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Majesty and Misery
In July 2006 the Etape du Tour took in some of the monuments of road racing: the col d’Izoard and Lautaret plus the legendary Alpe d’Huez. We’ll be riding 187km through the highest mountains of the Alps, a land of glaciers and waterfalls, cicadas and marmottes. These are wild lands, with tough people and big, capricious weather. It’s going to be a hard ride and we will be tackling relentlessly epic terrain for the first time in many years. Forewarned is forearmed and, as ever, Etape riders are hungry for information about the route. So the Rapha team rode the course in late May to bring you this sneak preview.
This year’s Etape route is hard. 187km with over 3000m of climbing. It’s as difficult as the 2005 route, but with the 21 switchback hairpins and brutal 13km of the legendary Alpe d’Huez thrown in at the end! The high mountains present the ultimate challenge. The majesty of the surroundings impresses you throughout this year’s route and can make you feel small and insignificant. The Etape is going to be a great physical challenge, but you can train for that. We think the challenge this year will be mainly psychological. Getting your head around the climbs, choosing where to put in the big effort, maintaining your confidence and focus when surrounded by high mountains all day and keeping your form when others are complaining and walking. More than ever, this Etape will be won in the mind as much as the legs.
On the actual Tour stage the Alpe d’Huez will get the most attention. This legendary climb at the finish will cast a long shadow over many Etape riders throughout the day. ‘I’m climbing well, but there’s still l’Alpe d’Huez…’ ‘I feel awful already and there’s still l’Alpe d’Huez…’
Look at the gradient profile and l’Alpe d’Huez and the Col d’Izoard command attention. But we think the Col du Lautaret will prove to be decisive for many. It’s only Cat 2 and many will dismiss it out of hand. Big mistake. It’s not steep, but it’s long and likely to be windy. There are still 60km to go and the col looks a long way off. The giant peaks are towering over you. It’s here that the psychological battle will be won or lost. Our advice in a nutshell? Enjoy the Izoard, Focus on the Lautaret and then Endure the Alpe d’Huez.
The total parcours divides naturally into 6 different phases of riding, mirroring the changing gradient profile of the course. We’ve ridden and described each one in turn.
Please note, when writing this preview some details of the final race route had not been finalised by ASO. We’re therefore unable to advise the exact location of Etape feed stations and if the route will take us through villages like Chorges and Guillestre (or whether it will bypass them on the main road).