Etape du Tour - Mourenx > Pau (179 km) - Monday, July the 11th 2005:
7,885 riders set off from Mourenx this morning at 7h00 for the 13th edition of the Etape du Tour Vélo Magazine, under an extremely clement sky. It took over 35 minutes for all of the riders to cross the starting line. The last competitor was scheduled at 17h30. He was the 7 242 rider to cross the finishing line. Depending on your fitness, the Etape may be the ultimate challenge, or 'just' a hard, rewarding ride.
An i-team of 26 riders lined up at Mourenx, 23 completed the course - here's how they got on:
1 ANDREW MACFARLANE 07h 07' 49"
2 TONY MAYER 07h 13' 12"
3 DEAN MORGAN 7h 19' 10 24"
3 RICHARD BROADRIBB 07h 25' 41"
4 DAVE SHAW 07h 25' 58"
5 GUY WATSON 07h 29' 42"
6 JOHN ROGERSON 07h 33' 01"
7 PETE NEVILLE 07h 39' 54"
8 ALEC JOHNSON 07h 50' 20"
9 RICHARD STEPHENS 07h 54' 24"
10 HOWARD PLUMB 07h 59' 06"
11 COLIN FYFE 08h 04' 24"
12 ANDY JONES 08h 08' 24"
13 WENDY SPRUCE 08h 13' 02"
14 GUY CLARKE 08h 13' 48"
15 STEVE SMITH 08h 40' 27"
16 STEPHEN SCOTT 08h 43' 31"
17 JERRY DIBBEN 08h 41' 36"
17 GEOFF DICKINSON 08h 48' 58"
19 MIKE BEAUMONT 08h 59' 01"
20 PAUL MORRIS 09h 08' 05"
21 STANLEY PETERS 09h 09' 31"
22 ROGER FORREST 09h 31' 57"
23 PAUL GATENBY 09h 51' 48"
Ian Barbour - unable to avoid a pothole in fast moving bunch and crashed out with only 5km to go! Confused I had to pick him up from hospital but thankfully nothing broken and he was able to join in with the Champagne back at the hotel
Kevin Astle - got broomed on Aubisque with only 40km to go Confused
Tony Childs / Sandy MAcFarlane - got broomed just after LAruns.
Jon Skidmore - got broomed on the Marie Blanc
Well done to all those that took part - you all gave it your best shots.
Geoff Dickinson- Blackburn, Lancashire
I have now returned from France and read with interest the comments that have been written. My Etape was everything I hoped it would be. I had no aspirations other than to finish within the time limit and to enjoy the ride which I did. I can remember nearly every kilometer and could write a very long article but instead I will confine myself to listing my abiding memories of the Etape:
1. Cruising en peleton towards Oleron Sainte Marie on a beautiful, fresh, sunny morning with the green Pyrenees in the distance
2. The writing on the road part way up the Col de Marie Blanque which said ''Ici commence l' enfer" - "Hell Begins Here"!
3. The 2 hour, 18km ascent of the Col d'Aubisque - yes it was a hot, hard grind and I stopped twice for about 30 seconds each for a stretch but it felt such an achievement to crest the summit. I never realized a kilometer could be so long.
4. The traverse of the Cirque du Litor and the magnificent views of the Hautes Pyrenees in high summer
5. The encouragement of the spectators and the crowds parting for me at the crest of the Col du Soulor.
6. My increasing confidence and speed in descending from the Soulor.
7. Meeting my family in the streets of Nay who handed me fresh bottles
8. The last few fast kms into Pau and seeing and passing the Flamme Rouge.
9. Attacking that last little hill into the Place de Verdun and then crossing the line with both arms in the air!!
10. The 6 months of training leading up to the Etape, the self knowledge I have gained and the much better understanding I have of just what it takes to finish the Tour, never mind be competitive. I will never watch a TDF stage in quite the same way again.
Would I do another Etape? Probably but not for a while yet. There are many more cycling challenges out there that I would like to tackle not just in the UK but further afield as well.Well done to all i-team members whether you finished or not and thanks to Guy for some excellent coaching advice.
Richard Stephens - Shrewsbury, Shropshire
The etape for me was one of the best cycling experiences to date. Weather was great, thousands of cyclists with no traffic to worry about. The noise of all those wheels was incredible.
I started right at the back (8214) and so had a lot to do to try and make up a few places so as to not get snagged at the climbs. Unfortunately, despite passing quite a few and maintaining a reasonable pace, it all stopped on the first col which forced me to walk part of the way. On the climb of the Marie Blanque I felt quite comfortable, sitting on the wheels of 2 Norwegians. However, 1 KM before the summit, it all stopped again and I had to walk with everybody else to the top. This added quite a bit of time to my overall (20-30 mins). Slightly frustrated by this (especially as it did not do my cleats much good (front screw fell out)), I then set another goal of riding all the way up the Aubisque in a reasonable time; this I achieved in a time of 1hr 35 mins. Relatively slow descent (my particular weakness) which was even slower after a quicker cyclist overtook me and then crashed quite badly in front of me; luckily I missed him and carried on. From then on, it was a good run into PAU, although I had to keep jumping from group to group to make up some time. Met Wendy about 20KM before PAU, which surprised me, as I had forgotten she was riding (she was riding at a very good pace). It was good to see a friendly i-team face by then. Last 2 climbs were longer than expected, but some really good descents (more my type) which helped keep the speed up. Finished 6 mins outside of silver, which was frustrating due to being forced to walk for some time. However, it was all that I had imagined and was a brilliant experience.
Wendy Spruce - Hill Head, Hampshire
Here's my story...
Having traveled down to the Pyrenees on Friday, we drove the course on Saturday. This had both good and bad points, good to know what was coming up next and bad because the weather was bad that day! The Aubisque was in the clouds, you couldn't see more than 15m ahead of you in places and it was cold! I spent the next two days wondering whether I had bitten off more than I could chew.
As is always the way when you have to get up early I didn't sleep that well on Sunday night so set off early to the start at Mourenx. This meant that I was at the front of the pen. It was a great experience to be with so many other people all with the same aim and trying to converse in O level French proved quite challenging. It also had the benefit of reducing my nerves!
At exactly 7am the Etape started. From my viewpoint I could see all the early starters go by, including Guy and Kevin. Starting about five minutes after them I doubted if I would see them again! My original plan had been to set off steadily. However, my fear of the time limit resulted in a much faster 50k to the Ichere than intended. Along the way I overtook Kevin, who looked comfortable and was overtaken by Paul M and John R. Feeling strong and remembering to eat and drink I arrived at the foot of the Ichere. It was a steady climb, nothing too steep, the most frustrating part was having to walk on account of a "bouchon", too many people walking meant that you couldn't weave your way through. However, there was a good atmosphere, which almost made up for it. The descent was not as bad as I had feared, with the last section into the valley being extremely enjoyable.
I took the opportunity at the first feed station to grab some water to replenish my stocks for the Marie Blanque. Riding along the valley I managed to join a small group so we made good progress and quickly arrived at the MB. By this time I was beginning to relax and realize that I should be able to get to Laruns before the elimination time. The climb started off gently (it's all relative!) but again, due to sheer numbers, everything came to a standstill and we were forced to walk the last kilometer to the top. Although annoying it was probably a blessing as it meant that I arrived at the top still feeling good. The feeding station was hectic but I managed to grab a cheese sandwich (heaven!), bananas and water before setting off on the descent. It was great! Traveling at 60kph on a sunny day in the mountains takes some beating and I had to keep reminding myself to look around and enjoy the scenery. Turning the corner at the bottom, heading off towards Laruns I heard a "Come on W2W" - great motivation for the flat section before the Aubisque.
Even knowing that the Aubisque was long didn;t make it any easier to climb. having set myself a target time to climb it, it quickly became apparent that I was far too optimistic, so I had to keep re-setting the target. There is nothing quite as demoralising as climbing for an hour and still realising that you are only just over half way there! It was extremely hot,there was little shade, my feet hurt and the temptation to walk (especially when so many others were) was high. However, thanks to my triple Wink Wink my legs kept going and my head won the battle. Reaching the top, with all the enthusiastic roadside support (probably more because I was a girl- sorry guys) was worth the effort. After another battle to fight my way through to the tables at the feeding station I was on my way. Quietly confident that I would not be broomed I actually began to enjoy myself. The views from the top were stunning and it was a shame that I didn't have time to appreciate them more. The climb of the Soulor was not as bad as I had feared at this stage of the day and I was soon racing down (through the dreaded tunnel - especially dark with sunglasses on) towards Pau. That descent was undoubtedly the highlight of my day!! It was fast, not too busy and the gradient such that you didn't have to brake too much. Passing some people made it even better.. Laughing Laughing It was the point at which I realised that all the training was worthwhile!!
There were large groups of people racing in huge peleton's towards Pau and I was surprised that I felt comfortable with the speed and, in fact, wanted to go faster. There seemed to be a reluctance to do any work with everyone quite happy to sit in and rest. I came across Richard Stephens who got fed up with this and worked his way through the groups. Just before Nay I, too, decided that I wanted to go faster so set off ahead of the group just to see what would happen. The answer was nothing! No one seemed worried. The last two smaller climbs were made more bearable by the fact that the end was in sight, the crowds were cheering and there was a man with a hose cooling everyone off!!
And then the markers at the side of the road started counting down the last few kilometers until the 2k and finally the 1k banner came into sight. I met a couple of English guys as we rode the last kilometer and we all let out a collective "oh no!" when we saw the hill up to the finish but the adrenaline kicked in, we turned the corner and there was the finish - a great relief..
Without wanting to get involved in an Oscar style "thank you" speech I would like to say thank you to Guy, for being welcoming when I joined the club and to everyone who has offered me advice during the past few months and reminded me to stay positive. It's what makes i-team so special!!
Paul Morris - Hill Head, Hampshire
For me the Etape was a nightmare and being brutally honest I would have to sum it up as one of the hardest thing I have ever done. Apart from the blow out on the rear and the broken saddle pointing to the sky I've spent the last week wondering where I went wrong?
The first part for me was very comfortable. I was keen to make haste but save energy for the harder parts. 33kms was completed in the first hour and further 25kms completed in the second including the first "major" climb. On the day I climbed what I thought was a hard* but a comfortable Marie Blanque with a tightly packed group and it was here on the descent that all was not well. I took on food but was unable to swallow. On the run down to Laruns I met up with John R again and I told him I felt a bit pants on the descent but was starting to feel a little better. Then I hit the Aubisque and knew all was not well .I started falling off the pace and was unable to generate any power even on the lower slopes. Then I hit the steeper ones and things went backwards, and I started to overheat. I made it to the first tunnel and stayed a little while. I then slogged on to the car park on the turn before riding to a standstill just before the next tunnel. I then made it to the next tunnel and again stayed a little while. Here I saw Wendy go by looking very strong. The last few kms were hard for me. Overheating and not generating any power I ended up having to walk / cycle. Towards the top Steve Smith passed me and this gave a bit of encouragement to try and stay with him. I remounted and rode myself into a standstill about 2km from the summit. All in all it took me over 2.5 hrs to climb the 17kms of the Aubisque.
The descent I normally enjoy but again I wasn't comfortable and later to my horror realised that in climbing I had pushed my seat right back in the clamp, rotating the seat to maximum elevation upwards and bent the 8mm retaining bolt. I tried to resolve this later on but was unable to do so. The descent also provided an opportunity for me to cool and I joined in a quick moving group taking my turn at the front but ended up dropping then on the small inclines towards the finish. Then bang – rear blowout. I was on my way within a few minutes and chased after a passing group but gave up the chase. Out of this group dropped a small female and I offered her my wheel for a little while on the flatter parts. Things seemed to be picking up and I was starting to get use to the unusual, but slightly painful seat position. Then bang, the seat rail breaks and I have to take turns standing more and sitting less. I roll along with a group at around 40kph and remember seeing the 20km to go sign. Then those two hills. I was unable to climb the first but believe I managed to slog up the second smaller hill. The run in after that was uneventfully slow but painful.
I have just returned from France after spending a few extra days to tackle some other Cols including the Aubisque again. Second time around with "semi"fresh legs I complete the climb, from Laruns, in under 1.5hrs at an average of 12.3kph
* Heart rate data indicates around 30min for the last 4km of this climb at a heart rate of between 181 and 190
Andrew MacFarlane - New Zeeland
This was my second Etape and my prime aim this year was to avoid the problems I had last year. Mainly bonking big time after 3 hours and riding for 7 hours with cramped legs! There was the possibility of a silver classification but it would be tight. My preparation for the event was good and my condition was far more advanced than at Etape time last year. After a rapid start the roads leading up to the first climb of the day were smooth and fast. Andy Jones, my brother, Grant Roberts and myself took it easy moving from group to group, making sure we abused TM Racing as we flew by. The aim of the game at this stage was energy conservation, although it was tough to hold back our enthusiasm. The first few 'blips' in the road came and went; then through a narrow wooded gorge we hit the Col d'Ichere, the first climb of the day worthy of a spot on the profile. Rising to 674m it was a pleasure with a few hairpins adding to character of the climb. I was alone.
The descent was brilliant. A technical challenge with yet more hairpins. It wasn't for the faint hearted, I myself almost over cooked it on (just) one occasion but for those not endowed with such descending prowess it was too much. One poor chap promptly planted his face into the tarmac on one corner after deciding the gutter was faster. I guess it wasn't. The valley offered some respite before the Col De Marie Blanque. Which was a right B@st@rd!! The lower slopes were challenging but manageable though as we climbed the road got steeper rising to an average of 11% with bits over 13%. The legs were definitely hurting. It was time to partly open my suitcase of strength and plow on. The climb to 1035m came and went and once again descended passing squealing breaks and many having 'oh $xxx!' moments.
From the Marie Blanque to the Aubisque there was a slight respite and a chance to take on board some food and return some feeling to ones' legs. At the end of the valley there she was. The Col d' Aubisque. 17km of France's finest tarmac rising to 1677m. The lower slopes were slight and progress was easy at 16/17kph but it soon got tougher with speeds dropping to around 8kph. The suitcase of strength was well and truly open along with my trusty suitcase of courage. I felt the need for Brandy but thought better of it. Stopping was out of the question. The kilometers slowly ticked by with the scenery and roadside 'tottie' offering a pleasant distraction. A Kodak moment presented itself and I obliged with a few snaps for the photo album.
At the crest of the climb I paused to refuel and checked my stats. 22.3kph average, I realised that if I chucked myself down the mountain I was on for a silver, 25kph was required 26kph was the target. I entered 'The Zone.' The Soulor was a slight impediment to my progress but it was over quickly and I bombed it down the mountain. Breaking late and defying the force of gravity, with less than a square inch of rubber prevented my machine from slipping out from underneath me. On the edge man…..nerves of steel. No one passed me but I passed many. My average speed slowly rose….At the base I joined a good group and we cruised at over 45kph. The crowds in the towns were amazing, I felt like I was THE MAN!!!!! Which I was as far as I was concerned. Two very insignificant but painful, soul destroying and knee breaking 'pimples' on the French landscape later and I wasn't feeling quite as good about myself…but then there it was the Flame Rouge and the final kilometer. Fanbloodytastic!!!! 7 hours and 7 minutes after starting I had finished. I was a mess, I was in that mystical place sometimes seen at the end of a long ride. I'd failed to drink and eat as much as I should have since the Aubisque and simple directions towards the coach had me do a small tour of Pau. Cars...Heat....Sun....bike.......feet..ahhhhh!! But really I couldn't care less I'd made the silver cut off by 3 minutes. Yeah Baby!
So there you are a 'short' account, Only 700 words.
Check out a few of those 'Kodak moments.'
Myself and training partner Andrew flew down from Gatwick to Toulouse on the Saturday, our base was Lannemazan (about 45 mins drive from Pau).
On the Sunday we set off to register and after checking out the travel options decided to leave our bikes there over night with the aim of getting the official transport from Pau early in the morning leaving our car at the finish. This didn't prove to be as wise a decision as we thought !
Monday morning we depart Hotel at 4:30 am, arrive at Pau at 5:15, bus waiting there we think this is perfect. But the bus isn't full so it waits, and it waits and it waits until at 6am it sets off - it dropped us off at 6:55am ! so we had 5 minutes to fetch bikes, use the loo, get setup, find our starting pen. We didn't manage it and stood at the side watching bike after bike go by when we should have been pedaling. Eventually we managed to sneak past the security and join in - but it wasn't the best start. As with the etape du dales in May we decided to set off at moderate pace (if you count 18mph moderate), but we were getting passed by rider after rider, we felt sure most of the riders at this stage must have been putting in too much too early. We stayed together until the first categorised climb - at which point I slowly pulled away from him. (We'd agreed that if we got split on the climbs we'd just go at our own rythmn so I didn't worry ) . ABout 3/4 of the way up I got a huge surprise when I had to get off - not due to any inability on my part but to a huge bottleneck of cyclists. After standing for a couple of minutes another huge surprise - my hrm was reading only 64 bpm ! Once I got going again there was a nice descent followed by the Colde Marie Blanque.
I passed Stan Peters near the bottom, Stan was struggling after trying to make up ground following 3 punctures! I offered to lead him for a while but he declined so I kept going at my own steady pace. Near the top (maybe 3/4 of the way up) I stopped. I'd sussed out earlier this year then the easiest way to recover is to stop and to then cycle again when the heart rate 30 BPM lower.
Edited by Guy_Watson