l'Étape du Tour (French for 'stage of the Tour') is an organised mass participation cyclosportive event that allows amateur cyclists to race over the same route as a Tour de France stage. First held in 1993, it now usually takes place each July, normally on a Tour rest day and the distance covered varies each year but will usually be between 100 and 140 miles.
|A sunny day climbing hills in the Alps|
L'Étape du Tour is normally held over mountain roads in either the Pyrenees or French Alps up climbs such as the Col du Galibier, Col d'Ausbisuque, Mont Ventoux or the Col du Tormalet. Around 8,500 riders participate - many travelling from other countries to compete - and the event takes place on roads closed by the police to other traffic, with refreshment stops and medical support provided along the route.
In 2008, the 167 km stage 10 from Pua to Hautacam, including a passage over the 2114 m./6935 ft. Col du Tourmalet was selected for L'Étape du Tour with Laurent Four coming home in the fastest time of 5 hours 38 minutes. Unfortunately, the weather on the day was very poor and visibility at the summit of the Tourmalet was down to 10m.
|Hope it's not like this when I do it!|
The 2009 edition started in Montélimar (Drôme) and covered 172 km and 4 smaller climbs (côte de Citelle, col d'Ey, col de Fontaube, col de Notre-Dame des Abeilles) before finishing at the summit of Mont Ventoux: it was won by the French road race champion, Dimitri Champion.
|Some big climbs to get up|
The 2010 event started in Pau and finished at the col du Tourmalet on 18 July 2010. Nearly 7000 cyclists completed the event, thanks to weather far better than the pros had several days later.
For 2011, ASO organised two "Etapes". The first, on July 11, on the Modane - Alpe d'Huez stage covering 109km, was the shortest in history. This is the same stage the pros rode in Stage 19 on July 22. The second Etape for 2011, on July 17, was actually the longest in history, covering 208km, from Issoire to Saint Flour in the massif central (south of Clermont Ferrand). The pros rode this stage on July 10 in Stage 9 of the 2011 TdF.
|Climbing mountains can be a lonely business|
In 2012 there are again two events. The first from Albertville to La Toussuire on the 8th of July, following the 140km route of stage 11 of the Tour de France and including the Col de la Madeleine and the Col de la Croix de Fer, finishing at La Toussuire, part of the Les Sybelles ski area. The second event on the 14th July follows the route of stage 16 from Pau to Bagneres-de- Luchon, crossing the Col d'Aubisque, Col du Toumalet, Col d'Aspin and Col de Peyresourde for a total distance of 197km .
|It's going to be busy at the start of the event|