As I mentioned in my last post, I am planning a return to France next year to ride l’Étape du Tour. I did the 2007 edition (Foix to Loudenvielle) and finished top 500 with a silver medal time – and beat Greg Lemond (true – read it!). A silver medal time, however, is not a gold medal time – unfinished business! The 2007 edition was unrelentingly difficult due to its length (120 mi) and 5 mountain passes (totaling 14k feet of ascent) that included the Cat1 Col de Menté and Col de Peyresourde and the H.C. Col du Port de Balès – it was a crushing, grueling route… and I loved it! It is considered by many to have been the most difficult Étape ever held. I’m hoping the 2010 edition will another hard stage – even finishing seems like an accomplishment, and multiple climbs throughout the stage also works to thin out the crushing crowds early enough to make some elbow room for the bulk of the stage. Compare this to the feedback I heard from this past year’s Étape, which was that the route was too easy leading up to the one real climb of the day – Mont Ventoux – resulting in a clog of riders all coming in to the climb together.
In a comment to my previous post, Jim mentioned rumors that the 2010 route will be from Luchon-du-Bagneres to the top of the Col d’Aubisque, with climbs up the Col de Peyresourde, Col d’Aspin, Col du Tourmalet, and of course Col d’Aubisque. Following up on that comment, I found the Steephill.tv Bike Travelogue website, which is keeping track of 2010 Tour de France rumors. In their September 15 update they reported this:
Paddy Sweeney of Velo Peloton Vacances cyclisme has in sent some new 2010 Tour de France route scoop: “Stage finish on Col d’Aubisque on 21st July after crossing Peyresourde, Aspin, Tourmalet and Soulor. Tour crossed same mountains on 21st July 1910… That’s 4 mountain top finishes in the Pyrenees. Others still talking about Luz Ardiden and Col du Spandells and Argeles-Gazost. A lot of hotel bookings for 20, 21 , 22 in and around Pau. I would not be surprised if the stage to Col d’Aubisque is also the Etape de Tour.”
Jim appears to be right about the rumored route (maybe this is where he saw it). Though not as long as in 2007 (~85 miles), it resembles the 2007 route in its five mountain passes – both including the Col de Pyresourde! In addition, as a “Centennary Stage”, there will be a huge sense of history to go along with the Etape experience itself if, indeed, this route is used for the Étape.
Like 2007, I’ll ride the Étape and then stay through to the end of the Tour, watching the final stage in Paris from the Grandstand (our seats were at 125m to go!). Unlike 2007, my wife will travel with me from the start rather than meeting up with me for the final week (although I haven’t yet talked her into riding the Etape!). The latest Steephill update shows the following dates for the last 8 stages of the Tour:
17 July: Rodez – Revel
18 July: Revel – Luchon
19 July: Rest Day
20 July: Bagnéres de Luchon – Col de Aubisque
21 July: Tourmalet ITT
22 July: Pau – Arette
23 July: Pau – Bordeaux
24 July: Bordeaux ITT
25 July: Paris
Two ITTs – one up the Tormalet, and a few days later a traditional, longer, penultimate stage ITT! How great is that?! Of course, things can change, but we will know within the next couple of weeks when the official route announcement is made.
Copyright Ted C. MacRae 2009