The L'Etape is a little version of torture the folks at ASO, who run the Tour de France, dreamed up to let us wannabes try a shot at the pain and suffering the big boys go through. So in the true spirit of cycing-masichism ASO selects one stage of the TdF each to toss out for the amateur Convicts of the Road (and perhaps the truest Convicts)
Next Sunday July 18th I've decided to forgo my normal Tour de France ritual: morning cuppa Earl Grey, flip on the tube at 4:30AM and ring in the day with accented voices of Phil & Paul. Seven months from now Jenn and the "cycling kids" will have to hold my place in the cycling-room as the boys in the Tour begin their onslaught in the high mountains of the Pyrenees - Revel to Ax-3 Domaines. I'll be on the other side of those same French hills, staying in the Pyrennean foothill town of Tarbes, a half-hour from the my own start in Pau.
On a beautiful and warm (I hope) Sunday morning at 7:00 am I'll mount my trusty ride and join "a flow of more than 8,500 riders will be on their way for a warm up” over Col de Marie-Blanque and Col du Soulor before tackling Tourmalet!" according to the Cyclomundo's pre-package info. Haven ridden over Cols such as Marie-Blanque and Soulor, even at a casual pace I would not discredit them by referencing their gradients as "warm up". They are listed as
|Col de Marie-Blanque||9,5 km at 7,5%|
|Col du Soulor par Ferrières||22 km at 4,9%|
|Col du Tourmalet par Barèges||19 km at 7,4%|
But after riding there a couple years ago my legs and lungs can vouch for inclines of 9-12+%. And of that final little lump in the road, the Tourmalet? Well, I hammered my way up the easier west slope in 2008 - and foolishly muttered how fun it would be to tackle the steeper east slope, so next July 18th I'll find out, along with many other shared suffering souls - 8,500 of my fellow nut-cases!
After our little "warm up" we set our sites and front wheels on the geant of the Pyrenees - Col du Tourmalet - where we like the Pros (four days later on Stage 17) will summit; of course this is after they have crossed the Tourmalet two days earlier, hey, they're Pro Convicts, they get paid for gratuitous suffering. In a true statement of cyclo-dedication, I will also stick around and reclimb the Tourmalet to watch (and film) them come over on Tuesday Stage 16 (the epic Peyresourde-Aspin-Tourmalet-Aubisque). Yes, you read that right - I'll end up climbing the Tourmalet three times, from the steeper east side, in five days. I'm also considering swimming the English Channel and rowing a boat, with my bike, back across the Atlantic,
.... KIDDING - one collective act of insanity at a time :").
So now that I am mentally and financially committed, totally psyched to do this, I'll alter my racing plans for next year just a bit - coming off of Elkhorn Stage Race in late June I'll put in a few more long mountain kilometers getting ready for France - unfortunately the Cascade Cycling Classic stage race will be the victim, since the L'Etape and Cascade overlap - but hey, maybe I'm just exchanging one set of nut-cases for another?
More later on the L'Etape, my preparations and a daily blog from the Pyrenees as it all develops. If you want to know more about L'Etape 2010 check out Lindsay Crawford's experienced review on BikeRadar: