2013 Etape du Tour: Annecy to Annecy-Semnoz
The 2013 Etape du Tour is my favourite Gran Fondo to date. There were four of us that did it and as we had never attempted such an event before it really felt like a great adventure at the time that we would all conquer together. They say you never forget your first….
The fact that my participation was part of a magic 3 week camper-vanning trip through France and Switzerland with Melissa and 14 month old Son Max also has a bit to do with me putting this event on a pedestal.
I am writing this race report around 2 and a half years after the event so it will be light on detail but heavy on photos and video…
The route at approx 130km was a short one by Tour de France standards but promised to pack quite a punch, particularly for us newbies with 6 categorized climbs.
As I have found since, Etape du Tour’s can be a logistical nightmare as far as accommodation and transport to and from the start and finish is concerned but the 2013 edition was ideal with the start at and near the town of Annecy.
The training plan I followed for this race was an intermediate level 12 week plan from a cycling magazine. It was heavy on interval work using heart rate but I just used it to get a basic idea of how many hours per week I should be doing. Each week I tried to get at least two 60 to 90 minute sessions during the week and a long ride with mates over the weekend.
By the end of this training period I felt the strongest I had every felt on a bike. I went from vomiting over the handlebars whilst traversing Broomfield Hill in Richmond Park to being able to smash out x 5 hill repeats on the same hill. I also lost around 7kg to bring me down to 98kg, the lightest I had been in at least a year but still a lot of weight to get up 6 categorized climbs in the Alps.
We got to Annecy a week before the race which was great as it allowed plenty of time to relax whilst also getting a couple of practice rides done in the mountains…
….and to explore the beautiful town of Annecy, which is known as Venice of the Alps.
By the time registration came around we were climbing the walls with excitement. Although a poor quality video below I have included it as it really illustrates how excited we were as we cycle into Annecy to pick up our race number and timer etc. You also get an idea of the beauty of Lake Annecy.
‘Twas an amazing sight at around 6:30am to witness the gathering of over 10,000 like minded cyclists from all over the world….
There was quite a wait to start as we were in the last pen but before we knew where we were we were off on our first Etape du Tour!
As I mentioned earlier I am writing this post a good 2 and a half years after the event so all I can really summon from my rather dilapidated memory are a few bullet points:
- I felt rather strong up to the first food and drink stop after around 35km. Although the 4 of us were going at our own pace we all pretty much stopped at the same time. I remember distinctly that the locals were extremely friendly, handing out local cheese and other local delicacies. There was quite a carnival atmosphere that was rudely interrupted by the blaring sirens of police cars. It took us a little while to realise but this was the broom wagon and if we didn’t hotfoot it our of town toute suite we’d be out of the race. The honeymoon was definitely over and for the remainder of the day we had a gnawing feeling that the broom wagon was right on our tail.
- It started to get bloody hot – pushing 40 degrees Celsius.
- I never thought Mont Reward (a 16km ascent) would ever end – the ride was starting to really hurt.
- Quote of the day went to DG who at the 2nd of 3 food and drink stops, said as he threw a banana skin viciously at an overflowing bin: “right this isn’t f..king fun any more!”
- The next section was pretty much down hill and flat so great to recharge the batteries. As DG and Wazza were having some technical probs we split up and reconvened at the last rest stop.
- The carnival atmosphere was back in action at the last stop and there was a rumor going around that once you got to this stop then you were safe from the broom wagon. We therefore took our time and soaked it up, refueling for the last climb up Semnoz (Hors catégorie, 11.3km at 8.2%).
- As the 4 of us were all back together we were determined that we would finish together. Without being trite there really was a vibe of “one for all and all for one”.
- DG’s wheel was becoming more and more of a problem so we hit up the Mavic Wagon for some help.
- Our plans of sticking together were literally blown apart by Mont Semnoz.
- Only 1 us beat the broom (so much for that rumor) but we all got to the top of that bloody mountain!
- There is video footage of me coming across the line with tears streaming down my face – it really was quite emotional. (Wilson – please be keeping that vid in the vault). There were times that I had to push my bike and then really struggled to get back on but I found powers of determination that I never knew I had. There was no way I wasn’t going to make it!
As mentioned, I finished just after the broom wagon so I didn’t get an official time but my Garmin clocked me at around 10 hours (of which I was actually moving for just over 8 and a half hours). A long and tough ole’ day but damn worthwhile.
An amazing day! Lets do it again!