There’s always plenty of it around, nowhere more so than cycling messageboards. It can range from the have-a-go-heroes telling you you’re not training hard enough unless you are riding every hill in sight in some monster gear to the genuinely informative, like the following one from Ed In Vercors on the Cycling Plus forum, which breaks down the course into the key elements and perhaps helps think about how best to ride it.
As posts have a tendency to get lost as they get older and are archived, I’ve taken the liberty of reproducing it in full below, something which I hope Ed and Cycling Plus won’t mind.
“I have ridden this years Etape stage a couple of times already & have pretty good experience of French Sportives etc so I hope the following guidlines are usefull additions to the other posts.
1. Gap start. This can be one of the hottest places in France in July. Arrive early & start drinking bottled water. If you have spent a lot of time/effort/�’s getting this far don’t waste it by taking chances with different food & water. Use PSP22 or similar, GO, for the event itself.
Check the weather forecast. Back page of the Dauphin� paper will give you an indication, otherwise just ask the hotel or have a look outside the tourist office. They have the next days forecast on the door. Or, check with race organisation.
2. The route to Embrun & Guillestre is open & generally flat. This can be windy & exposed. Stick in groups & stay at a comfortable pace. Take on fluids.
3. Col d’Izoard, major altitude at 2360m. The climb starts soon after Guillestre & upwards for about 25km. It is particularly demanding once out of the trees & into the rocky, scree type landscape near the summit. Here is where you will notice the altitude if you have not acclimatised beforehand.
4. Descent to Brian�on, good, safe, fast downhill, few hairpins.
5. Brian�on-Col du Lautaret, short sharp climb out of Brian�on which hurts after the long descent. Long steady climb on a rough road up through Serre Chevalier. Can bit a bit of a downer here as the Col can be seen from a long way down. Sit on wheels here & get some gels down.
6. Lautaret-Oisans, you may need a gilet before dropping down into the valley. Watch out for potholes, subsidence, tunnels, traffic, cattle etc. Otherwise enjoy one of the tdf famous alpine downhill sections. More food/fluids on the final flat section into Bourg d’Oisans.
7. At the bottom of the Alpe take on fluids even if you feel ok.
8. Alpe d’Huez, it will be carnage on the road with people walking, sitting on the barriers etc!? Go at your own pace particularly for the first few bends until you find a rhythm, then get on a wheel if you can or stay in a group. Break the hill down into sections as you tick off the numbered bends or km’s to go.
Have a good ride, enjoy the atmosphere. It is not too late to get out & ride the route now. Good luck.