l'Étape du Tour

A very special day !

Act 1 of the 2012 Etape du Tour will remain engraved in the memories of all its participants.  With its difficult course, its five climbs before the arrival at La Toussuire, the wet and then magnificently sunny weather conditions, one needed a lot of heart and guts to meet the challenge. The bikers present share their experience, with an open heart…

It takes all kinds to make a group body in a bike race. Some come from as far as Thailand, arriving for their first time in Europe, and they stay in a good mood despite the misty rain at the starting line. Not very far away, Caroline seems unflinching. Throughout the day, this Irish biker keeps a tempo that is admirable in its regularity, up until the moment that a flat tire forces her to stop and repair it, just four kilometers from the summit of La Toussuire…

There are thousands of helmets and thousands of bikes, but the gestures are the same for all. Some are better climbers, and others are better at descent. However, the slopes are the same for everyone, and all participants manage their effort conscientiously, honestly, without cheating. In the heart of the Savoie region, this group of bikers experiences a very special day.

“You have to live the race from the inside to really understand its greatness.” Dominique is from Dublin, “I’m a fanatic,” he states almost with regret. He does them all and asks for more; Paris-Roubaix Challenge, Etapes du Tour. During the evening in La Toussuire, after the day’s step, he says without fanfare, “Whatever one thinks, for a biker, it’s the complete legend.”

Two English bikers that have just discovered the high mountains say, “We arrived without much special training. At home, the highest hill is only 6 kilometers long. Today, it was obviously really hard for us, but we reached our main goal and stayed within the required delays.” While questioning them, we learn that they took the time to have lunch in a restaurant at the summit of la Croix de Fer. “Not a long one, just twenty minutes… the time to have the special of the day and to drink a beer!”

The group is filled with interesting stories. Five Americans toast each other in the finish area. They seem overwhelmed with what they have just experienced. “We were expecting something enormous,” says one of them. “But that was better than we ever imagined. What great organization. Riding in this scenery on roads that are closed to traffic, only the Etapes du Tour can offer that!”

At Saint-Jean de Maurienne, a handful of Parisians describe the day. Some made it to the end, some who had no force left decided to stop before the last climb. Their bodies are exhausted, but their commentaries are similar. “I think that this one was the hardest,” assures Eric with a certain tone. “I have already done five steps, but this one was the hardest.”

The group has finished this very special day in the mountains of the Alps. Now, Act 2 in the Pyrenees is waiting. It’s almost certain that all who experienced this day linking Albertville to La Toussuire will always remember their effort at the heights of the Tour de France. “I didn’t think I could do it,” concludes Pascal. “For nine hours, it was a fight. In the end, like the others, it was about mental toughness. It’s incredible to not give in. I even think that it’s the best gift that one can give to himself…”




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