenging 169km with 4000 metres of ascent in total, which the pros will tackle these same roads nine days later, on July 17th.
The first of the climbs starts after 40km, and the Col de la Croix-Fry reaches 1477 metres above sea level, where you are rewarded with stunning views of the Aravis mountains. There are no flat roads to be seen at this point, and after descending, it's time to take on the next gruelling climb.
Making its Etape debut in 2018, the Plateau des Glières will have you climbing for 7km at an average gradient of 11%. A 1.5km gravel section near the summit, used as a refuge by local resistance fighters in the Second World War, makes this ascent all the more challenging. Enjoy the scenery during the descent and the respite of a vast flat valley, ready for the last two climbs.
With 40km to go, two back to back climbs take you up to the highest point of the 2018 Etape, at 1613 metres above sea level. Col de Romme is the first of these two climbs and is one of the toughest in the Haute Savoie area. The spectacular views only improve as you get near the top, something to distract you from the 9.3km grind at an 8.8% average. Drink and refuel on a fast descent through the forest to Reposoir, ready to take on the last climb of the day.
After 7.5km up the Col de la Colombière at an 8.5% average, you're rewarded with a 13km descent, and then it's a 1.5km false flat to the finish in Grand Bornand.
Tips to help tackle this ride:
If you are taking part in this year’s Etape, you are in for a treat, with spectacular views, challenging mountain climbs and the benefit of closed roads.
- Four major climbs feature, two starting just 40km in, and two back to back in the last 40km so take it steady, pace yourself and save something for the later sections. If you feel great when nearing the end, you can use that reserve of energy to push on
- If you are experienced at riding in groups, try and get into a group on the flat valley in the middle section, other riders will help carry you along at a faster pace and will save you energy, but try not to get carried away
- Shift into the small ring before you reach the big cols, and get your legs spinning as the road rears up
- Keep well hydrated - it's worth adding hydration tablets to your water - and eat throughout, taking advantage of the flats and drags to fuel, but be sure to keep this up during the climbs. You should take in food at least every 30 minutes. Little and often is key and make the most of the well-stocked feed stations the organisers put on
- Take the climbs steady and at your own pace, don’t chase other riders as you may go into the red and pay for it later up the road
- Riding on the tops of the hoods when climbing will allow you to take in more oxygen. Try to limit the time you spend climbing out of the saddle as it raises your heart rate and puts more stress on your upper body
- Ride within your limits, especially on the descents, and be aware of other riders and their varying abilities. Changeable weather conditions can alter braking distances, so be aware of the road conditions before you go too hot into a corner
Sure to be a once in a lifetime experience, this years edition may not take in any of the Tour's most famous climbs, however, this is made up for by the spectacular views and the inclusion of an unpaved gravel road. If you are taking part in this year’s Etape, you are in for a treat with challenging mountain climbs and the benefit of closed roads. Most importantly though, enjoy it!