Etape du Tour 2011 - organisers confirm two rides for next year's event
Alpine event sees riders tackle Galibier en route to Alpe d'Huez, plus longer ride in Massif Central
With yesterday’s launch of the 2011 edition of the Tour de France in Paris still fresh in the mind, organisers ASO have this morning announced details of next year’s Mondovélo Étape du Tour, or more accurately Étapes, confirming widespread speculation that there will be two editions of the cyclosportive in July.
Billed as ‘Acte I’ and ‘Acte II,’ the events take place on Monday 11 and Sunday 17 July, the first covering just 109km from Modane-Valfréjus to Alpe d’Huez, the second 208km from Issoire to Saint-Flour.
Running two Étapes represent a departure from the Étape’s established format, which since the first event in 1993 has typically seen it follow the exact route of a stage from that year’s edition of the Tour in either the Alps or Pyrenees, taking in some of cycling’s iconic climbs along the way.
According to ASO, the decision to launch what it decribes as a “double challenge” was born from “the enthusiasm generated by the Étape du Tour over several years,” adding that it was becoming “complicated” to try to meet demand for the Étape and allow as many as possible to participate.
Earlier rumours that this would signal the start of a two-tier approach to the Étape, with entrants to the main Alpine or Pyrenean event required to have first taken part in a separate, possibly less taxing Étape, appear to be unfounded – indeed, ASO has said that there will be a combined classification for those undertaking both events.
‘Acte I,’ which finishes on the summit of the Alpe d’Huez, fits the more typical Étape profile, and follows the route of Stage 19 of next year’s race, although that in itself at 109km is much shorter than the typical Tour mountain stage – last year’s Étape, from Pau to the Col du Tourmalet, came in at 174km, for example.
That lack of distance will be balanced by some serious climbing, however, with the Col du Télégraph, 11.9km at an average of 7.1%, and the Col du Galibier, 16.7km at 6.8%, figuring before the final iconic ascent up the Alpe d’Huez, where the gradient averages 7.9% as the road heads uphill for 13.8km around those 21 famous hairpin bends towards the finish.
With 2011 marking the centenary of the Galibier’s first inclusion of the Tour de France, the ascent was always likely to figure in the Étape, and while the 189km Stage 18 which actually finishes on the summit would have fitted a more typical Étape profile, that was presumably ruled out due chiefly to the logistical difficulties involved in starting it in Italy – the stage begins in Pinerolo – and finishing in France.
However, with the Étape taking place a full 11 days before the peloton tackles the same route, the big crowds that often greet the event including fans claiming an early vantage point for the Tour itself may be missing this time around.
For different reasons, not least its relative lack of accessibility and the fact it isn’t being held in the showpiece arenas of the Alps or Pyrenees, spectators are also likely to be relatively thin on the ground for ‘Acte II,’ which mirrors the 208km that the peloton will have ridden from Issoire to Saint-Flour in the Massif Central only 24 hours previously.
It’s probably fair to say that Étape hopefuls from Britain would be more inclined to tackle the one in the Alps, not least because it is the opportunity to pit yourself against some of cycling’s most fabled climbs that helps make the coping with the logistical issues of getting yourself and your bike across the Channel worthwhile.
However, with three categorised climbs to be tackled along the way – the Col du Pras de Peyrol, the Col du Perthus and the Col du Prat de Bouc – it’s hardly a soft option, and with the course taking in the Gorges de l’Alagnon and the countryside of the Puy de Dôme, Haute-Loire and especially Cantal, the scenery will be as spectacular as that in the Alps.
Full details of how to enter have yet to be announced, and of course we will bring you news of them here on road.cc as soon as they become available.