Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Plan Your Ride!

The first view of the official route with its elimination times is up on the Etape web site, and can be seen here.

Clive's Initial In Depth Analysis:

We will be starting in the middle of Albertville, on Avenue Joseph Fontanet, beneath the Olympic Flame from the Albertville Winter Olympics.

The riders start at 7:00, though it will take about 30 minutes for all riders to clear the start. The Broom Wagon starts after us at 8:00.

Broom Wagon Speed to Feissons-sur-Isere (21.5km) is 25.3kmh we should all make up a little bit of time here. As the group bunches up toward the lower slopes of the Madeleine, we may possibly be forced to walk a bit, but the Broom Wagon slows to 13kmh from Feissons to the turn at the bottom of the Madeleine. Thus we have to cover 23km in 58 minutes to stay equidistant to the Broom Wagon. In a peloton (without mishaps) this should not be difficult.

The Madeleine starts steep, and is initially difficult through a half dozen or so hairpins. The broom wagon will be doing 14kmh on this section as far as the first feed some 13km up!

Fear not, this includes the flatter and downhill section after 6.6kmof the climb. It breaks down as:

The first section of 3.2km at an average 8.75%
The next section of 2.8km at an average 5.75%
A gittish 600 metres at 8.3%       
3.8km of rolling stuff at an average of just 1.5%, you WILL need to get the hammer down here, it is not a rest section.
The last 2.8km at 6.8% to the feed station.

The broom wagon will stop for 10 minutes at the feed station. Then do the next 10km to the top of the Madeleine, a section at an average gradient of about 6% in 43 minutes. An average speed of 14kmh!!!

It looks like they are trying to weed out the 'weaklings' early this year, but this is not going to be a problem, even for those of us looking just to complete. If we assume that we get over the start line in 30 minutes this gives us 3 hours and 15 minutes to get to the top of the first climb. If pelotons go at 30kmh (they actually go faster), we will reach the bottom in 45 minutes, thus giving 2:30 for the 25km climb, (ie 10kmh). This is slightly faster than usual but not unachievable for anyone in our group.

After a 5 minute stop at the liquid refreshment stop at the top, the Broom Wagon rattles down the 19km descent in just 29 minutes. Again, don't worry, this is only 39kmh, and we can all go faster than that, even with the hairpins.

With another 10 minute stop at the feed in La Chambre, there will be further opportunity to eke out a lead, before the wagon then does the next 9 kilometres at 25kmh. This is on the valley floor and there should still be people around to drag you along.

The next climb starts properly after 74km and it is 10km to the liquid feed on the climb itself.  The average gradient here is 6.2%, but flattens in the last kilometre before the feed, so the bottom will feel harder. Average broom wagon speed is 12.5kmh, so they are still expecting you to get a wiggle on.

Wagon stops at the feed for 5 minutes, which is just as well, because from here to the top of the Glandon is pure evil.  Gradients of up to 12% will assail you, and the wagon will be moving inexorably at 10kmh. Prepare for a struggle. This is the one point on the ride where most riders will be swept up. The best tip if you are struggling is just to dig in and stay one step ahead of the melee. If the timing car cannot reach you through the mass of walking 'riders' then you cannot be eliminated.

You get no respite at the top of the Glandon, so push on to the Croix de Fer (still pursued at 10kmh) though there is a short downhill here. At the top of the Croix de Fer is a feed station where the Broom Wagon will halt for another 10 minutes.

The descent from the Croix de Fer is the most technical (ie dangerous) on the ride, and this section needs to be done at an average 27.5kmh to stay ahead. Sensible!

The Col de Mollard is, apparently, 5.5km long (everywhere else thinks it's 6) and needs to be tackled at 11kmh.

After that is another liquid refreshment stop (5 minute wagon hiatus) followed by 9km of downhill with a required speed of 25kmh. This might be generous as, despite the initial hairpins, the last 4km to the last feed are dead straight (and an opportunity for 70-80kmh!!!)

With a 10 minute break here, the wagon then grinds its way to the finish, some 25.5km distant, at 13kmh.

Overall, if you cross the start line 30 minutes after the gun (this would normally be the case for those drawn at the very very back) you therefore have 10 hours and 24 minutes to complete L'Etape. I will, at this point, refer you to the "Everything You Need To Know About L'Etape Document" in which I predicted a time allowance of.................10:24. I'm a bloody genius, I tell you!

The problem is that the climbing is now a bit more keen than I expected, the descending a little more relaxed. Plan accordingly.

Your key milestones:
Start:  7:00
Top of the Madeleine by 10:46
Top of the Croix de Fer by 14:16
Top of the Mollard by 15:32
Cross the finish by 17:54

A long day for sure, so get your head right before you start. With the miles we cover, it would normally be demoralising to read just 98 kilometres on the speedo from, say, 6 hours on the bike. In this case, such stats would mean you had an hour in hand!

Final Observations:
Getting to the start earlier (ie getting up even earlier to cycle 30km, downhill, to the start) will give you more time, as you will cross the start line earlier.
The need for the 'less ambitious' to draft other riders is paramount. Do it mercilessly!!!!!
To stay ahead of the wagon, we will need to put in some serious climbing effort. There is not really a 'sit there and twiddle' option.
Once over the first summit, we should gain time on the descents.

If you reached it this far n the post, congratulations! You undoubtedly have the stamina to succeed.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Official Route

Here it is boys, your first look at the official route from ASO.

Points worth noting:
First Feed station is at Celliers, halfway up the Madeleine. (Take enough food with you, that one will be rammed)
Drinks station at the top of the Madeleine (essential to stop there and refill)
Second feed at the bottom of the Madeleine at La Chambre (fill up there before the Glandon/Croix de Fer)
More drinks halfway up the Glandon, further feed at the Croix de Fer (fill up there but don't even think about eating much on the descent, its too winding)
Drinks station for more refills at the top of the Mollard
Final feed before the start of the last climb.

Nice to see the route, which is slightly different to my first guess. We come down the more minor road off the Madeleine (more hairpins, yippee). Make your own minds up, but I think we should not plan to stop at the first feed. Experience says it will be chaos, and the road is quite narrow there too, so getting going again might be problematic. The issue will be, can we get all the way to the top of the Madeleine on just the water that we carry from the start?

First Feed,6.421208&spn=0.00006,0.066047&t=m&z=15&layer=c&cbll=45.479987,6.421107&panoid=ZVChvIa79v-nvzE1bWsQ6w&cbp=12,179.84,,0,0

Just before a few steep hairpins....nice!

Elimination times should be up in 4-6 weeks if previous years are anything to go by.


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