L'Etape Czech Republic took place on 11th June under a bright blue sky and a warm weather. Enough to make it a great day on the bike!
Thousands of fans gathered in the cycling village in Strahov, and many as well along the entire route. Nearly 2300 competitors divided evenly into long (136 km) and short (90 km) routes went out for a challenging day. L'Etape Czech Republic's route is definitely not an easy one! With almost 1900m of climbing over 136 km, it makes it hard to recover in between climbs. 8 short and sharp climbs are spread over the entire course.
At eight o'clock in the morning, the large venue in Prague's Strahov began to pulsate, and at ten o'clock in the morning, hundreds of cyclists registered for the Long Route started their race. Ninety minutes later, participants in the Short route also started their race. The peloton included cycling personalities led by the Tour de France champion Andy Schleck, stage winners of the most famous cycling race Ján Svorada and Zdeněk Štybar, or Olympic speed skating champion Martina Sáblíková.
An incredible experience, I don't have many words to describe it. The atmosphere at the start was already electric and during the whole race, there were a huge number of people standing on the side of the road
After three and a half hours, Michal Kollert arrived at the finish line victorious, followed by Jonáš Vojtěch and Pavel Gonda. Among the women, Martina Sáblíková ruled the elite category ahead of Nikola Zdráhalová, while Jana Matlášková dominated the amateur classification. "An incredible experience, I don't have many words to describe it. The atmosphere at the start was already electric and during the whole race, there were a huge number of people standing on the side of the road, who were cheering tirelessly. It was a festival of cycling. Hats off to the organizers!" said the victorious Michal Kollert, who after last year's second-place scored a valuable triumph in a close finish. "It was a tough race. In the first third the field was very choppy, you had to think a lot and consider your strategy. I had a crisis on the steep climb to Křivoklát, but fortunately, my legs felt good. Then the finish was close, I am incredibly happy about the victory. The fans pushed us a lot."
It was the enthusiasm and a unique atmosphere of the race that figured mainly in the evaluation of all the participating personalities. "I already praised the scenery last year, this year the number of fans was even much greater thanks to the beautiful weather. They were cheering, enjoying themselves, and managed to squeeze the most out of us. I needed their support, at the end of the race I rode practically 50 kilometres alone and I dug it," Martina Sáblíková summed up her feelings, who was also accompanied by six-time Paralympic champion and six-time world champion Jiří Ježek. "We wanted to bring cycling as close to the fans as possible, and we did that. Even people who are not die-hard fans came to watch in their villages and contributed to a wonderful celebration of the sport. It was also special for me that I have been training in the Křivoklát region all my life and I could enjoy the ride, so to speak, in my home environment. And I am proud of what an incredible experience the competitors from all corners of the Czech Republic and the world take away from my region."
Without racing ambitions, with the clear goal of supporting amateur cyclists, Zdeněk Štybar, Ján Svorada, and Andy Schleck completed the course. Andy even stopped at several fan spots along the course. "I'm not used to finishing with such a loss to the winner, but I'm certainly not going to be upset today," laughed the Luxembourg phenomenon, who celebrated his thirty-seventh birthday as part of the event's programme on Friday. "I was prepared for the fans in the Czech Republic to understand cycling and come to cheer, but the reality has far exceeded my expectations. There were crowds all along the course, people cheering for the riders at the front and the back of the peloton. I spoke to many participants during the race and the clear connecting theme was enthusiasm."
That was the second year of the L'Etape Czech Republic by Tour de France project. "So far, we are only collecting enthusiastic reactions. Since the premiere last August, we have worked hard to make the second edition set the bar even higher. And I am proud that we can consider this task accomplished," commented Tomáš Pravenec, director of the Petr Čech Sport agency.
We believe that if we managed to move up again compared to last year, it's also thanks to our great partners, without whom it would not have been possible. We are grateful to have companies based in the Czech Republic that have powerful names at the highest level of cycling! Whether it's ŠKODA AUTO or KALAS, we are delighted to have worked with both companies. Thanks to their involvement, the overall atmosphere of the event has become even closer to the real Tour de France, and this can be said about everyone with whom we have worked.
Towards the 2023 edition
If you would like to take part in next year's L'Etape Czech Republic, you can already register for it! The event will take place on 10th June 2023. Join the fun and live the amazing atmosphere of the Tour de France with a Czech touch, it will give you goosebumps! Click HERE to register.