The 2012 Etape du Tour - Acte 1

The first of this year's Etapes du Tour will be run from Albertville to the ski resort of La Toussuire (Les Sybelles)

Christian Prudhomme’s analysis of this stage is:

“Twenty years after the Winter Olympic Games, the riders will set off from Albertville for an alpine stage with a substantial agenda and marked out on a shorter distance. During 140 km, the peloton will go over the Col de la Madeleine, the Col de la Croix de Fer and the Col du Mollard before tackling the climb towards the resort of La Toussuire. This will certainly single out the potential winners.”

This is a short and intense stage, containing four recognised climbs for the King of the Mountains competition and precious little flat on which peloton skills will be required. The Tour de France stage length of 140km may well be slightly extended for Etape riders, since we will not be permitted the neutralised roll-out that the Tour enjoys. Obviously, this has nothing to do with the fact that we can’t be trusted not to race each other in the neutralised zone…..

Stage 11 of the 2012 Tour de France, this stage will see the keen amateurs tackle the route on Sunday 8th July, before the Tour itself comes through on Thursday 12th.

Whilst it may not have the climbs which would be recognised by the casual watcher of the Tour de France, this stage nonetheless packs in a considerable punch with over 4,700 metres of climbing in four climbs. Best guess at the moment is that there will be one Category 2, one Category 1 and two HC ascents in the 140 kilometres. It doesn't take a genius to work out that this is unlikely to contain much flat land, and this is borne out by the profile diagram.

After the first 20km of riding in a peloton of 10,000 riders, we etappers will be faced with the 24 kilometre climb of the Col de la Madeleine. Whilst it only averages 6.5%, there is a small section of downhill about a third of the way up, which means that the real climbing is a bit steeper. To put it another way, from the start of the race to the top of the Madeleine is a vertical mile!

Assuming we survive the winding 21km descent into the Maurienne Valley, our enjoyment will be further enhanced by a second 24km climb, this time over the Col de Glandon up to the Croix de Fer. This one is a beast! The last 2 kilometres to the Glandon average 10.75%, the last 7 averaging 9%. Many riders will be engaging their 24 inch gear on this section (24 inches, two feet, gettit?)

Once at the Croix de Fer, the fun will continue on the descent to the bottom of the Col du Mollard. This is a section which is neutralised on the Marmotte each year, owing to the fact that riders have perished as a result of their enthusiasm exceeding their ability (with the exception of the unfortunate rider taken out by another rider who didn't make the bend 100 metres above). Not so for the Etape, the road will be closed, and we should be able to let it rip. Carefully.

Once up the 6km climb of the Mollard, the descent continues, on more sensible roads for another 10 miles before we turn straight back uphill for our last 19km climb of the day. Those riders with any energy left should look forward to cheering crowds and free beer at the finish. Most riders won't have any energy left.


  1. By my quick calcs this stage has 73km of climbing out of a total of 140km, so basically 50% is uphill, 15% is flat (first part) and 35% downhill.....can't these be reversed!!!!

  2. Alas not! But forewarned is forearmed, and I shall be posting a more in depth analysis in due course.

    Actually, there is a little bit more flat than you think. THere's a small bit between Glandon & Croix de Fer, and a couple of km half way up the Madeleine.

    Besides, you get to ride downhill and on the flat on the way to the start....