The 2006 Etape du Tour is an exciting one, with three major climbs ending in the famous 21 bends of the Alpe d’Huez.


The best approach to the route is to be aware of what to expect! So here is a stage by stage analysis.


Gap to Guillestre (33.7 miles, only 185m of climb)

By most standards, this section is really quite flat.

After a small climb out of Gap, we cross the reservoir (Lac de Serre Poncon) after 17.5 miles, then pass through the town of Embrun 5 miles later.

Continuing down the main road, we turn off towards the village of Guillestre, where the fun begins! Up to this point we will be riding on main roads, and the road surface should be good and fast. It should also be very scenic!


The Ascent of Col d’Izoard (20 miles, 4.3% average, 1390m of climb!)

This is a long climb! The first 13.4 miles is relatively easy, with an average gradient of only 2.6%, though it looks fairly flat. the best advice here is to pace yourself and enjoy magnificent scenery!

After the left turn, the road steepens before the village of Arvieux.


After Arvieux the climbing becomes serious, varying mainly between 8% and 9%, though there are some steeper sections. Near the top is a false summit at the Casse Deserte, with its barren landscape and spectacular rock formations, and memorials to Bobet and other famous cyclists, followed by a short down hill section before the final zig zag climb to the top. We will need the drinks stop at the top!


The descent from Col d’Izoard to Briancon (12.75 miles, - 5.8%, 1130m)

This is where we get our reward! Well over 1000 metres of descent! It will be important to stay alert – there are plenty of bends and some of them are tricky! At the time of writing the road surface is poor near the top, though hopefully it will be re-surfaced.



Reputed to be the highest town in Europe, it is mixed blessing for us Etappers – there will be food and drink, and cafes if you have time to spare – and an elimination point! You need to arrive here before 13:00! However, you are now over half way there!


The Ascent of Lautaret (17.8 miles, 3% average, 828m of climb)

If you enjoyed the first easy section of Izoard, you will enjoy the first part of Lautaret – 11.2 miles of 2.1%! The last 6.5 miles a fairly constant gradient of 4.5%. It is unusual as it goes straight up the main road.When you see the avalanche shelter, you are nearly at the top.


The Descent to Bourg d'Oisans. (24 miles, - 3.4% gradient, 1300 metres descent)

After an initial bendy section, the road straightens out. This is one of the longest descents I have ever encountered, and is down hill as far as Deux Alpes. It is also unbeleivably scenic, with a rushing torrent along side the road. In a way, this is probably the most dangerous section of the route, as riders will be tired by this stage – so enjoy it – but take care!


Ascent of Alpe d’Huez (9 miles, 7.6%, 1100m of climb)

This is the all time classic climb – the one we have all been waiting for!

Take the first 3km in a measured way! After emerging from Bourg d’Oisans, the slope abruptly increases, peaking at over 14%. After this it drops to 10% then stays between at 7% and 9% for virtually all of the rest of the climb, easing off at the top. The famous 21 bends are numbered, and the climb is hard, though there is some relief on the bends themselves, which are flatter.


Collect your medal!








Sub stage

Total Climb




Gap to Guillestre



33.7 miles




Gap to Embrun

17 m

21 miles




Embrun to Guillestre

168 m

12.7 miles



Col De Izoard


1390 m

20 miles




Guillestre to Arvieux


578 m

13.4 miles

2.6 %



Arvieux Col d’ Izoard

612 m


6.6 miles



Col d’ Izoard to Briancon



12.75 miles

5.8 %


Briancon to Col De Lautaret



17.8 miles




First 18 km


11.3 miles




Last 10.5 km


6.5 miles



Lautaret to Bourg D’Oisans


1300 m

24 miles



Alpe d’Huez



9 miles