L’Etape du Tour (French for “A Stage of the Tour”) is a European cyclosportive that attracts over 8,000 riders annually to gather and ride a stage of the Tour de France, over its most famous climbs. It’s a true mixture of pain, suffering, triumph and glory.
Tania Burke has conquered nine years running of L’Etape du Tour with no slow down in site. A gift from her husband John, this Project One Trek Madone commemorates her accomplishment of the first five events, complete with the most challenging summits from each of those courses.
But there is one ride not featured on the bike: the first year Tania and John attempted the Etape. In 2006, Col d’Izoard and Alpe d’Huez highlighted a difficult course. According to John, “It was the most incredible scenery I have ever seen in one day. Every time you turned around there was another mountain, glacier, waterfall, or a tunnel through a mountain. Unbelievable.” Needing to finish by 6PM, they didn’t make the time cuts. Defeated at the base of Alpe d’Huez, Tania and John vowed to return and that’s exactly what they did. Nine L’Etape du Tour’s. Eight finisher medals.
Each one a classic story.
Looking at the top tube of the bike, you will notice ‘Panda the Bear’ on Tourmalet in 2010. It was a monster route to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Tour de France. Col de Marie-Blanque. Col du Soulor. Col du Tourmalet. A test of both mental and physical strength. The forecast called for hot and humid weather. What they experienced felt much worse. Citizens lining the roads dumped stream water over the riders’ heads. Tania ran out of gas 3 kilometers from the top of Tourmalet. It was time for Panda to pedal. He did, and together they crossed the finish line.
Flash forward to 2012. Col du Telegraphe. Col du Galibier. Alpe d’Huez. Again just a few kilometers from the finish. Tania had been riding with ‘the boys’ when a few of them decided to leave the group. John told Tania to go hunt them down. She did, but their good friend Dr. T. audaciously passed her on a short downhill. The race was on. 500 meters to the summit of Alpe d’Huez and Tania pounded as hard as she could. Taking the inside edge on the final left-hand turn, she stood up and took off. Dr. T. had no response. Although thousands of people crossed the finish line before her, Tania won on Alpe d’Huez.
This year will be John and Tania’s 10th L’Etape du Tour. New course. New climbs. New stories. Same great event.