ETAPE DU TOUR 2015
YELLOVELO Etape Du Tour 2015 Training Camp
21st – 27th June 2015
FOR MORE DETAILS ON TRAINING CAMPS, CLINICS AND BESPOKE RIDES
08.30hrs – 2°C
We woke after spending the night in a surprisingly very cycle friendly Hotel, had breakfast and prepped for the day’s ride ahead. It was fresh and the sun was coruscating all over the awesome peaks. You could smell the fresh Mountain Dew and the adrenaline was starting to course through all of us!
Alex was itching for weeks to ride the new Etape Du Tour route and recce it for our new training camp over the summer of 2015. We’d even roped our two friends into coming and doing it with us! More the merrier we always say! The Tour De France announced the route and we were set to go. ” Should be fun”, said Alex! What we didn’t bank on after weeks and weeks of very mild weather in the Alps, was a sprinkling of snow just two days before! All we could do, was watch the reports for Col Closures and the weather on the day and play it by ear. We weren’t going to be defeated before we even set off!
So, all wrapped up and getting the bikes, van and camera equipment ready, we left St Jean De Maurienne and headed up the first Col. The Col Du Chaussy starts surprisingly quick and steep as you enter the village of Hermillon. Heading straight into a good 8% climb will certainly wake you up in the morning. It stays with you for 3km then sneaks in another percent on top! Just before you reach the sleepy village of Montvernier you get a little rest but the main distraction from your legs being so rudely awakened, is the breathtaking scenery of these simply awesome mountains.
A little further up the climb, you begin to snake around a very cool stretch of the route. Rocky overhangs and steep precipices are a beautiful if not scary distraction but you’ll need to keep your eyes on the road looking out for fallen rocks! Views get even more stunning! This will hopefully take your mind off the fact that this is indeed the steepest part of the climb forcing you to get out the saddle to tackle the 14% climb at this stage. The road does level out around the corner and separates you more from the precipices as you head towards Montpascal but kicks at 8% to the top, 2kms away. The Col Du Chaussy’s average gradient is apparently 6.3% but my Polar didn’t go much below 7% for most of the climb. Enough said!
On this first climb, you do get periods of rest to make your screaming legs feel slightly better for a bit but it’s not for very long and certainly didn’t feel long enough! You need to be really disciplined to pace yourself from the very bottom of the climb as you don’t have a lot of time to warm up as you’re riding out of St Jean De Maurienne to the foot of the climb.
Once at the top, we did the obligatory photos and selfies by the sign of the Col Du Chaussy before getting layered up for the descent down to the valley floor. The descent down from Chaussy is very technical as it’s narrow down the first part before entering a few “false flat” sections. The woods provide what in the summer will be some very welcomed shade but for us in late October, it proved tricky with frost and ice on the road in the dark corners! On the last part of the descent, you get to where the road parts, one direction to the Col De La Madeleine and the other to where we were heading. The road here is much wider and easier to navigate the corners. Watch out for speed bumps upon entering La Chambre! This slowed the support vehicle down considerably but on the bike, if you get your bum out of the saddle and approach them with a good technique, they don’t interfere much with the descent. Speed bumps seem to breed like rabbits in this valley, so keep your eyes peeled!
Arriving in La Chambre, you turn right and head down to the valley floor which is extremely misinterpreted, as being ” a flat loop up and down the valley”. Believe us, it’s not as flat as people make out! As you’re riding, sandwiched between the motorway and the foot of the Madeleine, you approach a kick of 8/9% for 500m just before you reach Gondran. The next kick in this “flat loop”, is another 8% one for 2km then levelling out to 3/4% as you get nearer to St Rémy De Maurienne. If you’re racing the Etape, try to hook up with a small peloton for that loop out of La Chambre to keep your legs spinning, reserving as much energy as you can for what’s coming next!
Col Du Glandon is your next climb and what you’re saving your strength for. It’s a biggie! The biggest of this Etape. We’ll split this climb into two sections.
When leaving St Etienne De Cuines, you’re straight out of the saddle for the first 8% ramps. Over the 8kms of this part the gradients fluctuates between 7 and 10% with a few kicks. All this before elevenses too! You’ll get a short opportunity to rest your legs through the hairpins. After what seems a very long 8km you’ll be rewarded with more of a proper rest for 3km to St.Colomban Des Villards till you reach the La Chal Bridge. Section 2 – The daddy of the climb that is unrelenting for 9kms, never under 9% and with the best till last of the final 3 km in double figures! This is by far the steepest and hardest part of the route and you’ll be already quite tired by then after having over 2000m of climbing in your legs by then. Granny gear is compulsory and NOT a cop out as you have another two more climbs to go after Glandon!
Another obligatory photo shoot at the top of the Col and a well deserved lunch stop of some carb soaked pasta, energy infused flapjacks, banana cake, brioche and rocket fuel (coffee), lovingly prepared and dished out by the ladies. This also gave us food for thought of what we’d just accomplished as well as time for contemplating our strategy for the next couple of climbs.
From Col Du Glandon to Col De La Croix De Fer will feel much easier to what you’ve previously experienced albeit still at 7% but with a short descent before seeing the top of the Col De La Croix De Fer in the distance 2kms away.
Another quick stop here for us to wrap up once again for what will be the easiest descent of the day, 6km of free wheeling which we found a lot of fun and so will you if you manage to avoid all the little rocks on the road and are able to take in any of the breathtaking views. The support van enjoyed this part the most! There are plenty of hairpins, no blind corners and good surfaces until you pass through the resort of St Sorlin D’Arves where you’ll be plagued with speed bumps, pot holes and cracks in the road, people crossing and milling about aimlessly and the occasional tractors too!
Between St Sorlin D’Arves and the foot of the Col Du Mollard you will encounter a “false flat” where you’ll need to start pedalling and possibly battle a strong headwind. This is a great opportunity to refuel by pulling out your snacks and energy bar supplies.
Third climb of the day and no, you’re not done yet and yup, there is more to go after! The Col Du Mollard which was aptly nicknamed “Col Du Mullered” by our support crew! I think the looks on our faces was a clear indication of this and that this Etape Du Tour certainly separates the men from the boys! 6km at an average of 6.7% and from the very bottom you’re straight into facing up to 9% in sections for about 3km. Another opportunity for a small rest as you traverse the little hamlet of Les Rieux. With 2.5kms left to go up this climb, you are strongly urged to look up and you’ll see buildings at the top. Passing by a local cafe on the last right handed hairpin it levels out for the last 300 meters. At this stage, you have 107 kms in your legs and you’ve climbed 3500 meters with one more climb to go!
Now is time to watch out as you’ll be mentally tired and slower to react and this is a very tricky descent. Narrow roads, lots of shade, blind corners, tight hairpins are all in this one! As you approach the bridge, it eases off. Yellovelo support had a tricky descent too, having to deal with a wrong turn Alex took through Albiez Le Vieux and having a very small turning circle to get back on track! Not quite so agile as a bike! Alex who has a built-in GPS in his brain and is always 99.9999% (recurring), sure of his route, didn’t live that one down for long! Once back on track and what seemed like a game of cat and mouse, we caught back up Alex’s riding companion on the “false flat” and final stretch of the descent back into St Jean De Maurienne. Little kick by the Cemetery (you may wish to rest here at this point!), over the small roundabout and then left at the big roundabout with a huge pocketknife sculpture in the middle of it. This is the foot of the last climb.
18 kms to the finish line! It’s now a mental challenge to the top. You’ll need to visualise the top and crossing that finish line to make it that much easier to ride up this last part of the stage. Saying that, it is probably the “easiest” climb of the entire Etape that you will encounter on the day of the event. Not to lead you in a false sense of security, the first 3kms at 8% are the hardest but then it’s 6% pretty much all the way to the top with rests through Fontcouverte and Villarembert. Watch out for where the road splits before Villarembert, La Toussuire is sign posted 5 kms to the right but you are riding there via the dogs leg through Le Corbier which is an additional 3kms to the left! Sorry! Le Corbier Village is where Chris Froome attacked Sir Bradley Wiggins back in 2012 up the 8% ramp just before entering the village. Unlike Chris Froome, you’ll probably want to attack a hot bath a pint and bed at this point! The road levels out after Le Corbier with only 3kms to go! At this stage, Yellovelo support whizzes past with AC/DC blaring out for encouragement for the boys on their final ascent and our extreme photographer signs a huge sigh of relief at the prospect of not having to precariously hang out of the window anymore for award winning shots!
Final turn to the left, 800 meters to go, 300 meters of which is a delightful ramp of 8%!, and finally, the road reserved for winners and the finish line in sight! At this stage you may want to adjust your jersey zip, let go of your handle bars, raise your arms, pose like a pro and celebrate that feeling of absolute awesomeness as you cross that famous finish line and join the Etape Du Tour ” I’ve done it” club!
142 Kms 4 Climbs 4600m D+
YELLOVELO TIME – Just under 7hrs Avg Speed 20.8km phr
We chased the light and couldn’t have timed crossing the finish line in La Toussuire more perfectly, as after even more obligatory photos by the La Toussuire finish sign, we pilled kit, bikes and sweaty bodies into the support van and headed off to the nearest all you can eat diner!
What a day! What an amazing ride and adventure! What fun!!!!! What an achievement and what a drive! We could go on……. We were buzzing for long after!
Make sure you prepare well for this! It’s not a walk in the park by any means and this will test you on every level. It’s a tough course undoubtedly with its 4 climbs and very technical descents! The gain in elevation on this Etape Du Tour is close to the Marmotte!
Look out for the climb profile that is provided by the organiser. It is not always very accurate and you would benefit doing a little more research into the route for yourself. It felt much steeper than what was anticipated, especially up the Col Du Chaussy which was the only climb on this route that was new to us.
Preparing well for this great event is your best weapon to attack the Etape and to be able to train on the very roads you’ll be riding on is one step ahead of the competition. If you are participating in the Etape Du Tour 2015, come and train with us at YELLOVELO, a few weeks before the event!! If you are not entering but would like to experience a sample of this incredible event or even try before you enter in perhaps a future sportive at this level, then sign up to this amazing training experience!
YELLOVELO Etape Du Tour 2015 Training Camp 21st – 27th June.
Certainly a bucket list ride for any accomplished road cyclist! See you in 2015!
FOR MORE DETAILS ON TRAINING CAMPS, CLINICS AND BESPOKE RIDES visit www.yellovelotours.co.uk
Video footage of the route visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fiXzbm6bhLQ