Wednesday, February 10, 2010
The Road to Tourmalet: 2010 L'Etape du Tour DVD
There was only a single cyclist who made it to the top of the Tourmalet, the highest point in the race, without getting off his bicycle, for which he won 100 Francs. Five cyclists used variable gearing for the first time. The first participant in the Tour died, electrocuted by a jellyfish during the rest day in Nice. But the race is most famous as the one where Octave Lapize, dragging his bicycle up the Tourmalet, screamed: “Assassins ” as he passed the organizers’ car at the top. It made forever the reputation of the Tour de France as the race for the hardest men in sports.
A century later, the organizers of the Tour de France have not only decided that this year’s event will see the Pyrenees as the main scene of battle, but that amateurs should have the opportunity to share all the pain too. On July 18, four days before the pros attack the same climbs, anyone who registers can participate in l’Etape du Tour, an annual event for cyclists that parallels one of the stages of that year’s Tour de France. The event first began in 1993 and this year there will be 9,500 anxious cyclists ready to test their mettle in Pau as they depart at 7 a.m., on closed roads, for three big climbs. The course, matching Stage 17 of the 2010 Tour, is 174 kms long and features 4,000 m of climbing. Of course, compared to 1910, things will be pretty easy but it is still better to be prepared.
Each year, shortly after the stage of L’Etape is determined, Cyclefilm Productions heads off to the mountains to make their annual reconnaissance ride DVD and “The Road to Tourmalet: L’Etape du Tour 2010 has recently been released. Although I don’t plan to be there to watch 9,499 other cyclists drop me (or ride into me), I will be cycling the same climbs a few weeks earlier. I found the DVD to give an excellent indication of the ride to come, particularly since I have not ridden the Pyrenees before.
After rocketing off the Marie-Blanque, small country roads take you on a steady climb up to the top of the Col du Soulor, which is kind of the back of the more celebrated Col d’Aubisque. At 1474 m it is no pushover and the asphalt is a bit choppy, but the climb looks very regular and the scenery is simply breathtaking. As Michael and Chris pass the summit it is late in the day, so rather than show you the descent, the camera stops and that action recommences the next morning. I can understand why Michael Cotty wanted to do this section of the road a second time–it is utterly gorgeous and the crew somehow picked the most beautiful day of the year to do it.
The DVD, with the cycling and the chatting, is 83 minutes long, and for those chained to their fluid trainers for the winter, it offers some great views and a lot of motivation for the ride to come. It is hard to believe that those pioneers of racing rode their iron bikes on goat paths here, fortified by raw eggs and Bordeaux, and actually succeeded in getting to Paris eventually. Octave Lapize won that 1910 stage, and was the overall victor as well. This is cycling on the grandest scale and this DVD by Cyclefilm is ideal for hard riders and for daydreamers.
You can buy it at http://www.cyclefilm.com/.