Published by Andrew on 23 October 2017
Riding the 2018 Étape du Tour? Here is everything you need to know to enter – and survive – the most famous sportive in the world. Local cyclist Chris Cole has this overview.
Riding a Tour de France under race conditions is the ultimate amateur cycling challenge. There's only one Étape du Tour. Here's what you need to know to enter.
When is the 2018 Étape du Tour?
The 2018 Étape will take place on Sunday, July 8, with dossards available for collection on the Friday and Saturday.
Which Tour de France stage does the 2018 Etape du Tour use?
Note: We've based our stats on the fly-through from the Etape website, combined with Ride With GPS and Strava data – the final figures may differ slightly when the final fully mapped route is released.
The 2018 Etape du Tour will use Stage 10 of the Tour de France, between Annecy and Le Grand-Bornand, in the Haute-Savoie department. The stage is 169km long, with a total elevation gain of 4,129m. There are 4 categorised climbs on the route: the Col de la Croix Fry (1,477m), the Montée du Plateau des Glières (1,390m), the Col de Romme (1,297m) and the Col de la Colombière (1,618m), and also a handful of uncategorised climbs.
Overview of this year's route
It’s a fast and flat 25km to start, anti-clockwise around beautiful Lake Annecy to the first uncategorised climb of the day, from Talloires to Bluffy (3.6km at 6.2%).
A false flat along the Fier valley (usually with tailwind) will take you to the pretty town of Thônes, and then on to the first categorised climb, the Col de la Croix Fry (11.1km at 7.2%). This gorgeous road might seem the easiest of the day’s four main climbs, but it’s also the longest and it is still a Cat 1 when the Tour passes.
There's a fast descent through La Clusaz and St-Jean de Sixt (passing very close to the finish), leading to the second categorised climb, the Montée du Plateau des Glières (6km at 11.2%). The stats don’t lie: this is an extremely hard climb on a very narrow road that is a potential bottleneck if – as seems likely – some riders have to stop and walk. Yes, it really is that steep.
The magnificent Plateau des Glières is one of the highlights of this year’s Tour de France, with its monument to the French Resistance and the much-talked-about 1.5km gravel track. The gravel is OK with 25mm tyres, although the short uphill section in the middle could be tricky if it rains on the day.
Another fast descent is into the village of Thorens-Glières and then immediately on to the next uncategorised climb, the Col des Fleuries (5km at 4.6%), then another quick descent to the valley floor, through the towns of La Roche-sur-Foron and Bonneville (again, usually with a tailwind).
The formidable Col de Romme (8.8km at 8.9%) will hurt with 130km already in the legs. It’s a very tough climb with a punishing, relentless gradient.
The most technical descent of the day is from Romme to Le Reposoir: beware the blind corners through the woods and the awkward camber of the road.
The final climb is the Col de la Colombière (7.5km at 8.5%). The Romme route means we miss out the easier bottom section of the Colombière; unfortunately, the top part from Le Reposoir onwards is one of those climbs that lulls you into a false sense of security in the opening stretches and then kicks you in the teeth towards the end For the last 3km, the gradient is above 10%, and while the col sits within tantalising view for much of this stretch, it seems to take an age to reach.
Then there's one final glorious, fast descent to the finish in Le Grand-Bornand.
Congratulations, you’ve done it!
What should your race strategy be?
Make no mistake: this is a hard day on the bike. The climbs may be shorter than the traditional Alpine challenges, but the gradients are steeper, with prolonged double-digit sections on all 4 main climbs that will be very challenging on the day. The route is also comparatively low (at its highest point, only just over 1,600m), so if the weather is good, you may find temperatures well into the 30s for most if not all of the route. Equally, Alpine weather can be unpredictable, so you should be prepared for all conditions.
The gravel section on the Plateau des Glières means 25mm tyres are recommended: anything thinner and you may have problems here, especially if it is wet. Otherwise, the roads are generally in good condition, even if the descent from the Col de Romme requires special caution.
As ever, pacing your effort will be the key to success on the day, which means resisting the temptation to blast the first 25km around Lake Annecy, and making sure you are riding in a group as much as possible on all the flat sections.
Make use of the food stations and drink regularly, particularly if the weather is hot. Certain climbs, notably Glières and Romme, may require you simply to grind away until you reach the top, so you have to make sure you have plenty in the tank to deal with this. A compact chainset probably won’t go amiss either!
How do I enter?
All info is on the official Etape du Tour website. Basic race entry costs €109 in 2018, though there are various official race packages also available.
Registrations will stay open until all entries are taken – usually by around March. Don't delay!
Everyone who enters needs to have a valid medical certificate that's no more than one-year-old to say they are fit. See here for a template. You’ll need to show the certificate when you pick up your number. If you’re a member of a French cycling federation, you may be exempt. The certificate can be in English.
Where to stay
From an accommodation point of view, this is a great Etape. Annecy and the villages around the lake offer a wide range of options to suit all budgets, ranging from campsites up to 5* hotels. Le Grand-Bornand and neighbouring La Clusaz are bustling ski resorts, again with a wide selection of accommodation. And many of the smaller villages in and around the area offer good accommodation that may be cheaper than the better-known towns and resorts. In general, the area is a cyclist’s paradise, with a huge selection of roads and detours that allow loops of all distances, perfect for warm up and recovery rides! There are also plenty of activities and attractions to keep non-cycling family and friends occupied.
When choosing your accommodation, it’s worthwhile keeping in mind that on the day there will be road closures that may impact your route to and from the start and/or finish. If you are staying around Le Grand-Bornand or La Clusaz, you may have to leave very early in the morning in order to be able to get to the start in Annecy before the roads between Thônes and the lake are closed. Likewise, if staying in or around Annecy, you will have to wait for the roads to re-open before you can return from the finish in Le Grand-Bornand.
Our best advice is to stay with a bike-friendly hotel, chalet or B&B that's geared for cyclists and can offer the best local advice. Search our map below for options or see Stage 10 of our Tour de France cycling accommodation page.
Should I bring my own bike or hire one?
It’s completely up to you. While most people prefer their own bike, it really depends on where you’re coming from, and how easy (and affordable) it is to bring your own bike. We have information on shipping your bike to France if you need to send your bike ahead.
If you need hire, remember that quality road bikes can be in short supply in the Alps during the Tour and this is especially the case around Étape time. Book well ahead if you need to hire a bike so that you get the size and the specs you want. If you need help, you can use our bike hire service.
Can you recommend any supported Étape packages?
These can make life a lot easier as they’ll take care of all your logistics, including accommodation and bike hire if you need it. They’ll also drop you at the start village and pick you up at the end, which means all you need to worry about is the riding.
Drop us a line via our bespoke tours service and we’ll match you up with a suitable local company.
About our guest writer
Chris Cole runs La Chalet Giettaz, a specialist biking base in Aravis. He's ridden these routes more times than Strava lets on, and has special Tour de France and Etape packages for 2018.