L’Étape du Tour, that most iconic of mass participation cycling events, is celebrating its 25th edition this year. Claude, one of the founders of routesandroots.com, has promised to be at the start line of the demanding 2018 Tour de France stage from Annecy to Le Grand Bornand – and to make it all the way to the finish. No easy task. For the moment, though, his thoughts are all about preparing mind and body for what lies ahead.
200 days to go? That’s all? Back in the middle of October, I’d marked the date in red – Tuesday December 19th. And now it’s here. 200 days before L’Étape du Tour. A pretty crazy challenge for an ordinary cyclist who’s caught between the “too many” (years, pounds) and the “not enough” (miles, fitness), along with the fear that my ‘get up and go’ has got up and gone, without leaving a note. So, that’s it, then. Too many pounds on the belly and too few miles in the legs. It’s the same old story – laced with a recent bout of ‘flu, followed quickly by a dose of bronchitis. Fortunately, that will all pass in a few days…
Meantime, I’ve watched the video of Franck Schleck and Team Mavic reconnoitering the stage no fewer than five times. And I’ve even done my own reconnaissance – by car – of a route that is now lodged firmly in the minds of 15,000 other cyclists. I’ve not been up the Col des Glières or the Col de Romme, above Cluses, although I do know the mountains and the highest passes of the Tour de France. As a cycling journalist, it’s often been my job to report on what’s happened up there on a day’s stage. But actually riding up them has been a rarer task. Which means that for someone of my very limited abilities, tackling Glières and Romme will be sheer torment. I’ll have more to say about those two – though it may not all be printable – in the springtime, as I’ve promised myself that I’ll take both of them on, one at a time. We’ll see what happens.
That said, I’m not forgetting about La Croix-Fry or the north face of La Colombière, a particularly tricky customer that lies in wait after 150 kilometers in the saddle. Or the smaller Col des Fleuries, which is hiding away halfway through the stage, on the other side of the Glières.
200 days to go. Got to deal with it. Got to get back on the bike. And do all the other things as well. No more fondues, keep a close eye on what’s on my dinner plate, and as for a nice glass of wine – well, that should only be a reward, and not one that’s given every day. Beer? Just one, and only when I’ve really given everything on the bike. I have to stick to this, even during the holidays. In fact, especially during the holidays.
Sugar has to be history. Starting now. Even the waffle and hot wine combo – my favorite mountain snack. I’ll be dreaming about it on July 8th when I’ll be climbing up the Glières, it’ll take my mind off things. Who cares if the sun’s beating down? It’s all about the bike. Just riding, here, there, everywhere. I’m just a nomad, wherever I am – in the streets of Paris, the far-flung corners of Brittany (a place I call home), the mountains, anywhere.
Other plans for the year? The cobbled roads of the Paris-Roubaix with my routesandroots.com teammate Yves in early April, and perhaps a Gran Fondo in New York or Rome, in May. Looking at it all today, with 200 days to go, it’s going to be a close-run thing. Given all this, you’re probably wondering I’m doing L’Étape du Tour. It’s a fair question. And the answer is for lots of little reasons which – when you put them all together – add up to doing something which isn’t particularly rational’…
Among those reasons is the fact that as the editor of Vélo Magazine in the 1990s, I was fortunate enough to be one of the co-founders of L’Étape du Tour. So a quarter of a century – the first edition having been in 1993 – is also a wonderful anniversary. And on a personal level, I will have an equally wonderful birthday to celebrate in 2018. And anyway, with just 200 days to go, it’s too late to pull out now, especially after getting the green light from my cardiologist.
So, I’m ready to start, with no time to lose. Kitted out with warm clothes to protect me from the cold, and lights to make me visible in the gloom, I’m ready to roll. All eyes on the Glières. There’s no going back now.
See more about #challenge60 on Instagram @routeandroots. No waffles and no hot wine. Next stop J-160.