COURSE ANALYSIS

I've looked at the course and worked out the distances of the climbs and descents for the 2002 Etape du Tour. I've then worked out how long it would take to do at various speeds. This sort of information is very useful for pacing yourself, as there is a considerable amount of climbing involved. The average gradients are about 6% in 2002.

Firstly, survival speed - the speeds you would need to do to get there before the course closes!

Terrain Length Typical Speed Time
Up Hill 36 miles 5 mph 7h 12m
Down Hill 52 miles 26 mph 2 hours
Rests     1 hour
Total Time     10h 12m hours

Start is at 7:30am. 10 hrs 12 min later = 5:42pm

Finish area closes at 6:30pm, so there is an hour to spare... unless you start at the back, in which case you will only have 18 minutes to spare! (Assuming they don't shut the course early!)

So this is about the slowest pace if you just want to get there! It is interesting to vary the speed on each of these types of terrain to see the effect. Obviously, you may want to try your own estimated speeds in the table.

Faster climbing helps quite a bit; If you are quite fit you might achieve:

Terrain Length Typical Speed Time
Up Hill 36 miles 7 mph 5h 8.5m
Down Hill 52 miles 26 mph 2 hour
Rests     1 hour
Total Time     8hrs 8.5mins

Though fast descending does not help much (its fun though!):

Terrain Length Typical Speed Time
Up Hill 36 miles 5 mph 7h 12m
Down Hill 52 miles 40 mph 1h 18m
Rests     1 hour
Total Time     9h 30m
Only 42 minutes saved even at this optimistic descending speed!

If you have achieved a good level of fitness, and have the courage to descend fast, you might achieve:

Terrain Length Typical Speed Time
Up Hill 36 miles 7 mph 5 h 8.5m
Down Hill 52 miles 40 mph 1h 18m
Rests     1 hour
Total Time     7h 25.5m mins

If you race regularly, you may be able to achieve about this speed. I know a few who will probably be faster!