Eagerly anticipating the rumours of the Tour’s route for 2016, our patience was finally rewarded with the announcement confirming that the Tour will be taking place on our training roads! So, once again, bike, Gopro in hand & Van in tow, Yellovelo has been hitting the route to video recce it for anyone attempting this legendary sportive. To have mental picture of what you are about to encounter helps with your training and anticipate what is to come when riding the route for yourself.
October can be an unpredictable month to ride, what with cold and frosty mornings, dull days, shorter daylight hours and early snow on the high cols, but it’s a beautiful month with the changing of the leaves and quiet roads and with the Tours announcement at this time of the year, it gives it an extra bit of excitement to the season ahead and what is in store!
It will be the second time Alex gets to ride the Etape on local terrain that he has been riding since a young boy. Back in 2002, the Etape was between Aime & Cluses, where Alex grew up and it finished right in front of his primary school! What a feeling to have such an event roaring around the streets you played in as child! When the Tour hits our small Alpine villages, it intoxicates you and you feel part of what is really, a celebration of the sport and the incredible achievements of man on his bike!
This year, we could literrally ride it with our eyes shut, not that you would want to miss the stunning views along the way! Knowing the course is essential and such an advantage but on the other hand, for Alex, knowing what’s coming has a slight disadvantage as he’ll know where it’s gonna hurt!
150kms, barely a km of flat terrain and the toughest climb at the end of the stage. Just shy of 4000m climbing, it’s gonna be a tough one even though you’ll never climb above 1700m in altitude! The lower Alps may appear gentle when compared to the giants, mountains with summits above 2000mts and the wild and barren appearance, but!, and we say but!, this doesn’t mean for one moment any of these climbs are easy! There are very cheeky elevations and corners when descending that will keep you on your toes and hungry for victory!
Today is a typical autumn day in the Alps, slighty chilly in the morning, warming up gradually and with such an array of colours and a lingering light spray of snow on the high peaks around.
Straight out of Megève, you need to get ready for a very fast start. The first 10kms are mainly downhill and with all the excitment, we’d bet on your trip computer indicating around 50km/h. Enjoy the descent because as you get to “Le Curtillet” you’ll turn left for the first “kick” of the day. About 1km in and at 8% you should start to warm your legs up before you head down the Lacets de Flumet where the first real climb starts. It’s begun!
Col des Aravis, 11,7kms, 600m D+, 5% average
As soon as you ride across the narrow Flumet bridge, you’ll need to get out of the saddle where the first kilometer and a half is about a 7% gradient. Following the Flumet bridge, it will then be a succession of short descents and “false flat” sections up, until you reach the bridge before La Giettaz. From here, with just 6kms to the top between 6 & 8% you’ll start getting a taste for what’s ahead. The marker to look out for indicating the last 1km or so, would be the short tunnel.The last 300m as you approach the top, ease off a bit before you startheading down for the descent. No time for reblochon, a walk round or a peek at thesouvenir shops selling cow skins, you’ll be thinking more on the fact it’s, 1 col down, 3 to go! Wide road, good surface, no blind corners, quite straightforward descent, just watch out for road furniture as you cycle across La Clusaz but apart from that, this will be the “easiest” descent of the day. 2kms after St Jean de Sixt, you enter Le Grand Bornand where the next climb starts….
Col de la Colombière, 12kms, 700m D+, 6% average
In our opinion, the “easiest” col of the day. The first 6km are on a wide road with very wide hairpins and a very steady gradient of 5 or 6% all the way to Le Chinaillon. The next 6kms will get steeper and steeper until you reach the top with the last km around 9%.
2 cols down, 2 to go!
The Colombière descent happens in 3 different sections. The first section down to Le Reposoir will be fast for the first 3kms on a very narrow and bumpy road (no crash barriers) and very technical over the following 4kms. Once you get to Le Reposoir, you will have to pedal for about 3kms along the river. This might be a good place to refuel and stretch! The third section of the descent will take you down to Scionzier. This section is quite technical as well. You’ll be descending at speed through the forest, which will play with your eyes as you go from sun to shade, shade to sun, so focus and concentration will need to be your strong skills here. It is a good surfaced road down to “Blanzy” where you’ll then reach the main road just before Scionzier. Scionzier is in the valley nestled up to the motorway A40 which many of you may have driven on previously to get here!
From the bottom of the Colombière descent (Scionzier) to the foot of Ramaz (Mieussy), you’ll be coming across an 18km long stretch which is mainly “slightly” uphill. What should be on your mind once you reach Scionzier is, FIND A GROUP!
That section is gonna take a lot out of you if you’re on your own, so best to wait for a group to save as much energy as you can. This is gonna be a very good opportunity to eat something and spin your legs before the next 2 climbs.
Out of Marignier, you’ll be cycling along the river “Giffre” and at this stage it may look quite inviting for a quick dip but you have more important things to think about! Possible headwind here until the St Jeoire roundabout where you turn right and technically start climbing from here even though the official Ramaz start is 5kms further in Mieussy. When riding out of Mieussy, you’ll pass by the cheese co-operative which marks the start of the next climb. Unfortunately no stopping here for a slice of cheese either! Fleur would most certainly find this the hardest part of the Etaep should she ever embark on it!
Col de la Ramaz, 14kms, 1000m D+, 7% average
As soon as you start climbing by the church, you’re on 8 or 9% for about 2kms until “L’Arly”. The road here will go downhill for about 300m. Enjoy it, it’s gonna be your only “real” rest for the duration of the way up. If you get a chance and on a clear day, you’ll be able to spot the Mont Blanc in the background. A good distraction that will hopefully distract you from the pain your now enduring or from what’s to come next! Iif you look up towards the white cliff, you’ll be able to see the road further up with its landmark tunnel.
After Messy, the road kicks up again around 7% until “L’Epine” where the real mountain starts. This next section is gonna be the hardest for about 3kms (average 10%) until you reach the tunnel. As you’re already working very hard to get out of the tunnel, you’re gonna have to work even harder for about 300m after the tunnel where you reach le Plateau de Sommand. The scenery is spectacular as you ride the final 4 kms. The gradient will now ease off for a fair bit (now 4-5%) but will get steeper the nearer you get to the top with the last km at 8%.
3 cols down, 1 to go!
Ramaz descent! Watch out! After a pretty straightforward 4kms going through Le Praz de Lys, the next 4km section from Col de la Savolière where you’ll see a couple of ski shops and the cross-country skiing center is gonna very fast and technical. The gradient is gonna make you dive down the road where you could easily reach 70km/h if you’re not careful! Your concentration will again, need to be top of your priorities!
You’ll come across a succession of steep and long straights and very tight hairpins. Then, you get to Pont des Gets where you join the main road down to Taninges. Taninges is the second place where you need to find a group. The next 15kms are gonna be lumpy until you get to Samoens, foot of the final climb. Last col but not the least and certainly not the easiest!! This is the daddy!
Col de Joux Plane, 11,7kms, 1000m D+, 8,5% average The toughest one! (Told you!)
Straight out of Samoens center, you know this climb means business! The first kilometer and a half around 10% is most certainly a rude introduction to the climb and at this point, it will hold no prisoners. Just the beginning of this final col will take everything you’ve got left out of you so make sure you have some reserves in the tank.
After 3,5kms, as you reach “La Combe aux Fées”, you’ll get a little rest (4,5%) before it kicks again. “Le Tour” hamlet or locally known as “Bin Corner” (this may not be evident if they move the wheelies bins away for the tour!), is the marker for the start of the steepest section of the climb. After “Bin Corner”, you turn left, climb a couple of hairpins and out of nowhere, the road steepens even more for about 500m where your trip computer should now say 12% (some do lie though!). As you reach a left hand side hairpin, the gradient eases off a bit and gives you a little rest through “La Combe Emeru”. From now on, it’s relentless! 5kms between 9 and 10% all the way to the top. Not even the hairpins will help you to stretch or rest. The last couple of kilometers are more or less in a straight line where you can assess how much further you got to go.
A restaurant with a savoyard flag (white cross on a red background – not the Swiss flag otherwise you are in the wrong country!), should be in sight by now! Getting to the top of Joux Plane should be a big relief but the climbing is not over yet! The sign for the col will just tease you as there is more to come till you reach the true top. You’ll cycle passed the lake, down to the right a restaurant Le Wetzet where the road goes UPHILL again. Hopefully you will not encounter a heard of goats like we did on the recce!
Another 300m at about 7% should definitely take the last drop of energy you’ve got left in you. You finally reach Col du Ranfolly where the descent starts. Nearly over! The descent which is a pleasure to ski on in the winter, is a narrow road, a bit bumpy and very technical. As you’ll be feeling empty and probably emotional, take it easy down Joux Plane as it can be quite fast in some places. At the bottom of the descent, Morzine sign in sight on your right, last couple of hairpins, you’ve nearly made it! Turn left at the Sporting hotel, don’t head straight ahead!, then left again at the roundabout passed the fire station and take left at the cemetery roundabout. Continue downhill along the river turning left again at the Mairie. Here it goes again! UPHILL but an epic final sprint over the last 400m to the long anticipated finish line!
You’ve made it! What an achievement, what a ride! Be careful not to fall off your bike as you get off! Legs may be a tad wobbly! Enjoy the glory and go for a well earned pint! Well done!
Things to remember :
NB : Don’t trust the official profile! The course is 150kms, not 146. Aravis is not 7kms long but 12kms and the last ramp up Ranfolly after Joux Plane is not 3% but 7%! It often makes us wonder if those who draw up the profiles, actually ride it themselves?
Best way to get a feel of it : Come and ride it with us! Whether you’re going to join us on our Etape Training Camp 2016 or want a bespoke training ride or two. Visit www.yellovelo.com or drop us a line at email@example.com and we’ll set something up that’s just for you!
Good Luck everyone and enjoy!!