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The slight nervousness just before the start of the L’Étape du Tour is almost tangible. It’s accompanied by an extremely focused energy of concentration. The course is very demanding. Anyhow, the decision has been made and giving up before the race just because one feels like he or she might not even make it across the finish line is simply unthinkable! This race belongs to true warriors.

Those not afraid to triumph over themselves and who take reaching the rock bottom of their abilities as a challenge. One might even say, hyperbolically, that they even have no need for rivals. The majority craves “just” to fly over the coveted finish line. To handle the course, which is going to be conquered by the pros – the Tour de France participants – just days later. Those admired both by fans scattered along the whole race course and fans at home, nervously clenching their fists at TV screens.

Anyhow, the overall atmosphere shows high spirits. Every participant realizes already at the very start that they are about to witness one of the best moments in their lives. “I’m right here, I’m a part of the L’Étape du Tour!” But of course, the finish line offers much greater joy, once you actually manage to cross it in one piece. It’s an experience hard to convey with mere words. Without a doubt, it’s the height of an amateur cyclist’s career! The L’Étape du Tour race course is always designed by the organizers in such a way it would be both intriguing and fairly demanding. Usually, it’s a difficult mountain route with one or two hills boasting a great elevation.

And with July taken into consideration, which is one of the hottest months in Central Europe, the race can become almost deadly, without exaggeration. Many racers don’t even make it to the finish, so registering for L’Étape du Tour is not to be taken lightly. The rider should be in a near-perfect condition. This is an absolute imperative. He or she should also have multiple experience with long routes and terrain that can’t be described as flat. There should be at least one major hill “in their legs”. Those with distinctively better fitness will be able to enjoy the race itself more and to even attempt to “take a stab” at their best time and the competition. Those overestimating their powers will need to reach into their reserves more often and deeper. But as they say, in a way the winner is anybody who really managed to put themselves behind the finish tape and that’s what is L’Étape du Tour all about in the first place.

 

Before the starting pistol is fired, which happens in intervals of 1,000 riders every 10 minutes because of the annual enormous turnout, this moment is preceded by a straining organizational process. ŠKODA also nominates its “racehorses” for the L’Étape du Tour and does so very meticulously. Before the applicants are even signed up and registered, they are required to send over data from their cycling applications for consideration (usually tracking figures via screenshots). This way, a realistic image can be produced of how experienced the riders are and how “serious” are they about cycling. A short survey is also to be completed, where the applicants describe their reasons why they should be the chosen ones for the race.

 


Besides the motivation, the organizer also gets to assess the potential racer’s level of English because there simply can’t be a misinterpretation at such a prominent event. Thousands of riders have to be in the right place at the right time with their starting number and there’s positively no room for chaos.

The race is not only physically demanding but affects also the riders’ mental well-being. ŠKODA, as an organizer, aims to lessen the psychological strain as much as possible and de facto arranges every single thing for the participants. The registration itself, accommodation, acquiring the starting number, and the transfer from the hotel to the venue – all of this will be taken care of. The riders’ only worries are buying flight tickets and to arrive in the best condition possible, of course. Obviously, every rider should also do their “homework”, which consists of the course

analysis, ensuring their bike is properly tuned up, and getting suitable and quality clothes, considering the possibility that one might find himself/herself in a 40-degree heat. Making sure your means of racing is properly cleaned up goes without saying, so does taking an appropriate nutrition items that should be skilfully placed within your racing jersey, along with other small equipment. The organizer’s role is to take care of everything else so that the rider should feel maximally comfortable and could focus solely on the race.

ŠKODA’s main goal is to introduce the common spectator to the quality of the most prestigious cycling event there is – the Tour de France race. And how successful are they in fulfilling it?

 

KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE L’ÉTAPE DU TOUR 2017!

 

ABOUT THE L’ÉTAPE DU TOUR RACE

 

First held in 1993, the race is still going strong. The original idea was to grant amateur cyclists the first-hand experience of the challenging Tour de France mountain routes and the concept hasn’t been changed ever since.

Every year means different venue, which means a completely different route. This year’s race is held on 16th July and departs from Briancon (1,170 elevation), passes through Izoard (2,360 elevation), and finishes in Col de Vars (2,109 elevation). The overall length is 178 kilometres.

The typical L’Étape du Tour participant is a man in his forties.

 

 

 

WE LOVE CYCLING

 

JIŘÍ JEŽEK
the most successful Paralympic cyclist
of all times as of today, participated
in last year’s L’Étape du Tour

 

This year, the number of participants will reach 15,000. ŠKODA will send seven racers of their own to the L’Étape du Tour, chosen via the We Love Cycling project.

INTERVIEW WITH JAN HEJNA
L’ÉTAPE DU TOUR LAST YEAR’S PARTICIPANT

What was the greatest surprise the race had in store for you? What weren’t you expecting? Did you manage to surprise yourself, somehow, and how did it feel like?

The first thing that caught me by surprise was the sheer number of riders at the start, which was somewhere around 16,000. Luckily, I started in the first wave, around 400th place, so I managed to get to the front part right off the bat. I was taken aback by the hot pace during the first flat kilometres, which averaged around 50 km/h. As a next thing, I was surprised by the descents off all three passes, which were much more challenging for me than ascents. I’m from Prague, so I’m missing a long-term experience with winding complicated slope descents. I could see that I was losing big time there, compared to others. What I liked very much about the race was that because of all the banners at the start, the finish, and over the overall course, it really felt like how I perceive the Tour de France on TV. All was intensified by supporting service motorcycles and countless helicopters. The only improvement I would see in the quality of refreshment stations scattered along the course. At such a prominent event, one would expect somebody handing him a filled bidon, so you wouldn’t have to get off the bike and lose pace. Something that is very common at all domestic races. Retrospectively, after a few days, I was sitting at home by the TV and I was fascinated by the speed with which the pros tackle the course during the Tour de France.

How challenging was the race for you and would you do it again?

 

The race was extremely demanding because of its profile in combination with the length, and rising temperature during the day. I certainly appreciated that one of the passes was dropped from the course because of a landslide. I have no idea how I would make it through. Anyway, I wouldn’t hesitate a second to take the race on again and I would recommend it to any amateur cyclist who craves to get a taste of the professional cycling world.

JAN HEJNA