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The L’Etape du Tour 2019 started in Albertville. Via the Cormet de Roselend and the Côte de Longefoy the race went up to Val Thorens. A not very steep, but with 33 kilometers very long final climb. Three climbs, 4,500 meters of elevation and very hot temperatures.
The ride to the start
The first 25 kilometers I already had in my legs before the start. This was the distance from the closest accommodation I could find. The route led flat along the Isere. But still it was a ride of one hour.
At seven I reached my starting block. 7:37 was our starting time. The start is celebrated at L’Etape du Tour. With pennants across the street, a curtain to cycle through, of course music, a speaker and Didi Senf, the famous tour devil.
To the first climb: Cormet de Roselend
The first 20 kilometers were already slightly uphill. It went by quickly. Then the first climb was reached. 20 kilometers uphill to the Cormet de Roselend. Of course, the 4,563 elevation meters have to come from somewhere.
The head began top work
The head began to work: Only these 20 kilometers are to survive. Then the short, small hill in the middle of the track. And then the final 33 kilometers to Val Thorens, I already can do with fighting. 1:36 I needed after official time measurement to the summit of the Cormet de Roselend. But also to the first feeling of happiness. A very nice climb.
Power for the downhill
One should not expect downhill in the Alps to be just sliding down the hill. Especially not in a “race”. You do not have to watch out for cars. Instead you have watch out for riders who are overtaking and who rush down the slope with more courage. Others, in principle, drive ideal line, without paying attention to competitors. You need some power in your arms to brake for the curves. At the end of the downhill my first short stop for food.
Côte de Longefoy
Only about 10 kilometers it was flat to the “small hill”, the Côte de Longefoy. The length of the climb was only seven kilometers. So I thought. But after the “summit” but it was still about five additional kilometers uphill. I could have known that …
Climb to Val Thorens
Only about five kilometers flat and 100 kilometers were done. That meant the beginning of the climb to Val Thorens was reached. And another refreshment point.
The final climb began. The stop after 100 kilometers was really necessary. But after a stop, the legs are not refreshed. The start was difficult. It takes some time to regain a rhythm. And the first cyclists were already sitting and lying down on the roadsideat the beginning of the slope. That does not make cycling any easier. The head is working again. The temptation is great to stop as well. But then it will be even more difficult to reach the finish line in Val Thorens. At least the 18 kilometers to the refreshment point at about half way of the climb I had to reach. 18 kilometers! Almost two hours. For only half of the climb!
Biting, pedaling, riding out of the saddle, rhythm. Try turning off the head. As far as possible. Again and again cyclists in the way. Why are they always cycling on the left side? The head stayed on. I could only think of the length of the climb and how many more kilometers I still had to cycle. The temptation to stop was high.
Finally the refreshment area was reached
After a felt eternity, the refreshment area was reached. Here I had allowed myself to stop. Finally. While walking I realized how done I was. I was a bit dizzy. Drink, drinking a lot and eat. Refill energy. There were still 15 kilometers to go. Sitting down. Relaxing. Lying down is better. That felt good and I had to do it. Drink more, eat more and keep sitting down. No idea how much time I took. Now it was all about reaching the finish line only.
The stomach was filled. I couldn’t eat and drink any more. Nevertheless, I did not feel re-energized. At some point, I started automatically to continue cycling. What was that? It went downhill! Only for a short bit but the fast gained meters gave new motivation. The finish line came closer a lot faster than expected. A little further up it went again a short distance downhill. And it also seemed to be flatter. Another five kilometers! Almost there! You could already see Val Thorens in the distance.
The last bit
Three more kilometers! Then I looked up. A spontaneous spasm in the right thigh. Not anymore with me today, it seemed to tell me. I couldn’t continue anymore. The cramps I had before it disappeared while cycling. This one didn’t. I had to stop. Huge switchbacks. Far above. I stopped just briefly. I could rest right at the finish.
It got steep again in the last three kilometers. Here were already campers. Are they here because of us? Will they stay here until the tour stage in six days? Both alternatives made no sense.
The first gallery, the writing on the road telling about “Deutschlandtour” in Erfurt. I saw the boys painting when I drove my car to the finish the day before. Then the last gallery was reached just before the entrance to the village.
The “Flamme Rouge”, the last kilometer. It went downhill! But I knew the track from the previous day and I knew it was going uphill again. And certainly 500 meters long. To the finish line. Biting one last time was the order of the day. And then it was done!
All for a medal
At the finish I got a medal as finishers of L’Etape du Tour 2019. And watermelon! It was announced as a highlight. But there was not much more. Water. And beer. But no non alcoholic beer. In general, the food is different than in Germany. Non-alcoholic is practically unknown in France. And Coca Cola is the sports drink No. 1. To me it is unclear. Well. In any case, healthy or sports nutrition was almost non-existent.
Statistics of L’Etape du Tour 2019
At the webpage of L’Etape du Tour one can read that 12,760 riders were at the start. 10,134 reached the finish. That means more than 2,500 gave up the race or arrived after the official finish of the race. Since the track for cars was released only after the end of the event, I watched the race until it’s very end. There were latecomers good half an hour after the final vehicle passed. And even as I was already on my way home, some did still cycle up the hill or rested on the street to continue and try to make it up to the finish line in Val Thorens.
16.000 registrations were officially announced. Even an additional 16th starting block was amended. Another figure is also surprising: 3,240 registered non-starters. L’Etape du Tour is an event of big numbers.
After finishing in midfield last year, my target for this year was a place in the top third. At the end, I finished on rank 5,644 with a time of 8:43:32 out of 10,134 finishers. Again midfield. Last year I was disappointed in the end because I thought I could have done better. This year I was happy to reach the finish line. It was the longest ride on the bike I’ve done so far anyway. Even my farthest tride, 226 kilometers from Dresden to Berlin, I made a little faster.
Summary of the event L’Etape du Tour
There is still missing a summary of the event. Last year, I was thoroughly enthusiastic. Not quite like this year. Both the start in Albertville and the finish in Val Thorens did not reach the l’Etape du Tour towns in 2018, Annecy and Le Grand Bornand. The finish in Le Grand Bornand was in the center of the town. Beautiful and with many spectators. In Val Thorens, the finish line was about 500 meters outside in a “scree desert”. The pasta party was quite nice last year. This year it was quite far behind the finish line. To far for my tired legs to walk there.
Same applies to the start in the Olympic Park in Albertville. Atmosphere of a parking lot. In Annecy, the starting area was practically in the city center, along the lake. The same event can be so different. For my next participation, I’ll take a closer look at the venues first. There is actually some effort behind the participation. This year I had to do about a 1,300-kilometer drive. And for the way back the same thing.