For 2019, the route takes in three climbs including the iconic Cormet de Roselend and the seemingly endless ascent to Europe’s highest ski resort, Val Thorens. Part of the thousands-strong peloton pitched against the climbs will be CANYON//SRAM aces Alice Barnes and Alexis Ryan. Both sprinters by trade, neither count climbing as their strong suit.
Speaking from their own experiences in the hurt locker, Alice and Alexis shared their top tips for navigating a big day out with our resident Étape first timer. No unnecessary suffering here, just savouring the splendour of the Savoie scenery, and maybe a cheeky sprint across the finish line.
I’ve got to be honest, I’m a little nervous about this. Calm me down?
Alexis Ryan: Nerves can be a great thing, and really helpful for performance, but make sure to keep them upbeat. Positivity is important on a day where the mountains are never-ending.
Alice Barnes: Make sure you are eating and drinking plenty throughout the day and ride at your own pace. It’s going to be a long, hard day on the bike – you don't want to over do it at the start. Most of all, enjoy it!
How about pre-ride food? What’s on the menu?
AB: I’ll be having a big old meal the night before, we call this a carry meal. In the morning I’ll have a big bowl of porridge for breakfast and may even treat myself to a croissant, considering we’re in France.
AR: It’s the only way, a big plate of carbohydrates the night before; a breakfast of champions on the big day; and snacks every 25 minutes during the ride.
The scenery will surely carry us around part of the course?
AR: The scenery will carry me until the base of every mountain. Then, I pray the wind will carry me up the mountains. I’ve never ridden in the Alps – this will be a new experience for me.
AB: I suppose the scenery can only help you so much though. Soak it in while you can and try to take your mind off of the pain.
That wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear, Alice…
AB: Don’t worry though! Everyone on the startline will have their own personal battle. Anyone who knows me will know about my big red head and that I struggle in the heat, so that will be fun.
AR: For me, it’ll be a focus on staying safe on the descents. No brakes! Nah, just kidding. Keep to your side of the road, apex the turns and brake before the corners not midway through them.
AB: The climbs will also be challenging for me as they aren't exactly my forte…
Speaking of climbs, how about the ascent to Val Thorens?
AB: Like Alexis, I don't ride in the Alps often. I used to come out here more, but mostly for mountain biking trips. I’d get a ski lift up and then ride back down so the final climb will be a challenge.
Who will attack first?
AR: I plan to attack Alice with 100 metres to go.
AB: Ah, that’s my plan out of the window. I was going to go about 10 metres to the top. If I get that far.
AR: I don’t know. I imagine my attack will be short-lived. I’ll blow at 25 meters to go and Alice will win.
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