In this open-entry race, participants cover the same route that the cycling pros will cover just a few days later in the Tour de France. In 2015, the field included four cyclists who hit the jackpot in the prize draw from ŠKODA and WeLoveCycling: they were entered in the race and got to feel like pros for a day.
The legs burn, the pulse races, sweat streams down the face. Martin Roman gets out of the saddle and pounds the pedals from a standing position. “Don’t give up! Just keep pedalling, just keep going.” With a gaping mouth and open jersey, he struggles with gritty resolve up the Col du Chaussy – more than 15 kilometres long, with a maximum gradient of 8.7 percent. The 33-year-old is absolutely determined to make it, no matter how much he may want to give up. At the end of all the suffering the reward awaits: the finishing line of the Étape du Tour 2015.
José Gabriel García Caro and Emmanouil Maragkoudakis are also subjecting themselves to this extreme test of will. They won two of the coveted starting places in the WeLoveCycling prize draw sponsored by the online magazine and ŠKODA. Finally, Lionel Macaluso, one of magazine’s ambassadors, also signs up to push the pedals for the WeLoveCycling team.
The day finally arrives. On the agenda for the amateur racers on this sweltering day in July is the 19th stage of the Tour de France 2015. The 138 kilometres from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to La Toussuire are punctuated by four gruelling Alpine passes. Some 12,000 cyclists from 72 countries take up the challenge – an extraordinary backdrop. In comparison, the peloton of the hardest bicycle race in the world only has about 200 riders.