A number of Etappers have emailed me with their accounts of the 2011 Etape du Tour.
Here are their stories! I especially liked Simon’s story.


Many thanks to Christine for her photos of Alpe d’Huez


Pete wrote:


Good stuff. Thoroughly enjoyed the day - brutal!!



Martin wrote:


Many thanks for your organisation.  I think we chose the right one.

I thoroughly enjoyed the ride and was pleased with my time.

The staggered starts worked really well.  I thought the Galibier climb was beautiful and went well for me.  The scenery around was just stunning.



A terrific descent and then Alp d’Huez caught me a bit from half way.  It was so steep at the bottom and I probably hit it a little hard.

That combined with the heat took it out of me a bit.  Still rather that than rain and snow!  Well organised as ever.

The slightly shorter route suited me, with more hills.




Andy wrote:


Our group of 4 had a brilliant day, all making it unscathed, and without any mechanical issues.
By all accounts we had the best of the weather. Mind you, my knees are still glowing from the sun despite the sun cream



Charlie wrote:

A brilliant day - very well organised - brutal and exhilarating!





Arabella wrote:


Thanks for you all advice and emails etc.  Nick & I really enjoyed it....until we hit Alpe d'Huez - then I had a sense of humour failure!! However, considering I got on a road bike for the first time 8 months ago just after having my 2nd baby, I'm just bloody pleased I finished (Nick would have done much better time than me, but he kindly stayed with me on the last climb while I got on and off and had to have a serious talk to myself to make it up to the finish!!).  We hit the bottom of d'Heuz at around 5hours so though we could crack it in under 7...but we were sadly mistaken....we finished in 8hrs 18 mins!!!  Never mind.  Would I do it again?  I'm not sure....we'll see!



Adrian wrote:


We had a truly amazing experience.....broke 6hrs for my first etape and loved every second of it. Thanks for all your tips/guides etc and I'm looking forward to next year!!



Peter wrote:


Acte 1 was really enjoyable. Full of foreboding in advance I nevertheless was really happy with my performance on the first two climbs. Those behind me I thought that the descent to Bourg would give me time to recharge batteries for the Alpe. Unfortunately I was one of the first 20 or so to be held up by the major crash which required the helicopter assistance. Then swiftly after that was the problem in the tunnels. By the time I got to the Alpe I had lost momentum. That is my excuse for rather struggling with the Alpe but we both know that really that challenge was massively heightened by the efforts on the first two climbs.



Doing the Alpe in isolation is a totally different kettle of fish to doing it after the first two climbs. I rather laboured up the Alpe and had to stop for a breather rather more than I had expected. Pride dictated that I although I did stop periodically that I did not walk a step and this was achieved.  Labouring up the Alpe did not bother me overmuch as my aim was an overall acceptable performance well inside the allowed time rather than going hell for leather for the best time possible. That having been said I obviously was interested in my total time and in this context I did think it rather mean to say the least to only take 20 minutes off the time as an allowance for the holdups.


Simon wrote:


Packing and getting there is half the battle

Saturday the 9th July was finally here and the first thing I had to work out was what was I going to take? Well I knew that I would need the bike and passport “I should have probably have sorted all this before the day of travel” I decided to pack pretty much everything I own.

The trip was pretty simple took the ferry from Dover and then drove 600 miles to the start where I would register. This took 10 hours and in the back of my mind I couldn’t help but think this would be the distance I would have to have completed at the end of day two on my last planned event in August!. Parked up at the end of the journey and stretched out for a couple of hours shut eye next to my trusty velo (French for bike)



Registration was a wash of fit looking people in brightly coloured cycling jersey’s and probably enough Lycra to be able to stretch around the globe a couple of times. “these people are ultra keen, wearing cycling attire as if it was casual clothing, for me it’s akin to wearing a nappy in public” I kept a keen eye out for any other cyclist who looked similar to myself .......slightly overweight with bloodshot eyes but in the main all I saw was cycling tans and people who looked like they weighed less than my 5 year old with knotted muscle.



The route

After registration jumped in the car and drove to Alpe D’ Huez (the finish line) to leave the car so that at the finish could simply drive back, as the car struggled up and up until it was level with snow and glaciers I kept saying my manta “ Never tell me the odds kid” the odds of firstly getting my body up the three climbs but the descent from the Col du Galibier looked to me like under pants change time (good job I don’t wear any under Lycra) I mentally set myself my personal strategy



·         Complete the route without being eliminated

·         Never to  walk on the climbs

·         Not to have an accident


Race Day

At the start I focussed and put all apprehension to one side after all this was the first hurdle in my crazy challenge I knew that I should keep to my planned strategy of not pushing myself to destruction at the beginning but save my energy. A quick decent from Modane and then the climbing began I kept a steady pace and felt good reached the Col du Telegraph in approximately an hour with no problem a small descent then started climbing again. Mainly kept my backside in the saddle every so often stood up and danced gently on the pedals keeping my breathing regular and even chatting “this was great! Should I push a little harder? I decided to keep going as I was and see how I felt when I reached the second summit of the day at 2,556m” After all this is part of my training and need to make sure I save myself for the final climb of Alpe D’ Huez.

At the summit still felt good but the heat of the day started to hit and it felt as if someone was throwing buckets of water at me but this was just perspiration. Filled the water bottles put on the windproof and hurtled of the summit for the scariest decent I have ever done! I was soon doing 45mph and above hitting the brakes from time to time as trying to get round the hairpins required more concentration than my Barnet is use to. After 15 minutes of speed I relaxed and my speed started to increase ”hey this isn’t so bad!” I thought “get to the bottom over some mole hills then start on the last climb of the day!” I wrenched myself back from the finish line as I had to keep concentrating on the job in hand one mistake now and I would be in a world of pain or worse no pain at all. All of a sudden Ambulances where in front of me and people were screaming I slammed on the brakes, I won’t go into too much detail but another rider was in bad shape all of a sudden my focus was redoubled and I just wanted to get off the decent. Bring on a climb any day and holding your breath on descents is a nasty habit I have to stop.

Alpe D Huez

This is the climb that other riders I chatted to where not looking forward to at the end of the ride 21 bends of agony is what I was told to expect. I started climbing in my steady manner and kept up my little dance on the pedals. My breathing was good but the heat was unbelievable I was slowly being cooked (just like how my Wife cooks everything .....well done) A fellow cyclist came past me and it sounded like a stream train ...breathing was hard and then they fainted and fell of the bike, my breathing was still good and I felt strong I realised that I was up to this and had plenty in the tank and with hindsight should have pushed harder? (keep to the task I thought) I’ll be back at Alpe D Huez in under 5 days to do it all over again and need to be fit for the 900 mile epic. With 3km to go I threw caution to the wind and stamped on the pedals my breathing increased till I thought I could feel a lung in my through, sprint finish at the end......job done!


Celebrate and cycling tans

I learnt a lot on my first hurdle.....took a cautious approach for a change but made my objectives, surprised that the body feels so good (giving up fags really helps!) had a cold larger at the finish and enjoyed the views along with a few glasses of that French grape juice


Simon did the Etape as a charity ride, to collect money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) funds groundbreaking research into type 1 diabetes and its complications. The ultimate goal is to find the cure.



John wrote:


I finished the Etape in just under 6 hours. (that was the time on my Garmin anyway but it’s less than the published time for reasons I'm not sure about but I'm going with under six hours!)


Your advice about tunnels was spot on. In fact I think that the tunnels were the scariest bit. I found myself in the first tunnel, pitch black with virtually no lights and wearing sunglasses! 


There were shouts behind and in front and for a few seconds I lost my bearings, got my sunglasses off and regained my composure. I think my rear flashing light which I took on your advice was a Godsend because it was hard to gauge distances to the bike in front etc.


It was a fast stage on downhill and flat stages, and I managed to keep a reasonable pace on the Hills. The top third of the Galibier was hard, but nothing to the relentless grind of the Alpe D'Huez.  The heat of the sun didn't help, I managed to get up in 1:52, which is not fast but I'm no grimpeur and I was well ahead of the field.  I came 3479th which I'm chuffed with.

My training peaked in preparation, with 16 ascents of Winchcombe Hill, which at about 200m in 2.4km equated roughly to the total climbing on the Etape.


I got a Bronze medal, which is the same as I got in 2003 when I did Pau- Bayonne, it would have been nice to do better, but none the less not bad for a fifty year old.


I think there were probably too many riders on the road, the field never really spread out much and for the whole distance it was necessary to dodge and weave.  It was well organised though, with none of the hold ups at the feed stations, nor traffic jams, like we had on the Cormet de Rosaland in 2002.


My wife did not get to the top of the Alpe, so along with a lot of others I freewheeled down past the struggling late comers to meet her in Borg D'Oisan.  


All in all it was a great day, the Alps are beautiful and I love being part of the Tour in some small way.