Etape Du Tour ride report

27 07 2009

A week ago today 4 of us took part in the Etape du Tour, the race started in Motelimar in Southern France and followed the route of stage 21 of this years Tour de France.

The race started at 7am and along side us on the grid included the national road race champion of France, Green jersey winner of the Tour De France, Erik Zabel and our own world hour record holder and Olympic champion Chris Boardman.

Rob and Philip at the start

The ride was 170km and took in some wonderful countryside on the way to the classic Mont Ventoux. As the huge peloton snaked out of town, we all had to steady ourselves not to go too fast early on. The ride served up 4 smaller cols as hor’s derves before the huge entree that is Mont Ventoux. From 20km out it’s possible to see the summit, with it’s sinister radio mast perched on the top. It was though there was some invisible tracker beam winding you in, each pedal revolution bringing you a meter closer.

The route in contrast to the gradient was beautiful, we passed the picture postcard lavender fields and through the small villages that lines the route. School children lining the route chanting the customary “allez allez” to the lycra clad hoards who sped through their villages.

The route circumferences the entire mountain allowing you to refuel in the village Bedoin. This was the last chance to take on board more energy drinks. So with bidons brimming with liquids and chomping on the 5th banana for the day we set off to attack the mountain.

What a contrast to the earlier kilometres where the riders shared some gentle banter exchanging stories since the pulse rates were in control. The peloton now strung out had plunged into silence except the gentle whir of riders who still had the strength to turn the gears with enough force to move them forward at a decent speed. To the side, riders stood broken, their gleaming machines stationary as they tried to compose themselves for the next kilometre.

1 k to go

 

After 16km the forest ends abruptly where the trees give way to rocks, the bald mountain now reveals itself as the summit is still some 5km away. Campers vans parked here to see Contador dance on his pedals up the 10% gradient were now witnessing a line cycling refugees plodding upward eyes fixed on the radio mast up the road.

The Tom Simpson memorial is only 1200m from the summit, and provided the final boost to get over the line – even that was on a slope. Once there no energy left or indeed speed to manage the two handed salute to welcome victory. Each rider had fought their own battle to get there or even attempt the day. It’s a tremendous experience for all who take part and one the lives in the memory for a long time.

DSC_0087

 

Ed, Tim and Philip all finished well ahead of Chris Boardman.

Philip in 7:30

Ed in 7:40

Tim in 8.01

Rob’s ride ended just 6km from the end after having earlier serious mechanical issues that slowed his earlier progress


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