As a very keen amateur cyclist and one time runner, over the years I have taken on several challenges from the London Marathon in my running days, to several years on my trusty bike around our local roads with the odd annual cycling challenge, which to date has included rides such as Mont Ventoux in the Alps, Col du Tourmalet in the Pyrenees and The Fred Whitton Challenge last year in the Lake District.
Towards the end of last year I decided it was time to set myself a new challenge. At my desk all day with the sun shinning in through my window, I thought ‘this is doing nothing for my level of fitness – I need to get out on my bike’. The time had come for a ride that has been on my bucket list for some years; As a massive folllower of the Tour de France, it had to be L’Etape.
First held in 1993, and now organised by the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), in conjunction with Vélo Magazine, L’Etape takes place each July, normally on a Tour rest day. The ride allows the public to take part in a single stage of the Tour, and is usually held over mountain roads in either the Pyrenees or French Alps and often includes climbs such the Col du Galibier and Col d’Aubisque or Col du Tourmalet. Around 15,000 riders enter the L’Etape from all over the world; roads are closed to traffic, refreshment stops and medical support are all provided.
This year’s Etape route will run from Megeve to Morzine and will find me up 4 Cols, including Col de Joux Plane – which is the most challenging – over a distance of approximately 146km. It’s a very tough ride, certainly the toughest I’ll have undertaken to date, but it just has to be done!
As part of my training programme for L’Etape I am once again taking part in The Fred Whitten Challenge in The Lake District this year, which takes place on Sunday May 8th. Slightly concerning is that I’ve had to put off my training for the Whiten up in Cumbria this weekend, being laid up with a nasty chest cold. I’ve been training consistently throughout the winter months but was hoping practice in the Lakes would come in handy as it includes some quite tough climbs including Hardknott Pass, Wyrnose and Kirkstone and Honister, The Fred Whitton itself provides an excellent training opportunity in preparation for tackling the Cols in July.
As soon as my cold clears up I’ll be out on my bike again and hope I’ve done enough to see me up those Lake District climbs. And then, along with many others, I’m looking forward to the start of the Tour on July 2nd, and with some amount of trepidation to L’Etape! The problem is, what shall I tackle next year?