As far as professional sport goes, pro cycling has long been one of the most accessible. The rarified air of Twickenham or Lord’s remains just that to the many weekend exponents of Cricket or Rugby. Take the sport out of a stadium however, and a whole world of possibility opens up.
It is the most tantalizing of possibilities for the aspiring cyclist that they too can cycle every inch of the Tour de France, if they were deranged enough to try it (and some certainly are). Those with more sense in their heads and less time on their hands will more often than not tackle iconic sections of the great race, and often compare their times with those of the professional peloton – often to much disappointment.
Such was the enthusiasm for riding the great climbs of the Tour that ASO (organisers of the Tour de France) decided to hold an amateur stage, on which a mix of elite amateurs and nervous office workers challenge themselves annually. ‘L’Etape du Tour’ now comes complete with feed stations, time checks, and even the dreaded to broom wagon to ‘sweep’ up you if you’re riding too slowly. The event has fast become a badge of honor for enthusiastic riders, and now pulls in a crowd of over 10,000 people and is one of the largest participation events in Europe.
In response, there are many guides to L’Etape springing up, as apprehensive competitors search desperately for their own ‘marginal gains’. After watching a few, perhaps the most pleasing to the eye is the guide produced by Team Sky and their sponsor Jaguar, which also contains a helpful recipe for the soon-to-be Etape riders.
L’Etape du Tour takes place on 7 July 2013, on the route of stage 20 of the Tour de France between Annecy and Annecy-Semnoz.