Tag Archives: tour de france

Should I ride in the Etape du Tour?

Should I ride in the Etape du Tour?

A question thousands ask themselves every October. The answer is probably “yes”, I’ll explain why here. The Etape du Tour and the Tour du France are organised by the same people. ASO (Amaury Sport Organisation), ASO organises a dozen or so huge events (Paris-Roubaix, Critérium du Dauphiné and the Vuelta amongst others).


They partially release the route for the Tour du France for the forthcoming year in October. The stage that will be used for the Etape is announced on the same day.  Generally they choose the “Queen stage“, the hardest day on the tour. If you are interested then you probably have a month or so to sign up. In 2015 the 15,000 places where all allocated by the end of December.


There are lots of reasons not to sign up. I guess that’s the same with any big sporting event. It is easy to think of excuses not to go.

  • I’m not fit enough.
  • It’s too big, you’ve heard of terrible queues and holdups.
  • It’s dangerous, you are surrounded by thousands of wannabe bike racers who probably aren’t safe in a group.
  • The logistics and expense are too much.

Not being fit enough is probably the weakest reason not to go and the best reason to give it a try. True, it is a hard day out. Generally not harder than any other Grand Fondo in the world though. Between 120km and 170km and with between 2,000m and 4,000m of climbing. The winners often complete the course in 4hrs and the last arrivals in around 10hrs. There are various “cut offs” along the course where the organisers will insist you stop if you are riding too slowly.

mavic mutual support

In general this equates to an average speed of 14km/hr. It is definitely not an event that you should consider turning up at and “having a go” without doing the training. Thousands of people realise this every year. Of the two Etape’s I have taken part in 25% did not turn up in 2016 and 30% in 2012. I suspect they will have realised they had bitten off more than they can chew!

sign up no queues

The fact that this has 15,000 people entering is a daunting. I have done plenty of Gran Fondo’s and normally the participants are measured in the hundreds and not the thousands. I have heard all sorts of rumours about being forced to walk because of heavy traffic, massive queues getting to the event, holdups because of crashes. I’ve been fearful of these things myself. In the two Etape du Tour’s I have entered I have not come across anything like this.

competitors wall

The organisation has always been exceptional. You would imagine there might be issues but I have not seen them. I’m sure they exist but they are the exception rather than the rule. The start is staggered. The fastest riders set off first (7am) and then tranches of 1000 will set off every 7.5 min from then on until almost 9am. When you enter they will ask you for an estimated time to complete the event. They will try and use this to put you in the relevant “pen”. If you put “I just want to finish” they’ll put you at the back. If you desperately want to ride with a friend and you find yourself split up then don’t stress, there is some discretion at the start.

start etape du tour

Cycling comes with dangers. Cycling over the Alps or Pyrenees comes with extra hazards. The long steep and twisting descents add issues. The weather often plays its part too. In my experience you’ll have to deal with all sorts of cold and rain whilst training and on the day will be faced with a heat wave. There are crashes and if you are involved they will hurt. I’m pretty sure most of the crashes are caused due to user error though, not other riders. Not all but most. If you don’t want to “mix it up” with the boy racers it’s easy to back off and find some space.

descent on the etape

Remember the whole road is closed so you have twice as much tarmac to play with compared to normal. You will see plenty of crashes and lots of medical staff helping out. But then there are thousands of riders and thousands of chances to fall off. The guys in the Tour de France crash much more often than people taking part in these events!

climbing the colombiere

I think the entry fee was about 100€. For this you get closed roads, an incredibly well organised event, a nice medal (if you finish), a hat or a t-shirt or something like that. In 2016 a rucksack of sorts. 3 feeding and watering stations and 4 extra water stops. There is even sports drink available if that is what you are in to. At the start there is coffee and Madeleine cake and a pasta party at the finish. Saying that I have never been able to face eating at the finish.  The smaller events cost less but are not better value. They do tend to be circuits though which makes your own personal logistics much easier to organise.

joux plane

The fact that most Etape’s are “point to point” does add a big logistical issue. The organisers do arrange plenty of buses on the day and the days before too. Saying that a support car and a willing driver would help immensely. There are plenty of large organisations that will sort things out for you too. Ranging from a weeks holiday, rental bikes, top spec hotels, exclusive support during the ride for up to $5k or camping at the start and riding back after (there are plenty that do that!).


james alpine property

I’ve not spoken to anyone who has not been immensely impressed with the Etape de Tour. The organisation, the route and the atmosphere. So stop thinking of reasons not to do it and get on and ride!



Col de Joux Plane Open or Closed?

Is the Col de Joux plan open or closed? The answer is further down. First I will set the scene.

The Tour de France is coming to the Haute Savoie in 2016. The Queen Stage is Stage 20, the penultimate stage but final day of racing. It’s from Megeve to Morzine  and scheduled for Saturday July 23rd . 146km long with about 3,500m of ascent. To add to the hype this stage has also been chosen as the Etape de Tour 2016 , this will be held on July 10th. 15,000 riders are signed up, it’s so popular the entries closed back in 2015! There are all sorts of previews of the route available on the web, this is one of the best.

The climbs are iconic, the Col des Aravis, Col de la Colombiere, Col de la Ramaz and Col de Joux Plane, because of this many cyclists are trying to ride the route prior to the event. The issue is that they have been covered in snow all winter and 3 important sections have major road works on them!

PROFILE for Megeve to Morzine

Stage 20 profile


So are they open or closed? I’ll write this from my own knowledge, updated on May 19th/2016 ,I’ll add some pictures and other resources that might help at the end.

In order that they’ll be ridden.

Col des Aravis, no issues here. This stays open all year

Col de la Colombiere, closed to traffic but being ridden by many. No major issues.

Col de la Ramaz, officially closed but the summit is passable over about 300m of gravel. It needs tarmacking. This won’t put most cyclists off. Passable by car too. Though officially closed.

Descent from Praz de Lys to Taninges. Just before the Pont des Gets at 1100m altitude the road is closed to traffic thanks to a long term issue with a landslide. There is an official diversion via the Col de l’Encrenaz which works well for cyclists based in Morzine or Les Gets but it is a big detour for someone trying to ride the official route. UPDATE MAY 21st … In fact the issue (pictured below) is the fear of a spontaneous release on the landslip. There is a wall protecting the road and it is easy to pass. When this section is open the council erect traffic lights and place two full time “spotters” to keep an eye on things. Maintaining this presence out of season obviously costs too much – hence it is closed.

Col de Joux Plane, closed to traffic thanks to ongoing repairs to a landslip at 1640m altitude, just down from the Col du Ranfolly on the Morzine side. It is passable on the weekend by a bike but not recommended, crossing the hole with the bike on your shoulder is slippery and muddy too. I suspect a cyclist will be turned away when the building site is operational.

Col de la Ramaz

Col de la Ramaz , 300m of gravel, May 2016


The closed part of the road before the landslip on the way to Praz de Lys (Ramaz descent)

The closed part of the road before the landslip on the way to Praz de Lys (Ramaz descent)


The retaining wall by the landslip, no ongoing work and easy to pass.

The retaining wall by the landslip, no ongoing work and easy to pass.


Col de Joux Plane closed

Col de Joux Plane, closed! No doubt left by these signs.


hole in the Col de Joux Plane

The hole in the Joux Plane road.

UPDATE 06/07/2016

The hole on the Joux Plane has been repaired!

jp with tarmac

Out of interest, the Joux Verte road from Linderets to Avoriaz is closed to traffic but passable by bike.

road closed

Col de la Joux Verte, closed to traffic but passable by bike


Joux Verte

Lower down the Joux Verte road towards Linderets.


Further resources are available on these links.

These are probably the best, though currently they differ from my first hand knowledge.



This is the official one.


and for the Haute Alpes