2017 ETAPE du TOUR PREVIEW
As the route is similar to that of he 2006 Etape du Tour, I have been able to put together a preview of the 2017 Etape du Tour, which includes photographs taken in 2006, and a realistic account of what it will be like to ride.
The first part of the Etape should be a fast ride – the route follows the river from Briancon down to the lakes. There are few hills, and the road falls 300 feet in the first 40km.
When we arrive at Embrun we reach the shores of the beautiful Lake called Lac de Serre Poncon. We will follow the lake for some time, even enjoying views. It will be a fast ride!
Lac de Serre Poncon
So far we have been enjoying loosing height, a fast, fun section.
Towards Col de Vers
After leaving the lakes behind, not surprisingly, we follow a river upstream, the road rising gently and steadily for miles, continuing gently uphill after Barcelonnette. After we leave the main road we reach the gentle 2% gradients of the lower slopes of the Col de Vars. Gradients rise to 7 or 10% for 5km for the final section of graceful bends – a real Alpine climb! You will now have reached 2109 metres, after a climb of about 1200 metres from the valley floor.
After admiring the views we are will be treated to 19km of descent, with some dramatic bends after St Marcellin, half way down.
The Ascent of Izoard
The ascent to Col d’Izoard is in two stages. The first 13.4 miles have an average gradient of 2.6%. In the final 6.6 miles have an average gradient of 7.8%
After the historic village of Guillestre, the route turns right on to a more minor road and starts to climb towards Izoard.
We pass through some spectacular limestone tunnels leading us to the next section!
Then the scenery changes from fairly open countryside into a spectacular limestone gorge with high cliffs, as we ride the foothills of Col d’Izoard. The road is cut into the side of the cliff, and contours around the cliff face, passing through arches and more tunnels. It is worth being there just to admire the scenery!
When the road leaves the gorge it reaches the typical mountain scenery of the Gorge de Queyras, and climbing at a reasonable rate. It is probably wise to conserve your energy here, while still making good progress, as the real climb lies ahead!
After the sharp left hand corner, the climbing really starts. We pass through the villages of Arvieux before reaching the real high mountain section of the Col d’Izoard.
When we cross the tree line we reach the lunar landscape of the Casse Deserte,
with its rocky pinnacles, marmots and monuments to Coppi and Bobet, though these may not be noticed by most riders as they struggle with the fierce gradients!
After the Casse Deserte the final set of hairpins takes you to Col d’Izoard at 2360 metres, and the finishing line!
Izoard is a hard climb of 1300 metres, but what a spectacular finish to the ride!