Wednesday, 22 July 2009

L’Etape du Tour

A Report from Danny frost.

A report on the Etape:

Géant de Provence - L’Etape du Tour

Mondovélo sous le soleil du Ventoux

Monday 21st July 2009 I awoke at 3:55am for an early breakfast and was took my place on the coach for the 2009 Etape Du Tour a route which mirrors stage 20 of this years Tour de France which finishes at the top of Mont Ventoux (the Giant of Provence). The ride commenced from Montélimar (Drôme) to the Mont Ventoux summit, with 172 km and 4 cat 3 / 4 climbs (côte de Citelle, col d'Ey, col de Fontaube, col de Notre-Dame des Abeilles) as a leg warmer before the Ventoux.

took my place with 8,500 others an hour before the start with the ride commencing at 7:00 am. The start of the Etape is a pure adrenalin rush with everone racing off to get into a good group. I fortunately found some good early groups and was travelling up to 27mph on the flat with my average speed rising. With three categorie 3 climbs completed I had an average of 21mph with around 3.5 hours completed. The penultimate climb was the col de Notre-Dame which was around 7km long and provided a decent of 9km on roads as wide as the A20 with speeds touching 50mph this was a breath taking descent. At the foot of the Ventroux with an average spped of 19mph all was going to plan. With one and half bottles of water remaining I decided not to stop at the base feed station and climb to the top. With the climb commencing and an intimidating sign pronouncing 24km to the top, the challenge was set. As I entered the first part of the climb, the infamous forest, the heat become a problem with a temperature of 40 degree Celsius; it was like riding in an oven. Having elected for a 25 rear gear I soon ran out of gears and then dragged my way up to around 10km. At this point I was down to half a bottle and it was getting hotter as there was no real tree cover. Fortunately at 6km to go there was a final water stop which provided much needed refreshments for the final push to the summit, Outside of the trees the gradient eased and with the Tom Simpson memorial at 1 km to finish the end was in sight. A mad dash up the final slope resulted in a time of around 7:17 and a place of 1200 out of 8500; which was a result I was pleased with, 1300 never made it! A sub 7:00hrs time was achievable but the heat and my choice of gearing had put pay to this. Recently crowned French road racing champion, Dimitri Champion won the event in 5 hours, 11 minutes.This was the toughest event I have ever done but one I would recommend to anyone.The crowds at the base of Ventoux were large with high numbers of people lining the slopes all the way to the top. This event really gives you a feel of the excitement and joy of riding a tour stage and the pain. Having vowed to myself I will never be doing this again, by morning I was thinking I wonder where next years event will be, do you fancy joining me?