The Etape du Tour has become a pilgramage for the religion of the cyclosportives. A chance to step into the realm of the Tour de France, not just as a spectator, but as a participant, if only for a day. To understand the suffering that the professionals endure for the entire three weeks, but also to feel the exhilaration of accomplishing a goal with your friends and fellow cyclotourists. And most importantly, to discover a beautiful environment to enjoy on the bicycle.
The stage chosen for the 2013 Etape du Tour was stage 20, Annecy- The Semnoz. This route has been snubbed once before in the Tour de France. The 1998 'Festina' Tour held a 'go slow' protest on the only other stage ever to be planned for the regal Semnoz with its extraordinary view across Lac d'Annecy to the Chaine des Aravis.
Managing a group of more than 10,000 cyclists (11500) onto one course involves an incredible amount of logistics. Most importantly for the Patrol Eco Cyclo is to help the organizers , keep an eye on the participants and remind them of the importance of holding onto their trash until they can throw it away in one of the 'green' zones that surround the feed areas.
Luckily, I was on a good day and managed to get over the first few climbs with the leading group of about 50. Of course, most of these guys are far from your classic cyclotourist, we even had Olympic gold medalist and current European MTB champion, Julien Absalon for company!
Many of these riders have the latest equipment and aren't really too far off the pros when it comes to climbing the big mountains, but also like the pros, they can be very bad about throwing away their rubbish on the road. I often share my 'used gel packet' trick with them if I see them throw one on the ground. Of course, putting a used gel packet back into your jersey pocket with the rest of your items is an unpleasant experience as everything else gets sticky. I have found the best trick for me is to fold the used packet flat and then put it just under the band of the right leg of my shorts. That way, when passing a 'green' zone, you can just quickly reach with one hand the grab the waste out and throw it out somewhere where it will be picked up. Simple and effective!
As the kilometers and the climbs got harder, I let the fast guys get on with their competition and turned back to my own personal battle to finish the Etape. For sure, there were some moments where the only thought was putting one foot in front of the other, but eventually I reached the Semnoz summit and was greeted by the most incredible view and feeling of exhilaration. To test oneself on the course of the Tour and to ride in such a beautiful environment is a real treat. Let's make sure that we keep that environment beautiful and clean for all to enjoy!
Patrollers on the Etape: David Bailey, Pierre Gadiou, Vincent Hurstel.