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Can you handle the L’Étape du Tour?

By Vratislav Šlapák

First held in 1993, the L’Étape du Tour lets thousands of amateur cyclists from around the world compete in a race along one of the Tour de France stages under tournament conditions.

This year’s L’Étape du Tour will be held on Sunday, July 19 2015. It’s a break day for the Tour and it’s not for the feint of heart. Replicating stage 19 of this year’s Tour de France, the 142 kilometre route from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne (553m) tops out on the Col de la Croir de Fer (2,067m) before finishing at La Toussuire (1,705m).

The original idea behind the L’Étape du Tour was to allow amateur cyclists to experience the breathtaking beauty and muscle-burning rigor of the Tour de France mountain stages. And with up to 11,000 riders participating in the event, the concept has not changed in the two decades since the first race. The race features closed roads, support cars, feeding stations and a broom wagon to pick up the stragglers.

l’Étape du Tour 2015 elevation profile / Photo: l’Étape du Tour website

Participants are mostly men in their 40s, geared up in all the latest kit, with a handful of women and some lean and wiry old-timers on old-school steel-framed bikes filling out the ranks. The race usually starts quite early, with participants distributed according to their ability levels: the fastest at the front and the slowest at the back.[cite align=”right” width=“20%”]”Many riders don’t finish the race at all”[/cite]The peloton quickly stretches out, creating a constant flow of cyclists on the route. The last riders usually take over 10 hours to cross the finish line, though historically there have always been many who don’t finish the race at all and end up taking a bus or lorry back.

Dave Sim at l’Étape du Tour on his Raleigh

Notable moments in the history of the L’Étape du Tour include famed cyclist and three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond racing with his son in 2007. After the race he was quoted as saying, “I had the time of my life, despite getting 650th place. I was impressed that I even finished.”


Registration for the L’Étape du Tour 2015 is already closed, but if you think you can tackle the backbreaking climbs and keep up with the pelaton, we’ll be giving away 6 spots in the starting line, along with airfare, transport and accommodation. Contest winners will be part of the WLC Team and wear WeLoveCycling jerseys.

Look for our L’Étape du Tour 2015 contest coming soon on WeLoveCycling.