Two big mountain stages, one in the Alps and one in the Pyrenees

The Etape du Tour is one of the highlights of the European sportive calendar and is the yearly goal of many a British rider. Last year saw the event split into two, with the tough medium mountain stage of Issoire to St Flour somewhat eclipsed by the chance to ride the Galibier and Alpe d'Huez.

This year though there's two equally tough challenges, in fact it's difficult to say which would be the bigger draw. On the one hand there's a summit finish alpine stage that may well be decisive in the race itself; on the other a long Pyrenean day with five legendary climbs. Let's have a look...

Acte 1: Albertville - La Toussuire, Les Sybelles, Sunday 8 July 2012

Okay it's not the longest stage at 140km, but you'd better believe you're in for a tough day. From the start at 345m the first job is to crest the 2,000m Col de la Madeleine, so that's a vertical mile of climbing in the first 40km. Then a huge descent into St Etienne de Cuines before a second hike a mile into the sky, over the 2,067 Col de la Croix de Fer.

A quick bump of the Col du Mollard on the way down deposits you at St Jean de Maurienne, ahead of the final climb to the ski station at La Toussuire at an altitude of 1,705m. That looks like a hard day at the office for the pros, and promises to be a real grind for all you sportivistes too.

Acte 2: Pau - Bagnères de Luchon, Saturday 14 July

The Aubisque. The Soulour. The Tourmalet. The Aspin. The Peyresourde. Five names that pretty much guarantee a hard day at the office. The Tourmalet, at 2,115m, is the king of them all, It's climbed from the longer side on this route meaning a 1,650m vertical ascent from Adast. After that and the 1,709m Aubisque, the Aspin will seem like a walk in the park.

Then it's just the steep and tricky Peyresourde before you can barrel down into Bagneres for a well earned cuppa. At 197km it's a long mountain stage too, and there's very little in the way of flat valley sections. If you're not going up, the you're going down.

So which one do you fancy? There's no easy option. With the massively increased capacity from two separate etapes there's a bit less competition for places, but you can still expect both to sell out before the event. If you're going from the UK there's a good number of travel companies offering packages to suit most pockets, so have a shop around to see who's offering what. And get training!

Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.


CycleGringo [92 posts] 5 years ago

Act 2 is a belter of a route! After watching the tour route the other day I thought this is going to be a good one both for the pros and the us lesser mortals.

Act 1 short as it is is a nice route.

Its a shame it is on the 8th as I was hoping it would be on the TDF rest day the 10th. I was hoping to do it the day after La Marmotte which I take it will be on the 7th. Wow but to much for me.

Anyway will be good to watch at least. Something to look forward to over the cold winter months ahead  1

othello [392 posts] 5 years ago

Phew, the both look tough.  39

There will be plenty of people going to Act 1, thinking it is easier and not doing enough training for it. I predict a high drop-out rate. At least those doing Act 2 will know what they doing and be more geared up to what the challenge entails.

37monkey [138 posts] 5 years ago

Just booked act 2  35 , now I just have to learn how to ride uphill  31

WolfieSmith [1380 posts] 5 years ago

They both look like killers to me. From Act 2 I remember the Solour and the Tourmalet from 2010's route (where the traffic jam on the Col Du Marie Blanque prompted the two route system) but this looks very tough. Glad I've hung up my Etape shorts now and can just nod in a knowing manner as true retired vets (with no intention of ever testing my middle aged frame like that again) can.

hagi [22 posts] 5 years ago

Stayed in La Toussuire for this years Etape, long cycle up! Didn't do it all but it's a tough finish to a tough looking stage.