L’Étape du Tour is a citizen race put on by the ASO in France during the Tour de France. They usually pick the hardest stage and they limit the entries to 8,500 lucky souls. Last year's stage was Ventoux. This year the race is Stage 17, going over the Col de Marie-Blanque, the Col du Solour, and finishes on the Tourmalet. I love this race. It is my favorite event of the year. It is part Tour de France because you get to ride on the exact same course as the pros, and part Ironman because you are out there forever. Last year my time was 9:47, and a couple of years ago it was over 11 hours. And finally for me it's part Boston Marathon, because of the tradition of the event and because I ran Boston with my Dad three times. Without my Dad I never would do goofy events like this.
It is always an incredible day, and this year will be no different. I got sucked into this event in 2006 when I thought it was just a ride. It is not. (I have attached that story below.) After not finishing that year, I vowed to return and get the deal done. The next year was the most difficult l’Étape in history. Five mountain passes, and 124 miles. I made it!!! I did kind of stack the deck... but I made it.
Which of the following tactics did I employ after the failure of 2006?
A. A personal domestique.
B. Obtaining a starting number in the top 200 instead of waiting 30 minutes to start at number 6,708.
C. Three strategic rest stops (because the official ones are always out of everything by the time I arrive).
D. A motorcycle on the course in case we have a problem.
Anyways, I love the Tour De France and I am really looking forward to this year's adventure.
From: "Burke, John"
Date: Thursday, Jul 13, 2006 5:05 am
Subject: L'etape de Tour
Steve and Steve,
I don't know who was nice enough to make the l’Étape poster for me, but I just wanted to say thank you and also give you the update on the race.
Started at 7 am. 8500 racers.
Not a cloud in the sky. It was really fast at the start and we were up near the front, they were flying by us!!! It was the most incredible scenery I have ever seen over one entire day. Every time you turned around there was another mountain or a glacier, or some waterfall, or a tunnel through the mountain. Unbelievable.
One of the things that they gave you was a chart that showed were you needed to be at what part of the race. You had to finish by 6 pm and you had to be at the base of the L'Alpe d'Huez at 4 pm and you had to be at the top of the Izoard and the Latauret at a certain time. To the bottom of the Izoard, we were going pretty fast. It was getting kind of hot and so we stopped at the first rest stop for water. While it was a great race the logistics were horrible for rest stops. It was so backed up that we had to walk for 15 minutes to get to the stop. You could not go around.
Finally made it through the rest stop and headed up the Izoard. WOW, that sucker never ended. For some reason I was not doing too well and my heart just started pounding so much so that I got off the bike for a rest. Anyways got back on and eventually made it up the Izoard. By the time we made it to the top I was dead but we were 30 minutes ahead of the pace. I looked back from the top and there was an army behind us snaking up the switchbacks. I felt a little better.
One of the lessons I learned from this ride is that I am not a very good descender. I might be a safe one but not a fast one. We put our jackets on and headed down the back side of the Izoard and quite a few people passed us. They are _______ crazy!!! At the bottom of the Izoard there was a rest stop and we stopped and got water. They had no food. They were out. For some reason I just could not eat another Powerbar. I stopped in town and got a Magnum bar, a famous European ice cream bar.
At this time I realized that time was not our friend and I got back on the bike with the Magnum bar as we headed out of Briacon. By this time the heat had hit 100 degrees. It was so _______ hot. What made matters worse is that right as you are going through town there is a killer hill. I am trying to make it up the hill, eating my Magnum bar, the bar is starting to melt, my heart is pounding, and I have to downshift with the Magnum bar melting in my hand. I got that done. One of the best moves I made in the race.
From there we climbed the Lautauret. Not steep but a real ________. It just kept going and going and going. Drank all my water and I still have dry mouth. The beers the night before watching the world cup probably did not help (What's up with that soccer thing anyways? Biggest event in four years, playing for the world cup, no one ever scores and people tell you that you should appreciate the little things in the game and scoring isn't everything and then they decide the champion of the world by lining five guys up from 12 paces in front of the goal with the goalie having no chance. What's up with that?). There were not a lot of hackers in this ride. I mean we were passing people left and right on this climb. Most looked like Trek engineers. Fit as a fiddle and on expensive bikes.
Even though we were passing people I started to get the feeling that we were going to have a problem making the cut off. We needed to make the summit at 2:50 and we arrived at 2:48, made it by 2 minutes. There was a water station at the top and they were out of water. There was however a restaurant at the top and Tania ended up knowing the lady who owned the place and I slammed down two Sprites and an ice cream bar and we were back on the road in 8 minutes. We now had one hour to make it to the bottom of the Alpe. We did not. It took us 1:16 to make it to Bourg D'oissons and we missed the cut off by 16 minutes.
We were ELIMINATED and did not earn the honor of climbing the L'Alpe d'Huez that day. Even if we had, it took some really good riders from Trek who finished in 8 hours over 1:38 to climb the Alpe and it probably would have taken us almost 2:15 or more. Biggest problem of the race is we were stuck at the bottom with no money and no way to the top. The Trek people at the top could not come and get us so what do you do??? Have a beer is where I was at. No money, but I really needed a beer. Walking through town I saw another guy who didn't make it sitting at a café having a beer sitting next to a Trek!!!! Is that your bike I asked.
Indeed it was his bike and Tania and I sat at the bottom and swapped stories and drank beers with our new friend from the UK. A very happy Trek owner.
I will make it the next time. Jb.