One month ago, 9,000 riders crossed the finish line of the biggest cycling sportive in the world, the flagship of our series of events: L'Etape du Tour de France. But there's more to it than just a sportive on the Tour de France's roads.
Finally back after being cancelled for 2 years due to Covid-19, L’Etape du Tour was coming back with a really hard course. 167 km and 4700m of elevation were waiting for the 16,000 participants. 3 mythical climbs were on the menu: Col du Galibier, Col de la Croix de Fer and Alpe d’Huez. Out of the 3, the Col de la Croix de Fer was probably the hardest and the one which have been misjudged by a lot of riders. Some of them were already walking up this second climb with cramps, definitely not the best of indications with still more than 50 km to go!
L'Alpe d’Huez was the shortest of the 3 but proved to be a real struggle, especially with the heat and the lack of shade that provide this road and its 21 legendary hairpins.
At the front of the race, Stefan Kirchmair crossed the line first in 5:17:27 while the first woman was Flavia Oliveira in 6:31:58.
A race within the race
L’Etape du Tour de France is also where the winners of L’Etape Championships are crowned. L’Etape Championship is a competition running every year from July to July in which riders from all around the world compete. To qualify, you need to finish in the top 3 of any L’Etape by Tour de France event (separate classification for men and women), you will then automatically be at the start of L’Etape du Tour de France in the first wave to compete against L’Etape winners from other countries.
In the men’s race, Michal Kollert took the win by finishing 15th. He was the winner of L’Etape Czech Republic 2 months ago, of which he also finished second last year.
The women’s championship was won by Lais Saes from Brazil who finished second in the race! Coming from L’Etape Rio (2nd in 2022, 1st in 2021), it was quite an achievement to set foot on the podium of such a mountainous course.
The 2023 L’Etape Championships starts this weekend at L’Etape Edmonton!
Due to the Covid spike just before the event, many of our Social Riders could not come to L’Etape du Tour. Marek was the only one able to make the trip from Slovakia to Briançon. His height and weight are definitely his strength on flat terrain but were not a great advantage when 4700m of elevation await you! As he told us the day before during our training ride “I just hope to finish the race, and not to die on some climb”. That would be quite a challenge for the Slovakian giant!
We caught up with him on the Col du Galibier, where he was still feeling good, despite the heat starting to be an extra challenge for all the riders “It’s not easy, but I’m enjoying the landscapes, it’s really beautiful! And I’m trying to keep my legs fresh to be able to finish the race”.
Well, after taking a few stops on the Alpe d’Huez to recover, he eventually crossed the line in slightly less than 9 hours! Congratulations Marek, you’re a L’Etape du Tour de France finisher!
Watch Marek’s day on the bike here.
An international event
L’Etape du Tour is getting more and more crowded with riders from all over the globe, most of them coming from countries where an event is part of L’Etape by Tour de France series. About 35% of riders are coming from abroad to take part in this unique event and 70 countries are represented.
All along the route, it’s easy to spot where is cyclist is coming from thanks to the little flags on their race number. That’s what we did at some feed zones to ask participants from L’Etape countries what they were thinking of the event and how their race was going.
With his beautiful jersey from L’Etape Czech Republic, we met Petr at the top of Galibier: “I’m feeling good, I’m trying to keep the power not too high, because it’s a long day, you have to save your energy. Compared to L’Etape Czech Republic, it’s not even comparable, it’s so hard!”
At a crowded feed zone in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, Serena, from the USA, was standing out with her pink jersey. As a lot of riders, she was worried of what was coming ahead, with still Col de la Croix de Fer and Alpe d’Huez to climb. “I’m eating every 45 minutes, I’m feeling alright but I know that what’s coming is horror and death” she said laughing.
After such a hard race, amongst all the tired riders trying to recover just behind the finish line in Huez, you could not miss Arthur’s jersey with a big Brazilian flag all over it. He still looked fresh and was happy to tell us what his experience was on the day: “It’s a fantastic feeling, to have the chance to ride on the roads the professional riders are going to take in a few days. I’ve done L’Etape Brasil 6 times, this is the closest it gets to a Tour de France experience in Brazil and I love it.”