Although these are my first impressions of the route of the 2011 Tour de France, they aren’t necessarily my first impressions in relation to the race as it will be ridden by the peloton during July 2011. These are my first impressions in relation to me, riding the route, on a day-by-day basis, during September 2011. I’ll be riding the route on my own, all 3471kms, which include 6 mountain stages and 4 summit finishes, as well as climbing the Galibier twice, without a team car or any other assistance. Therefore, I have to think about how to get from one stage finish to the start of the next, which will obviously add extra kilometres to some of the stages, as well where I’m going to sleep, eat and upload to this blog.
Stage 1 – Passage du Gois to the Mont des Alouettes. No prologue this year. Straight into it with a 191km first stage. The second half of the stage could be good as it hopefully will be riden with a tail wind. The start is on the Ile de Noirmoutier, which is connected to the mainland by the Passage du Gois, a flooded causeway only accessible twice a day at low tide. The Tour last started there in 1999 when there was a crash in the peloton upseting the standings from the start. Obviously, this causeway is wet most of the time therefore, will have to be negotiated with care. The last thing I want is to crash on day one. The actual start time will depend on which day I set off due to the tides. I’ll have to check the tide tables nearer the time. If the tides are at times which turn out to be inconvenient, I may have to consider missing out the causeway and starting from the mainland. I don’t think I’ll be criticised for shortening the stage. I’ll probably make up the mileage cycling to the hotel at the end of the day anyway. The hotel will be near the finish of Stage 1.
Stage 2 – Les Essarts to Les Essarts. I’m glad that the second stage is a short stage. This is the 23km Team Time Trial where I should be able to recover a bit from the mileage of Stage 1. From the hotel to Les Essarts, it’s about 25kms so there won’t be any problem riding there. Once I’ve done this short stage, I’ll then ride to the start of Stage 3 which should be about 50kms. Therefore, the likely total for today could be as little as 100kms.
Stage 3 – Olonne-sur-Mer to Redon. 198kms in a northerly direction, following the coast which could prove quite windy. Not sure yet how I’m going to get to the start of the next stage. It’s a distance of 120 kms to Lorient. Might have to check out the local train lines or get a hire car.
Stage 4 – Lorient to Mûr-de-Bretagne. This stage is 172 Kms in the heart of Brittany. The finish includes the climb of what is locally known as the Alpe d’Huez of Brittany due to it’s long steep straight climb to the finish. It’s 50kms to the start of the next stage. I may have to find a hotel half way and cycle there.
Stage 5 – Carhaix to Cap Fréhel. This stage is 158kms. I’ll hopefully have a tail wind for this one. It’s 40kms to the start of the next stage so, same as at the end of the last stage, may have to ride and find a hotel on the way.
Stage 6 – Dinan to Lisieux. This is the longest stage of the Tour at 226kms going via the Mont Saint-Michel. Hopefully I’ll have a tail wind for this stage also. From the finish, I need to work out, again, how to get to the start of the next stage in Le Mans. At 150kms, I may have to check out the trains or get another car.
Stage 7 – Le Mans to Châteauroux. A flat stage of 215kms. From Chareauroux, it’s 45kms to the start of the next stage so again, on my bike to find another hotel.
Stage 8 – Aigurande to Super-Besse Sancy. 190kms of medium mountains. It’s just 35kms from Super-Besse to Issoire for the start of the next stage.
Stage 9 – Issoire to Saint-Flour. 208kms through the Massif Central with the climb of the Puy Mary, a 4.4km gradient of 8%. Thankfully, the next day is a rest day and as it’s quite close to where my family are from. Who knows, I may possibly get a few home cooked meals, baths and a comfy bed (Bliss!!!).
Rest Day #1
Stage 10 – Aurillac to Carmaux. Relativelly short stage at 161kms. Just 5kms from Carmaux to Blaye-les-Mines, the start of the next stage so no problems there.
Stage 11 – Blaye-les-Mines to Lavaur. Hilly stage at 168kms through some of the most beautiful villages in France. Last day before the Pyrenees. 45kms to the start of the next stage.
Stage 12 – Cugnaux to Luz-Ardiden. 209kms with 3 mountain passes along the way, finishing at Luz Ardiden, where Lance Armstrong famously crashed after getting tangled up with a spectator’s bag. From the finish, it’s 65kms to the start of the next stage at Pau. Don’t know what the profile for this is but hopefully, it’ll be downhill.
Stage 13 – Pau to Lourdes. Just one climb on this 156kms stage, the Col d’Aubisque. The last 50kms should be good. From Lourdes, it’s 75kms to Saint Gaudens.
Stage 14 – Saint-Gaudens to Plateau de Beille. 168kms with 6 mountain passes; the Col de Portet-d’Aspet, the Col de la Core, the Col de Latrape, the Col d’Agnes, the Port de Lers, and the finish on the Plateau de Beille.
Stage 15 – Limoux to Montpellier. 187 kms through great wine country. This stage is followed by another rest day. This will make it a bit easier in order to get to the next stage.
Rest Day #2
Stage 16 – Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux to Gap. 163kms of uneventful riding without too many difficulties.
Stage 17 – Gap to Pinerolo. First day in the Alpes, 179kms straight across into Italy. Again, a few long downhill stretches.
Stage 18 – Pinerolo to Galibier Serre-Chevalier. 189kms. Nearing the end now but not until the assent of the Galibier which makes this the highest ever stage finish in the Tour’s history at 2645m altitude.
Stage 19 – Modane to Alpe-d’Huez. A short 109kms stage but one with a sting in the tail. The 21 hairpin bends of the Alpe d’Huez after going over the Galibier for the second time, from a different direction.
Stage 20 – Grenoble to Grenoble. This is the one and only individual Time Trial of the tour at 41kms. To get to Creteil, I’ll need to research the trains.
Stage 21 – Créteil to Paris Champs-Élysées. Last one. It’s 160kms but that’s with 8 laps of the Champs-Elysees. I think I’ll just do one lap only. After all, I’m doing the route, not the whole race. I think I can be allowed to cut this one short.
Conclusion – I must admit that now that I have seen the route, with the distances involved and the profile maps, I am quite worried at the enormity of the task ahead. The other problem is getting from one stage finish to the start of the next one all on the same day. This is important if I’m going to ride the route on a day to day basis. I’ll have to make sure that all hotels are booked in advance and that a detailed itinerary is prepared for each day’s cycling. Hotels need to be cheap but have Wi-Fi in order to blog on a daily basis.