December 21, 2015
All keen cyclists in Australia should be circling December in their 2016 calendar. That is the day when L’Étape comes to New South Wales: a cycling event run under professional Tour de France race conditions for amateurs. The date (yet to be officially announced) is a multiple event day with three different races for riders of all abilities.
L’Étape du Tour has already taken place in Europe or the Americas, but this is the first time amateurs will get the opportunity to test their stamina on the Australian continent. Cycling fans, you don’t have to wait long to be involved, as the waiting list to ride is already up on the race’s website.
The route is yet to be announced, but riders can expect for the famous peaks of the Pyrenees and the Alps to be replaced by the Snowy Mountains of NSW – the highest Australia mountain range, which peaks at the 2,228m high Mount Kosciusko (to put that into perspective, the highest peak ever reached in a Tour De France stage is Cime de la Bonette-Restefond, which stands at 2,802m).
The three routes on offer are ‘The Race’, ‘The Ride’, and ‘The Ramble’ – all of varying difficulty and seriousness. ‘The Race’ is an imitation of an actual stage in the Tour de France, run under professional conditions and targeted only for the most experienced riders. ‘The Ride’ is a slightly shorter event, but is still aimed at seasoned cyclists. Finally, ‘The Ramble’ is a race for all the hobbyists, and presents an opportunity for anyone to hop on a bike and get a taste of the Tour de France.
L’Étape Australia Village – the social and administrative heart of the event – will be found on the banks of Lake Jindabyne, overlooking the spectacular Snowy Mountains.
Australia has a vibrant cycling community and an event like L’Étape is sure to be extremely popular in a country famous for its love of all thing outdoors. There is hope that this event will bring a touch of European cycling flavour to the continent, getting more bums on cycling seats, boosting local businesses, and raising the profile of NSW as an international cycling hub.
Riders will, of course, have to be in tip top shape though. The average Tour de France rider burns a whopping 123,900 calories over the course of the 21-day race – that’s the calorie equivalent of eating 252 double cheeseburgers from McDonalds or 619 original glazed Krispy Kreme doughnuts. The 3,500km distance is also the equivalent of cycling from London to Cairo!
The nation boasts a number of talented riders who regularly compete and succeed in the Tour. Robbie McEwen, who retired in 2012, was a talented sprinter who maintained a long 16-year career in the saddle. He competed in 12 Tours racking up 12 stage wins – most notably winning the final stage in Paris on the Champ-Elysees in 1999.
The new man on the block, though not that new, is Richie Porte. For many years, the grey man of the Sky team has busted his gut helping first Sir Bradley Wiggins and then Chris Froome – now at the age of 30, Porte is finally getting his chance in the spotlight. It will be interesting to see him ride for himself at the Tour – this seasons performances will show what chance he has of achieving his ultimate goal.
Luke Rees is a sports writer and keen athlete who writes for Bookmakers. He completed a cycling tour of Iceland in August 2015, which was windy!