Etape du Tour 2016 at your leisure!
So now that we know the route of the 2016 Tour de France the next question is what will be the Etape du Tour? We now know that as well - the penultimate stage between the ski resorts of Megève and Morzine (Stage 20) in the alps (Haute-Savoie). It's only short - 146km - but there are 4 climbs each of increasing difficulty to crest (Col des Aravis, Col de la Colombière, Col de la Ramaz, and Col de Joux Plane).
Funnily enough my interest in actually riding the Etape du Tour has waned over the years. I have ridden it before and enjoyed the experience at the time. It's certainly one for the bucket list.
But do I really want to ride with 15,000 other riders, get into a bun fight (literally) at the feed stations and battle to flea from the broom wagon?
However, I still like to know what route has been chosen since I see it almost as a benchmark for what a keen cyclist (as opposed to a recreational cyclist) would be deemed capable of.
looking at the route it's going to be very pretty and definitely a course I would like to ride at some point - preferably, given my current fitness, at a leisurely pace! It is short enough that it could still make a pleasant day out without being a survival fest.
I have previously ridden all of those cols, albeit from different sides, apart from Ramaz. I was staying in Geneva at the time, so on one day I did an out and back bike ride up to Joux Plane. It was just a case of going along a road next to Lac Leman as far as Thonon les Bains and then turning south. From there the road began to climb, and climb, and climb. Naturally it was a bit of a slog, but the high mountains were quite spectacular, and I preferred to keep my eye on them than the sterile looking resort of Morzine!
The following day I began my multi-day ride towards Nice. That first part involved riding to Le Grand Bornand via Col de la Colombière. It was pouring with rain and as I crossed the border into France a friendly border policeman warned me to be very careful for it wasn't going to be an easy ride. And didn't I know it!
I crawled up at about four miles an hour with my panniers in the rain. When it wasn't raining visibility was down to around 5 metres so I had no idea what anything looked like. In fact I didn't even know when I reached the summit! It was only when suddenly my pedalling became less laboured, then I didn't need to pedal that I realised the climbing had finished. That was such a relief but boy, was it cold. It was great to finally arrive at my hotel in the Le Grand-Bornand where the hotel manager, the sweetest guy, took pity on me when I rocked up dripping wet and bedraggled! It was just a great shame that I didn't see anything of the landscape on the Col de la Colombière in two hours of pedalling!
The following day I rode Col des Aravis (along with Col des Saisies and Cormet de Roselend), which was a much sunnier day. If you get the chance (which you probably won't if you are trying to meet the average speed in L'Etape du Tour) stop and take a few photos. Lots of wooden alpine huts adorn the mountain villages of St Jean de Sixt and Flumet, along with mountain goats and cows and the ski resort of La Clusaz.
Anyway, that's enough reblochon from me except to say get over there and explore the place. It's worth a visit! I hope to return to Haute-Savoie as I have great memories of the place - and hopefully I will actually see the landscape around the Col de la Colombière - at my leisure!