Judging by the reaction on the internet, the 2010 Etape du Tour is creating quite a stir. The Tour de France organisers have chosen well, selecting probably the most exciting stage, from Pau to the summit of the Col du Tourmalet.
No wonder riders are clamouring at the chance to sample these roads only days before the big race, but how many truly know the magnitude of the task in hand?
I’m not being a killjoy, honest. I speak from experience: I was an Etape failure in 1998. And there’s that figure of some 2,000 non-finishers from this year’s entry of 9,500 riders. Climbing the Ventoux can never be considered easy, but the remainder of the 2009 Etape route should be considered virtually flat compared to what’s on offer next July.
First off, there’s the ultra-steep Col de Marie Blanque, then the long, ong climb of the Col du Soulor before the leg-breaking 37km climb to the summit of the Tourmalet.
Of course, with the right preparation, the Etape is perfectly achievable and the majority of entrants will have a fantastic day out. Then you read those online comments asking: how to enter (fair enough) and – wait for it – what type of bike to buy (grrrr). This isn’t London to Brighton, you know.
Robert Garbutt is editor of Cycling Weekly magazine
Riding the 2010 Etape du Tour route