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Our Guide to the 2023 Etape du Tour

group of people riding their road bikes smiling

Each year a lucky few get the unique opportunity to experience the Etape du Tour and ride a full stage of the Tour de France mere days before the pros tackle the very same route.

The 2023 edition of the Etape du Tour takes place in the Chablais Alps. The route encompasses Stage 14 of the Tour de France, spanning 94 miles and involving a challenging elevation gain of 13,450 feet. Participants will conquer three Category-1 climbs including the Col de Cou, Col du Feu, and Col de la Ramaz, with the toughest climb, the Hors Categorie Col de Joux Plane, saved for the end. This year’s race promises to be exciting, and the beautiful surroundings only add to the experience.

Leading up to the race, you’ll have the chance to explore the area and test your legs on some of the featured climbs in the region.
You’ll ride through beautiful mountain villages and past stunning landscapes. Your guides will support you every step of the way, providing you with water, snacks, rest opportunities, and Tour-de-France-style cheers.

On the day of the race you’ll take your place among thousands of other riders who are all there to chase history together. Our support team will be available at private rest stops to provide you with both encouragement and nourishment. These private rest stops will keep you fueled and out of the long lines of the official race stops. The race takes you through some of the most beautiful mountain passes in the region, including the Col de Saxel, Cols de Cou, du Feu, and Jambas. After your ride, your guides will welcome you to relax and recover at our exclusive post-ride celebration!


With stunning landscapes, challenging climbs, and world-class support, you’ll experience what it’s like to be a pro cyclist for a day. Don’t miss this opportunity to challenge yourself and create unforgettable memories.

Top 5 moments from the 2022 Tour de France

From Copenhagen to Paris, so many exciting moments unfolded. Trek Travel is an Official Tour Operator of the Tour de France and exclusive partner of Team Trek-Segafredo which means our guests participate in premier, one-of-a-kind experiences that only we can provide. Read about our Top 5 Moments from this year’s Tour de France trips and reserve your spot in this years trips (coming soon!) by placing your fully refundable deposit today!


Place your Deposit for 2023


5. Pyrenees VIP Experience

Our guests challenged themselves to tackle the featured climbs of the Pyrenees and rode over the finish line of Stage 18 at Hautacam. With 37,800 total feet of climbing on this trip, our guests were up to the challenge and conquered the featured climbs of Col de Val Louron-Azet, Peyragudes, Hautacam, Col du Solour, and Col d´Aubisque. We also watched Stages 17 and 18 from the exclusive Relais Etape hospitality zone with a live broadcast of the race on large-screen TVs, a luxurious lunch, and an open bar. It was the perfect place to watch the Tour de France in style.

Trek Travel Etape du Tour

4. Etape du Tour

Each year a lucky few get the unique opportunity to experience the Etape du Tour and ride a full stage of the Tour de France mere days before the pros tackle the very same route. It is an epic event designed to celebrate the challenge of some of the most famed Tour routes and to share in the passion that surrounds the Tour de France. This year’s route covered Stage 12, traveling 104 miles, and featured the king of all climbs: Alp d’Huez! Our guests raced like the pros and were fully supported by Trek Travel, enjoying their own private rest stops along the way while on Trek’s award-winning bikes.

3. Alpe d’Huez

From the behind-the-scenes access with Trek-Segafredo to the legendary mountain top finish. Alpe d’Huez continues to amaze year over year. Just days before the peloton conquered this famous climb, our guests were up to the challenge taking on each of the 21-hairpin bends and climbing 3,800 ft of elevation. After making it up to this famous mountaintop, our guests took photos on the summit podium, and basked in the astounding views. Then it was the pro’s turn and our guests got to watch the action unfold with VIP race access.

2. Pedersen wins Stage 13

Mads Pedersen, the former World Champion, sprinted to a huge win for Trek-Segafredo in Stage 13 and secured his first Tour de France victory. Read here about this fantastic finish from Trek-Segafredo!

1. Finale viewing in Paris

Watching the finale from the Automobile Club de France with a glass of champagne in hand is always the perfect way to celebrate another incredible year of the Tour de France. From the astounding views on the Place de la Concorde in the heart of Paris, to the delectable food and drinks, this luxury event is a favorite of ours to host every year. We also held an exclusive meet and greet with Trek-Segafredo, and some of our guests were able to meet some of their favorite athletes. Our Paris Viewing Event is now ready to book! See our 2023 Paris Viewing Event here.

Our Guide to the 2020 Tour de France

Sure, you might not be battling for the yellow jersey or a sprint finish, but join us for a Tour de France bike tour and you’ll definitely feel like a winner. As the official partner of Trek-Segafredo, we’ll ride the stages, watch the big attacks, meet the pros, and drink in the drama. TV just can’t capture the electricity of a race. Luckily, that’s what we’re here for.

Grand Depart Ultimate

Our trip starts in sunny Provence, with a bucket-list climb up Mont Ventoux. Then it’s on to Nice for the exciting early mountain stages. It’s only the second time that the capital of the French Riviera will play host to the Grand Départ, with the last time being in 1981, and we’ll be there for the heat of the action.

Why you’ll love it:

Ride epic climbs in the French Alps with Trek Travel
Experience this year’s TDF featured climbs of Col de Turini and Col d’Eze and climb the iconic Mont Ventoux.

Ride across the finish line at the Tour de France with Trek Travel
Official VIP Race Access passes to the finish of Stage 2 in Nice and behind the scenes tours with the Trek-Segafredo Team.

Enjoy exclusive race viewing with Trek Travel
Official VIP Race Access Passes to the Departure Village and exclusive Relais Etape hospitality zone access during Stage 1 in Nice.

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Alps to Paris Ultimate

We’ve hand-picked the most luxurious hotels that land us right in the middle of the action. The Alps are the heart and soul of the Tour de France. Whether it’s the classically beautiful Col des Aravis or the thrilling mountaintop finish at Col de la Loze in Méribel, we’ll take you to where the yellow jersey will be lost and won again. We kept the rides on this trip short to be able to make the most of your time experiencing Le Tour. This also makes this trip ideal for non-riding companions.

Why you’ll love it:

Exclusive finish line viewing with Trek Travel
Stay at the timeless Parisian landmark, the 5-star Hotel de Crillon, adjacent to the Trek Travel race viewing of the Grand Finale in Paris.

Ride epic climbs in the French Alps with Trek Travel
Experience this year’s TDF featured climbs: Cols de la Loze, des Aravis, and des Saisies.

Cols de la Loze, des Aravis & des Saisies with Trek Travel
Official VIP Race Access Passes to the open top-bus at the final mountaintop finish of Stage 17 in Méribel Col de la Loze.

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Alps to Paris VIP Access

Challenge your legs to the same history-making climbs as the peloton, all with privileged VIP access to the race. With first-class, professional support, a wealth of local knowledge, and the best bikes in the business, there’s no better way to celebrate the passion and drama of this exhilarating event.

Why you’ll love it:

Ride epic climbs in the French Alps with Trek Travel
Experience this year’s TDF featured climbs: Col de la Loze, Col de la Madeleine, and Cols des Aravis, Saisies, and Glières.

Ride across the finish line at the Tour de France with Trek Travel
Exclusive Pro Team Access and Trek Travel race viewing of the Grand Finale in Paris.

Ride a gondola in the French Alps with Trek Travel
Official VIP Race Access Passes to the open-top bus at the final mountaintop finish of Stage 17 in Méribel Col de la Loze.

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Alpe d’Huez to Paris VIP Access

Whether it’s the classically beautiful Col des Glières or the thrilling sprint finish in La Roche Sur Foron, we’ll take you to where the yellow jersey will be lost and won again. Challenge your legs to the same history-making climbs as the peloton, all with privileged VIP access to the race and an unforgettable ascent up the iconic Alpe d’Huez.

Why you’ll love it:

Ride epic climbs in the French Alps with Trek Travel
Rise early to ascend the famous TDF climbs of Alpe d’Huez, Galibier, and Télégraphe.

Ultimate race VIP experience with Trek Travel
Enjoy Official VIP race access passes to the exclusive hospitality zone of Stage 17, race viewing at the finish of Stage 18, and exclusive Pro Team Access for the Grand Finale in Paris.

Rise early to climb Hautacam with Trek Travel
Experience this year’s TDF featured climbs, including Cols des Aravis, Glières, and Fleuries.

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Epic Climbs VIP Access

Join us in the Pyrenees to tackle the thrilling climbs of the Col du Tourmalet, Col du Soulor, and Col d’Aubisque. Follow this with the ride of your life up the Giant of Provence, famous Mont Ventoux. Finally, it’s on to the Alps to witness the tour’s final mountain stages where you and the climbers will test your skills atop the hulking giants of this region: Alpe d’Huez, Col de la Madeleine, Col du Galibier, and Col du Télégraphe.

Why you’ll love it:

Ride epic climbs in the French Alps with Trek Travel
Conquer legendary climbs including Alpe d’Huez, Cols de la Madeleine, Galibier, Télégraphe, Ventoux, Tourmalet, Solour, and Aubisque.

Ride across the finish line at the Tour de France with Trek Travel
Official Race Access VIP passes to the open-top bus at the Stage 17 finish and a ride over the starting line of Stage 18 in Méribel.

Ride a gondola in the French Alps with Trek Travel
Enjoy first-class, fully dedicated VIP support from the Trek Travel team while your ride in style on a full carbon Trek Domane Disc road bike with electronic Di2 shifting.

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Etape du Tour

Tackle sprocket-list climbs like Col de Colmiane, Col de Turini, and Col d’Èze. The best part? You’ll be doing it just a few days after the pros. This year’s route covers Stage 2 of Le Tour, traveling a loop of 110 miles from and back to Nice. A breathtaking stage in the Alpes-Maritimes, the ride features two mountain passes, a climb up to Col d’Èze, and some spectacular views of the Mediterranean Sea before crossing the finish line in Nice.

Why you’ll love it:

Unrivaled support with Trek Travel
You’ll take on this milestone with full Trek Travel support, whether you need water, snacks, or just a good, loud cheer up that last climb.

Stay at 5-star luxury hotels in France with Trek Travel
Stay at a perfectly located 4-star hotel in Nice, close to the race start and finish lines.

Sip wine and enjoy French cuisine with Trek Travel
Nice is positively chic and fabulous all in one. This charming city on the banks of the Cote d’Azur is a world-class destination that beckons vacationers from all over the world.

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The Grand Finish-Paris

It’s no surprise that the party of all parties happens in Paris as The City of Lights’ proud historic landmarks become the background for a spectacular Le Tour finish. Discover the height of French gastronomy, explore famous landmarks, and be in the center of race action when you attend our exclusive Finish Viewing at the prestigious Automobile Club de France.

Why you’ll love it:

Watch the race from the Automobile Club of France with Trek Travel
See the race from the rooftop terrace or get down to street level and witness the energy of the peloton as it sweeps past at over 30 miles per hour, catapulting another champion toward the podium.

Visit Paris on a Tour de France bike tour with Trek Travel
Savor a glass (or two) of champagne in a toast to cycling’s elite.

Visit Paris on a Tour de France bike tour with Trek Travel
Spot famous landmarks including the Arc de Triomphe and Champs Élysée.


L’Étape du Tour: One epic day on the bike

Trek Travel President Tania Burke has ridden the Etape 13 times in a row, and some might say she is an expert in all the best climbs and routes France has to offer. Read on for thoughts and epic photos of her day on the bike and get inspired to tackle this hallowed event yourself.

I have done a few posts about the Etape du Tour. It is such an awesome day on the bike that it deserves another. My husband John and I have done the Etape 13 years in a row and every year is different. Different course, different challenge, different group of friends we convince to ride with us, and different guides. This year was another great day in the Alps as we rode from Annecy over the Col du Bluffy, the Col de La Croix Fry, Montée, Du Plateau Des Gliéres, Col De Romme and finally the Col De La Colombiére and finished in Saint Jean-de-Sixt. If that sounds long, it was and it had around 13,000 feet of climbing (1,000 feet for every year?) But despite the challenge, it was yet another awesome day on the bike. Enjoy some of my photos from the day, and join us this summer for the bucket list event that is L’Étape.

Take on L’Étape

Book your spot

 

Trek Travel Cycling Vacation Etape du Tour Photo Blog

 
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Trek Travel Cycling Vacation Etape du Tour Photo Blog

 
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Trek Travel Cycling Vacation Etape du Tour Photo Blog

 
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Reservations are filling fast. Don’t miss this bucket list trip.

Book your spot

 

Tour De France And Cycling Are The Best Spectator Sports – For Active Participants

Trek is the best operator I know of that does a trip for the Etape du Tour, a mass participation ride held annually that recreates an exact replica of a full Tour de France stage in the current year’s race, with thousands of enthusiasts attacking the course.

This year’s route included famous climbs in the heart of the Alps such as the Col de la Croix Fry and Col de la Colombière. Typically held on a rest day in the actual race, this “replica Tour,” is extremely popular, hard to get into, and usually picks a climbing focused stage. The easiest, most luxurious and most turnkey way to participate is on Trek Travel’s 6-day trip that warms up with local rides before tackling the race in day 5. This year’s was 105 miles with four notable climbs. The trip uses the highest level of fancy hotels in Trek’s scale and equips each participant with a pro-worthy Domane SL 7 carbon road bike with Di2 electronic shifting. The 2019 info will be announced here.

Read on»

Top 5 Reasons L’Etape du Tour is Better with Trek Travel

Hear from a first time finisher of L’Etape du Tour about how tackling the legendary climbs and descents of this famous stage was made better with the support of Trek Travel.

1. Prep Week

L’Etape du Tour is a one day event. But when you join Trek Travel, that’s only part of the experience. The opportunity to spend four days in the Alps prior to the race was vital to my success on game day. Not only did it give me time to acclimate to my surroundings, including the altitude and time zone, but the daily rides were perfectly designed to prepare me for the L’Etape course. As a result, when I faced the mighty Col d’Izoard 150km into the ride, I was mentally and physically prepared for the challenge. I could relate it to other categorized climbs we had already conquered that week (such as Alpe d’Huez and Col du Galibier), as opposed to being daunted by its stature that just can’t be compared to the meager hills back home.

Top 5 Reasons to ride L'Etape du Tour with Trek Travel

2. Private Rest Stops

The overwhelming support from our Trek Travel guides was the key differentiator that set my experience at L’Etape du Tour head and shoulders above that of the other riders. The ASO does an excellent job organizing the event, but with 12,000 exhausted riders in desperate need of replenishment, rest stop chaos is inevitable. Riding with Trek Travel enabled us to avoid this mess entirely. With strategically located private rest stops, we could simply ride past the traffic jam at official feed zones and instead receive a warm welcome from our Trek Travel guide just down the road. There are no lines, just coolers fully stocked with ice cold beverages, snack tables overflowing with real food, and tents providing relief from the elements. Taking it one step further, we packed bags with extra layers that were available to us in case the weather turned. From sunscreen to caffeine, no detail was forgotten and no element left to chance.

Top 5 Reasons to ride L'Etape du Tour with Trek Travel

3. Ride Buddies

Trek Travel has a great completion rate among their riders at L’Etape du Tour. If you ask them why, they’ll tell you it’s because their riders aren’t alone. While many registered for the trip solo, we all found riding partners of a similar speed throughout the week. It’s incredible how quickly we got to know each other’s riding styles and preferences, so by the time we reached the start line we were a world tour team. L’Etape is long no matter what – it wouldn’t have the same allure if it weren’t – but it’s even longer if you’re out there alone. On a grueling day in the alps when the weather can be as unforgiving as the grades, having a ride buddy to lean on is the key to success. We quite literally pulled each other through the race. And while some provided words of encouragement and others preferred to suffer in silence, it made all the difference to know we were not alone.

Top 5 Reasons to ride L'Etape du Tour with Trek Travel

4. The Best Bikes

One of the things that surprised me most during L’Etape was the quality of bikes that other riders were on. From vintage road bikes in need of a little lube to beat up hybrids better left in the basement, you could hear them long before they appeared next to you. I can’t speak for everyone, but if I’m going to tackle a ride of this magnitude I want my bike to be in prime condition for the task at hand. I don’t want anything to make the day more difficult than the elevation profile already ensures. With Trek Travel, I got to ride the same bike used by riders in the professional peloton. And just like the pros, I too had a team of expert mechanics who delivered my bike to the start in perfect condition and were there throughout the day if any problems arose.

Top 5 Reasons to ride L'Etape du Tour with Trek Travel

5. Finish Party

The energy around the Tour de France is infectious, and L’Etape is no exception. Nobody captures the spirit of the race better than Trek Travel! After nine hours in the saddle, it was incredible just to have a fresh change of clothes waiting at the finish. The plentiful picnic and frosty beverages were simply icing on the cake. But even better than comfortable shorts and an ice-cold IPA was having new friends there to congratulate one another and celebrate the accomplishment we had all achieved.

Top 5 Reasons to ride L'Etape du Tour with Trek Travel

 

Take on L’Etape

Reserve Your Spot

L’Etape du Tour: Part III

Two years ago Julie Farrell was a self-described “non-enthusiast” with paddle pedals and a brand-new Trek Domane. This July she completed her first L’Etape du Tour. Follow along as she recounts the journey from training to the finish line in this raw and entertaining three-part series.

Part I   |   Part II

The Promised Land with an Order of the Phoenix Escort

No surprise. We were awake before our alarms. Leaving no detail to chance, our fabulous Trek Travel guides, Laura Lee and Celine, had arranged for Hotel Alpaga to open early to ensure that we riders were fully fueled before the race. Mason and I loaded up on our usual breakfast selections, but added a big serving of scrambled eggs for a protein boost.

Unlike the poor souls who had to stand inline with the other 15,000 race entrants the day before, our race bibs were delivered to our hands and our race placards mounted on our bikes. Mason and I managed to attach our bibs to our jerseys with the four safety pins without stabbing ourselves. We hoped this was a harbinger of a good day ahead.

Our group assembled at the meeting spot on time, slathered in sunscreen, our pockets loaded with Clif Blocks, gorp, and Chapstick. Several of the men were applying saddle cream to their hinter parts to stave off chafing. Mason decided to give it a whirl. The banter devolved to that of a men’s locker room. Everyone seemed to be in motion as the guides gave us their last snippets of advice. Not one of us was still as they spoke. We were rocking left-to-right with nervous anticipation, or fussing with some piece of apparel. Keep your line, pace yourself, stay with your riding buddy, finish both water bottles by the time you arrive at the next Trek Travel comfort station, and fuel-up when you get there. Watch out for wild men on the descents – you’ll see them again on the last climb. It will be a graveyard.

Huh. Graveyard. Those nasty headstone-shaped ascent signs loomed in my head. Our more seasoned friends had worked out a strategy for Mason and me. It followed the philosophy of the whole trip. This was about an experience of a lifetime. The goal was for everyone to finish – no individual heroics. We would employ the strategy during the first portion of the ride when the field was crowded, as well as on descents. The plan was to create an envelope of safety – primarily for me – to safely deliver the package to the finish line. I felt like Harry Potter being escorted by the Order of the Phoenix aurors. John’s biggest concern was that a crazy cyclist who was channeling Lance Armstrong would come charging down the descents and mow me down like an innocent squirrel crossing the road. Bam. Instant carrion.
 
 
Trek Travel Etape du Tour Citizen Bike Race
 
 
I like riding by myself. I know exactly where I am going to be. I also like riding with Mason because I have no qualms about letting him know if he’s making me nervous by riding too close to me. I do not love riding in groups. Our friends know this, so they had forced me to practice riding in the damned envelope. It was a smart move. I had actually become fairly comfortable with it over the past few days. Yet the anticipation of riding with thousands of other riders who didn’t give a damn about my envelope was making my stomach rumble.

We rode the short distance from the hotel to the race start line. The town of Megève had transformed overnight to a seething mass of Lycra-entombed humans. Because Trek Bikes is the lead sponsor of the race, our group was positioned with the highly coveted first wave of 1,000 cyclists. We jostled about in our corral for about 20 minutes. Like any self-respecting woman, after I watched a dozen or so men relieve themselves in the bushes, I thought I had better make a pre-emptive visit to the port-a potty. The line couldn’t possibly be long; after all, only 5% of the entrants were female. Wrong.

After making my way to the single port-a-potty, I saw that the line was 10 deep. I watched the Start Clock tick away. The line did not move. It occurred to me that only one other woman was in line. My gosh, all of these men need to do their morning business, or else they would do what any self-respecting man would do: use the bushes. No way. I was not going to risk missing the start of the race to be asphyxiated in that putrid port-a-potty.

Returning to our group, I did my best to hold my spot against the tide of bikes and humans that were trying to edge their way closer to the start line. At last the gun fired and we were off. Praise God I was not clipped-in. It would have undone me. I stayed right on Mason’s wheel, like a six-year-old terrified of losing sight of her mother in a crowded mall. I dodged a water bottle that came flying off someone’s bike. As we made our way out of town, blood began to return to my fingers. I relieved my death grip on my handlebars as I became increasingly comfortable with my safe little envelope.

The first climb was col des Aravis, which we had climbed just two days prior. I honestly have very little memory of it. The exhilaration of being in the race, amidst thousands of riders, combined with the desire to keep my pace and my position, completely distracted me from any physical discomfort. I was in the game – a contender – vying for the opportunity to complete an epic ride. That first descent went smoothly as well. Just keep your line Julie, and let Big John – Mad-Eye Moody – fend off the speeding demons to my left – and there were many speeding demons.

After that first descent, and at the foot of our next climb, Sully wanted to remove his windbreaker. I did too, plus by now, I was very interested in evacuating my bladder before beginning the next ascent: col de la Colombière. Secretly, I was happy that Sully called for the stop so that I didn’t have to be the whiny girl asking for a potty break. Ladies, this is where we once again lose a bit of our dignity because of our equipment down there. Like giving birth, there comes a time when function trumps form, and decorum and dignity must be securely holstered in your lipstick case. Tania and I attempted some level of discretion crouching behind a parked car, but skintight Lycra cycling shorts are not easy to whip down or up over sticky skin. I’m afraid the French have seen more of me than I (or they) care to admit.

With about 22 miles and the average 7% grade col de Aravis under our belts, we began our ascent up the more civilized 5.8% grade of the col de la Colombière. It featured long sweeping switchbacks, treating us to views of the thousands of riders ahead and behind us. Yes, you read that correctly. We were quickly overtaken by aggressive lead peloton from the second release group, then the third, and so on. You could hear them coming long before you laid eyes on them. A low-pitched whir like an enormous swarm of Barry White baritone bees sounded the alarm that another hive had cracked open and was about to sting from the rear. I focused, and held tight to my line as they whizzed past, serious and jockeying for position.
 
 
Trek Travel Tour de France Etape Bike Ride
 
 
It was near this point that I managed to attract one of those male drones. He slid in beside me and struck up a conversation. I glanced over, careful not to swerve into him as I averted my eyes from my military focus on my line. He was not terribly fit and he was quite tall. Not fat unfit, but certainly not the body type that you would expect to attempt this ride. I had to force myself to redirect my mind from the vision of this man in a mahogany library, sipping tea and milk, and eating crumpets, to digest the full sentences he was directing my way.

“Hello, are you American?”
“Yes. You?”
“British by way of South Africa.”

Did he one day see a ad for the L’Etape du Tour in The Times, pound out his entry form on an iPad, then just show up this morning?

The gentleman was actually quite interesting and we chatted about American politics and global shifts in political philosophies such as represented by the Brexit vote that had just occurred during our trip. And all the while he spoke in full sentences and was never short of breath. I wasn’t sure I could keep this up much longer, nor was I sure I wanted to. I managed to return a little more tightly to my envelope position. The great news was that I was so pre-occupied with Professor Slughorn and his uncanny fitness, that I hardly noticed the climb up col de la Colombière.
 
 
Ride the L'Etape du Tour Fully Supported with Trek Travel
 
 
At the summit, we stopped to once again pull on our windbreakers. The temperature was rising quickly, but after perspiring all the way up the climbs, the air became chilly during descents. We reformed our groups and started our descent. This one was my most frightening descent to date.

We had not ridden more than five kilometers when we began to see the carnage. In addition, cyclist after cyclist was changing out a tube at the edge of the road. I managed to croak out a query to my bodyguard John. He said that they were overheating the tires with their brakes and the heat was blowing them up. Pump the brakes Julie; pump the breaks.

Where was the end of this interminable descent? To my utter astonishment, guys were literally yelling at other cyclists to move over so that they could hurtle down the mountain. My top speed was 35 mph and it was on this descent – the col de la Colombière. I have little doubt that others were reaching 60+ mph. With no body armor. No seatbelts. Just a thin couple of dermal layers separating their internal organs and bones from the asphalt.

Fortunately, the col de la Colombière was followed by 30 km of relatively flat road, so we had time to gather our nerves. We hit our second Trek Travel hospitality spot, and I ate what will forever be the best peanut butter and jelly sandwich of my life. I had no idea I was so hungry. Desperate not to bonk, I shoveled in as much food as I thought wise. Our water bottles were magically filled with fresh cold water by the time we finished refueling.
 
 
Private Rest Stops and Full Support at L'Etape du Tour with Trek Travel
 
 
The route meandered through a number of small Alpine towns. The streets were lined by the exuberant townspeople who had turned out in droves. They rang cowbells, urging us on with kind words, and waving inspirational signs. The closest comparison I can think of is the New York Marathon. As I passed the well-wishers, like a good American, I smiled and waved back. I started to notice that they were absolutely delighted that I was a female and was still in the race. They shouted “Bravo Madame” and “Allez fille! Allez fille!” (Go girl! Go girl!).

Encouraged by the crowds, I now started to wave my hand in the air like a liberating war hero, and yell “Woo-hoo” or some other phrase from my youth. This elicited even more hoots from the fans. I was having my 15 minutes of fame. Just like that. Another bucket list item scratched off. Between the nourishment and all the excitement, my fatigue was numbed.
 
 
Trek Travel Etape du Tour Cycling Vacation
 
 
Cycling climbs are rated with numbers. To receive a rating, an ascent must be at least 500 m in length and have a grade of 3% or more. The ratings start at “5” (the easiest) and decrement to “1”, the hardest. Oh, and there’s one more category: HC which stands for “Hors Categorie” French for “above category” or in more colloquial language: “super frickin’ hard.” Our last climb of the day, the col de Joux Plane, was an HC climb. It lived up to its categorization. With 11.6 kilometers (7.2 miles) of an average grade of 8.5% and the last kilometers at 9% and 10%, the stage planners revealed their sadistic side.

Spurred on by waving flags and shouts from the crowd, we rounded a sharp curve leaving the town of Samöens. We were immediately met with a face of asphalt. I was working hard. Really hard. I looked down at my gears and realized that I was still in my big ring gear. Thank God. I went from thinking I can’t do this, to I can do this! Once again, I was relieved that I was not clipped in. Shifting with pressure on the chain sometimes causes the chain to derail. Mine didn’t, but as we rounded the next sharp bend, we saw others who were not so lucky.

People were barely rotating their cranks. I’m not sure anyone was ready for the incline after that first turn. And it didn’t relent. In my assigned far-right-of-the-road position, I was in the slow lane. There is a certain comfort in being on the far right because you know that there is no one on your right side. I wasn’t sure how the men in front of me, and I’m talking about inches in front of my wheel, were staying balanced on their bikes. It was too slow. I’m not a circus performer. I needed some momentum to stay upright. I carefully abandoned the safety of the far right side, and began passing people. One man fell in front of us and began fumbling with his chain in the middle of the cramped road. We asked if he needed help. He didn’t, but my God, move off the road Man. This portion of the ride became an exercise in recognizing riders who were about to topple over, and not becoming part of the yard sale that would ensue.
 
 
Trek Travel Tour de France Etape Bike Ride
 
 
By this point, it was hot. The weather had transitioned from foggy and cool, to 90+°F. People who had gone overboard playing Speed Racer below, were now paying the price. It was a classic Tortoise and the Hare fable playing out in real time. The further we climbed, the greater the number of bodies splayed out on the alpine grass. Some looked as if they had indeed met the dementors’ kiss. Having reached his limit, one man lay at the edge of the road, his bike supine much like himself only taking a full quarter of the road. “Move your bike!” thick French accents shouted at him.

We had agreed that on the climbs, we would not keep our envelope intact, but we would definitely stick with a buddy. John and I reached the final Trek Travel comfort station, perfectly located at about 5km below the summit. We downed water like elephants at the trough, then John introduced me to the climber’s secret weapon: Coca-cola. As I was draining my ice-cold mini-can, I scratched my arm and noticed blood on my finger. A nasty horse fly had the gall to sting me drawing blood – as if I had any to spare. Just as Mason was pulling in with Sully, we witnessed a man vomiting in the shade of a barn just below us.

Mason and I removed our helmets, put ice on our heads, then replaced our helmets on top of it. It worked magic. As we began to feel mildly refreshed, we both felt guilty as we watched parched, exhausted, cyclists looking longingly as they slowly passed our tent. It was the uncomfortable feeling one has after being upgraded to first-class on a flight. You sheepishly look down so as not to make eye contact with the envious passerby as they shuffle into animal class. One gal with a Trek bike very politely asked if she could just stand under the shade of the tent for a moment. The Trek Travel guide generously offered her an ice-cold Coke, which she graciously accepted.

For the final five kilometers, which bounced between 9%, 10%, and 11% grades, John and Mason would stick together, and Tania and I would be buddies. We chicks started out ahead of the boys. I swear that Coke had something in it besides caffeine. With renewed energy, Tania and I began weaving our way through the battlefield before us. Surprisingly lean, fit men were walking their bikes on both sides of the road, narrowing our path even further. One man, still on his bike, was grunting loudly with each revolution of his crank, desperately willing his body to do something it had no intention of doing. Everyone gave him a wide berth, petrified that they might be in his path when the inevitable collapse came.
 
 
Trek Travel L'Etape du Tour Bike Ride
 
 
As we were completing one particularly challenging hill, we noticed piles of people flopped on the ground surrounding the curve. It looked more like the Battle of Gettysburg than an alpine slope. It was just as John had predicted: a graveyard. Tania and I tackled the sheer, unpopulated part of the inside curve. It segued straight into an even steeper climb. That explained the human shrapnel. People saw that ominous grade and said the hell with it. I’m resting. Tania and I marshaled through it. I guess it must have been the steel will to complete the race, combined with the Coke and the anticipation that we were nearly there. I don’t know how else to explain my energy. It was just in me.

As the incline finally subsided ever so slightly, several bikers were on the roadside massaging their cramping quads and hamstrings. One gal was moaning loudly as she tried to walk out her cramping on the side of the road. At about this point, someone said in a rude, thick French accent, “Trek Travel, move over.”

We both immediately moved over to the side to allow a wiry, wizened Frenchman through. As I moved, I reflexively said, “Sil vous plait.” I saw no need to be ugly and impolite when we were all working so hard. Tania, being an extraordinary cyclist, was motivated to pass him immediately. I, being an unextraordinary, but now irritated cyclist, was motivated to stay on his wheel. Then, I too, passed him – with great satisfaction I might add. In fact, we dusted him. I never saw him again. I suppose I should thank him for that final boost of energy.

Tania and I both had something left in the tank and we could smell the summit. We managed to avoid the final swerving, falling riders, passing them one-by-one. Eventually, we could see the summit arches come into view, looming as enticingly as the Pearly Gates. The crowds of locals and fans were whooping and spurring us on. We yelped right along with them. We passed under the arches, emerging from our trial into the Promised Land.

We waited just below the summit for the rest of our squad. Sully and Mark arrived, then John and Mason. Mason had stopped next to a Brit he had chatted up earlier in the race. The poor bloke was sitting roadside looking spent. Mason asked if he wanted some water. Having just reloaded at the Trek Travel station, Mason offered him one of his bottles. The gentleman gladly took a couple of cold sips, and handed it back to Mason.

“No, keep it.”
“You mean the whole bottle?”
“Yes, keep it. I have plenty.”
“You’re a legend,” was his final comment as Mason departed.

We all road along together for a while, then Mason eventually went ahead as he is a far superior descender than I. As John and I descended, the crowds now growing as we approached the finish line. We proceeded carefully into town where Mason slowed for us. He felt strongly that I should cross over the finish line first, as I had conquered the climbs a bit better than he. We road across the finish line together.

I was completely overwhelmed with emotion as we crossed. I looked at him, and he at me. We were both tearing up. Neither of us expected any emotion aside from relief. We were caught off guard. It was as if 25 years of togetherness had just become a physical entity – something palpable in the air between us. Something we could feel and touch. Perhaps I was looking at my 20-something groom, and he at his 20-something bride, only deep inside was a quarter century of life and memories together. We had experienced one more daunting experience together and had overcome it together, spiritually and physically.

Finally, Mason received a lovely thank-you note from his newfound British friend. He thanked Mason for saving his race day.
And…I did see two other people who were not clipped in. #trendsetter

Cheers,
Julie
 
 
Trek Travel Tour de France L'Etape du Tour Cycling Race
 
 

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L’Etape du Tour: Part II

Two years ago Julie Farrell was a self-described “non-enthusiast” with paddle pedals and a brand-new Trek Domane. This July she completed her first L’Etape du Tour. Follow along as she recounts the journey from training to the finish line in this raw and entertaining three-part series.

Part I   |   Part III

Take Me to the Chapel and the Last Supper

We arrived in Geneva a couple days before we met up with our Trek Travel group. This was intentional. At 53 and 51, sleep is important to us, and we wanted to get a head start on acclimating to the time change. Plus…Geneva is one of the most charming cities in the world, and we thought it would be nice to have a couple of nights to ourselves before meeting up with our cycling group. We managed one stint on the stationary bikes at the hotel gym if for nothing more than to settle our nerves about being ready for our adventure.

On Tuesday, the Trek Travel hired car picked us up right on time at the hotel, then we were off to the airport to pick up the rest of our group. Introductions were made and we began the journey across the border into the French Alps. Our destination was Megève, an alpine town that became popular as a chic ski resort when the Baroness de Rothschild tired of Saint Moritz in the 1920’s and christened Megève the new hot spot for well-heeled Europeans.

Upon arrival in Megéve, we received a warm welcome from our Trek Travel guides; Celine (a native French gal) and Laura Lee (a Southern Baptist minister brat, most recently from Brooklyn, and fortunately fluent in French). They enthusiastically showed us to our lodgings at the 5-star Hotel Alpaga and then introduced us to our sleek carbon frame Trek Domani bikes. Equipped with electronic shifters, Garmins, and Flare taillights, no detail was overlooked as they ensured form and fit for each of us.

When you go on cycling trips like this, you bring your own pedals. You don’t have to, but it’s customary. I sheepishly handed my 4th grader pedals to Celine, a mere 5’ 3” tall, but chock full of salsa. There was a brief flash across her countenance that was a mix of horror and humor, then that perfect guide smile swept back across her face. Celine didn’t really want to touch the pedals, but she took them anyway.

After a quick wardrobe change, we were off on a brief ride to sort out any kinks with our bikes and to get the quads burning. We rolled downhill to the village of Megève and then began our ascent up to the quaint airfield nestled in the green Alps above. It took a few kilometers to regulate my breathing and fall into rhythm, but mercifully, it came. As we reached the top of the climb, it was difficult to imagine a more picturesque setting. As if on queue, a vintage two-seater prop took off overhead. Brown and white cows dotted the lush verdant hills – broad brass cowbells announcing their presence. Patches of snow accented grey peaks poking along the ridge, as moody clouds wove between them. If I could paint heaven, it would look exactly like what lay before us.
 
 
Trek Travel Etape du Tour Blog by Julie Farrell
 
 
Returning to the hotel, we showered, then convened to watch the end of that day’s stage of the Tour de France for our social hour. Guides Celine and Laura Lee had arranged a beautiful presentation of fresh local cheeses (to die for – and explains my lack of weight loss on the trip), charcuterie, bread sticks, chocolates, and of course, ice cold beer. But when in Rome France…drink like the French. They also poured a lovely chilled Rosé from Provence – crisp and refreshing. Dinner that first night was at the Hotel Alpaga, with a variety of options from which to choose: from a more adventurous rabbit, to a familiar Kobe cheeseburger. A gentleman from another Trek Travel group had arrived a day early and joined our group for dinner. A native of Latvia (yes, I had to excuse my ignorance and ask him precisely where it was on a map), I sat next to him and was fascinated as he shared his country’s experience transitioning from a member of the Soviet Union to a democratic nation. It is this kind of informal interaction that accentuates travel for me – the opportunity to meet diverse people through a common conduit – in this case, cycling.

Each day of our preparation for the big ride followed a similar pattern, yet included its own unique elements. One constant was my stroll to greet what became known as “the girls” before each ride. A pasture about 50 yards from our chalet was home to about a dozen dairy cows during the daylight hours. They were the very definition of grass fed, and I couldn’t help but hear that Robert Louis Stevenson children’s verse in my head, “The friendly cow all red and white, I love with all my heart; She gives me cream with all her might, to eat with apple-tart,” as they gazed up at me – the alien in the odd clothes and helmet – cowbells tinkling as they wrenched loose clumps of grass. I would bid them good day, somehow feeling blessed for my ride to come.

 

SOME HIGHLIGHTS:
Megève to Col des Saisies

Per usual, Mason and I started our day with a hearty breakfast at the hotel. We somehow managed to arrive just as the warm baguettes were coming out of the oven. With homemade jams and local honey for the bread, we filled the rest of our plates with charcuterie and cheeses, then added a bowl of granola with fresh rich yogurt and local berries. French coffee pulled away the lingering cobwebs of jet lag.

Following breakfast, we convened at our bikes at the civilized hour of 9:00 a.m. As Celine and Laura Lee described the day’s route, their eyes landed on me as they described the avid option and explained that one could easily opt out of the additional kilometers, and remain at the picturesque café at the top of the climb where we would eat lunch.

The climbing was challenging, but the breathtaking countryside and the villages festooned with flags for the Tour, provided ample distraction. While one guide led us, the other would drive the van and set-up a well-placed snack station. I was riding 20-30 yards ahead of Mason and another of our group, when we cruised through the tiny village of Notre Dame. One townsman had an animated French laugh poking fun at the guys being outpaced by a female. I think the only reason that I had passed them was because of their sudden lapse of energy when they came upon a rather scantily clad gal ascending on a pair of skating roller skis. There was a marked decrease in their pace for a couple hundred yards.

When we reached the café, all but three of us decided to go on to conquer the avid option. After a quick pain au chocolat and cappuccino, they were off. Mason, our newly made friend Sully, and I stayed behind, drinking in the view of Mont Blanc, and thinking it best to reserve some energy for the days to come.
 
 
Trek Travel Etape du Tour Blog by Julie Farrell
 
 
Naturally, I became antsy, and decided I would shoot down a few kilometers and then work my way back up for a little extra climbing. As I began my return ascent, down came Mason and Sully. They’d received a call from our friend John imploring us to take the descent down just to take in the amazing views. The van would then drive us back up – no additional climbing required. We took his advice and never regretted it. The scenery was indeed spectacular. We even decided to take a stab at a bit more climbing. All in, I logged about 45 miles and 5000 – 6000 feet of climb.
 
 
Trek Travel Etape du Tour Blog by Julie Farrell
 
 
The episode above perfectly illustrated the tenor of the whole trip. The group and the guides were encouraging, but there was never a feeling of guilt or of defeat if one decided not to embrace the avid option. Every step of the way was about pushing oneself, but never beyond one’s limits – about taking in the full experience, but understanding that that experience was unique to each individual.

After a dinner in town dining al fresco at La Brasserie Centrale (my fondue was c’est bonne), we paused briefly to watch the extraordinary sunset on Mont Blanc from our bedroom deck. Night had fallen on all the surrounding Alps, but the bright reflection of yellows, oranges, and purples emanated from her white peaks – one last show from glorious Mother Earth before we tucked in for a well-deserved night of rest.
 

Trek Travel Etape du Tour Blog by Julie Farrell

Megève to Col de la Forclaz and on to Lake Annecy

As neither of us had yet undertaken the full Monty, Mason and I committed to each other that we would attempt the avid option on this day. How bad could it be?

Uh, bad. Our newfound confidence after climbing col des Saisies was quickly put to the test. This nasty little gem of a climb – Forclaz – felt about like it sounds in English – like a Frenchman is digging his fore-claws into your muscles.

Okay, not quite that bad, but it was very challenging. Climbs that have been designated as remarkable are decorated with signs or stones along the route. Both bear an eerie resemblance to graveyard headstones, except in lieu of epitaphs they boldly state the percent grade that you’re attempting to survive. In your heat-stroked, exhausted state, you can almost see your name on the signs. RIP Julie Farrell 10%.
 

Trek Travel Etape du Tour Blog by Julie Farrell

 
A 10% grade means that for every 100 feet traveled, you rise 10 feet. To me this doesn’t sound like much, and it in no way helps me understand the difficulty of a 10% grade climb. Here’s how I do it. Think of the most annoying hill that you had to climb on your bike as child. Maybe it was on the way home from school or when you headed over to your best friend’s house. A 10% grade is 10 times harder than that. Or at least that’s what it feels like.

With that erudite explanation of grade complete, I’ll fast-forward to the summit, where we were treated to the spectacular panorama of Lake Annecy below. Paragliding must be France’s third national sport behind cycling and soccer. There were easily 100 colorful paragliders brightly dotting the blue sky above and the pristine aqua water of Lake Annecy below.
 
 
Trek Travel Etape du Tour Blog by Julie Farrell
 
 
After mainlining Orangina (beers for the stronger riders in our group), we descended to Lake Annecy where we were rewarded with a lakeside lunch of fresh trout, a romp in Lake Annecy’s glacial milk waters (punctuated for the men by a topless French female sunbather), a massage (well, we called it an oil rub…), and finally another delicious lakeside dinner where we speculated about which diners were with their wives and which were with their mistresses – all well informed by a lovely red Chateauneuf de Pape.

We did 42 miles and about 5,600 feet of climb that day and slept like rocks.

Megève to Col des Aravis

This was a confidence-building day – at least we hoped. The col des Aravis is a famous climb; 2016 marks the 40th time that it’s been featured on the Tour de France. It was also a preview for the L’Etape – the col des Aravis would be our first big climb on Sunday.

Soooo…there’s a reason it’s been on the Tour so many times. It’s hard. It’s steep. It’s relentless. As a remarkable climb, it’s littered with markers, and although they do look like gravestones, Mason and I both found them somehow comforting. You knew that the current grade would only last for a kilometer, and if you needed to stop for a respite, you could plan them.
 
 
Trek Travel Etape du Tour Blog by Julie Farrell
 
 
Without testing your patience with details of every (innumerable) switchback, I’ll finish this day with noting that the summit featured a tiny chapel. Our guides had recommended that we bring along a couple of euros to donate as we somberly requested a safe and successful ride from the heavens above. And let me tell you, after that climb, pray we did.
 

Trek Travel Etape du Tour Blog by Julie Farrell

Saturday – A Day of Rest and the Last Supper

On Saturday we lingered over breakfast and then Mason and I each indulged in another massage. In sharp contrast to her French sisters in Lake Annecy, our masseuse at Hotel Alpaga was fantastic. With our skin well moisturized from the previous days’ oil rub, she dug in to our tired muscles and kneaded away the lactic acid.

Feeling relaxed, we kicked around in town, purchasing a few mementos, and dining with our friends in Megève. That evening, we enjoyed a cocktail party with the other Trek Travel group who had been bussed over to our hotel for the Last Supper. Our guides teamed together to give final advice about the L’Etape. It felt a bit like kindergarten, only more ominous. “Make sure you have a ride buddy, keep your line during descents, keep hydrated and fueled, and above all pace yourself – the last climb will be a graveyard.” I think this is the closest I’ll ever come to what a soldier must feel like the night before battle – exhilarated, frightened, and anxious at all once.

We said our goodbyes and our bon chances then returned to our lodgings. We needed to set off on our bikes for the start line by 6:10 a.m., and wanted our bodies fueled, caffeinated, and well, functional in time for the race. So we crawled into bed early, our alarms set for 4:20 a.m., and prayed our sleep wouldn’t be haunted with nightmares of the climb profiles illustrated on the charts provided by our guides.

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L’Etape du Tour: Part I

Two years ago Julie Farrell was a self-described “non-enthusiast” with paddle pedals and a brand-new Trek Domane. This July she completed her first L’Etape du Tour. Follow along as she recounts the journey from training to the finish line in this raw and entertaining three-part series.

Part II   |   Part III

Cycling Sacrilege and Old Testament Torture

Twenty-five years of marriage. For any of you involved in the sport of marriage, you know that like most athletic endeavors, it takes teamwork, loyalty, and a dose of luck to be successful. As with parenting, there’s no set of daily pills that one can take to ensure a smooth glide to the hallowed accomplishment of a silver anniversary. My husband and I consider ourselves fortunate.

So how to celebrate? We mulled over a number of options. As lifelong tennis players, a visit to Wimbledon was a serious consideration, as was a week in Tuscany drinking in Italian cuisine and history. Our honeymoon was in New Zealand punctuated with bungee-jumping and a ride on the Shotover speed boats, so we kept circling back to something with an element of adventure in it.
 

Training for the Etape du Tour Bike Race with Trek Travel

 
Having become cycling enthusiasts (note the choice of word there – “enthusiasts” as opposed to “avid cyclists”), we settled on a Trek Travel trip on the Normandy coast. What’s not to like? We’d get a good dose of history and culture, all the while pushing ourselves on daily cycling excursions.

We reported our decision to some friends of ours who countered with, “Great idea, but we’ve got a better one. How about you do the L’Etape du Tour Trek Travel trip with us instead?” Mason, my husband, and I discussed it, but quickly discarded the option. We hadn’t been training to that level. The L’Etape is legendary. Known for its brutal climbs and extended length, it is literally one of the stages of the famed Tour de France. The Big League. A Major. Nope, not this year, thanks.

There was a brief ceasefire in the exchange of ones and zeroes, then our friends shot back another email. “You know, this is a bucket list deal. A trip of a lifetime. One you’ll never forget. Normandy would be lovely, but this one is unforgettable. You guys can do it. Seriously.”

Had we been discussing this with just about anyone else, we would have stuck to our conviction and booked the nice, civilized Normandy trip. But our friends are both seasoned cyclists and they know our abilities and inabilities well enough to give us an honest assessment. Mason and I exchanged those same fateful expressions that we had when we agreed to bungee jump 143 feet off that bridge in New Zealand. “We’re in.”

That was May 1st. We looked up the details of what we had just committed to. Each day of riding was roughly 30-40 miles with 3500 – 4500 feet of climb. The final day, the L’Etape du Tour, was 91 miles and 10,000 feet of climb. It was a Sunday afternoon. Instead of taking a nice nap, we hopped on our bikes and did repeats on a small but steep hill near our home. After five, we called it quits. This was going to be tough.

Our son Cooper is an avid cyclist and participates on the CU Boulder Triathlon team. In addition, he had the good fortune to be a Trek Travel intern on the L’Etape a few years back. We texted him to see what he thought our chances were, and to lay-out a training schedule for us.

The good news is he thought we could do it. The bad news is that we needed to work our tails off. Cooper recommended 30 miles a days, with big rides (50-70 miles) on the weekends. Oh, and make sure you’ve got lots of climb in there too. Mason hadn’t been on a bike in three months, and though I’d been riding, it was no where near this level of intensity.

My husband works full time in the world of finance, but has the luxury of working remotely some of the week. I work as a consultant, and thus have some flexibility in my daily schedule. We began each day with working out whether or not we could ride together that day. Usually, we do our own thing during the week. It’s easier that way. This new goal, however, had us looking out for each other’s progress. We were partners in crime – doing our best to be flexible so that we could ride together and gradually extend and increase the intensity of our rides. The unexpected by-product was long stints of time together uninterrupted by phones, texts, emails, and other distractions. We talked about life, the future, and how it’s going to be when our youngest child is off to college in a year.

About three weeks into our training, our friends invited us to ride up a big climb in Santa Barbara– Gibraltar. I was unable to go, but Mason went. Gibraltar was the final climb in the Amgen Tour of California. It is not for the faint of heart. The day was hot, but Mason managed to stay with our pals, and had a newfound sense of confidence in his stamina. I, on the other hand, felt nervous. Though I’d packed in more miles than Mason during the year, I’d not yet faced a serious climbing challenge.

The next morning, Mason was off to work in LA, and I decided to assault the first portion of a steep climb called Figueroa Mountain in the Santa Ynez Valley. Our son confirmed that if I could make it to the gravel portion, it would provide solid climbing training for me. I was off. I had to stop several times, but I was feeling pretty good. The scenery was beautiful, and smells of sage and blooming wild flowers distracted me. I reached the gravel portion, and decided to push on. To my astonishment, I felt really good – I decided to continue. The Figueroa Mountain loop begins with a protracted steep climb, then shifts to an undulating gravel road, then to a steep paved descent. This is followed by a long, slow grind at about 4-5% climb before reaching another steep ascent. When I hit the long, slow grind, I began to wonder if I had made a rather stupid decision to do this alone.

It began to feel as if I’d somehow passed through a wormhole into some barren Old Testament locale. The temperature had climbed rapidly, and nasty horseflies were swarming my dripping, salty face. I realized that if I looked down, the flies were a bit less pernicious, but the trade-off was drops of stinging, sunscreen-infused liquid running into my eyes. As I looked down through my burning vision, I noticed several earwigs on my handlebars and top tube. How in the heck did they climb onto my moving bike?! I know I’m going slowly, but not that slowly. It was then that I wondered if the wrath of God was truly upon me. The other flying insects were in fact earwigs. They fly. I drank water. I was beginning to wonder if the heat was getting to me. I half expected to see a burning bush nearby or snakes of fire slithering across the asphalt. As I finally managed to make my way out of the shadow of the valley of death, I saw the summit before me. My trial was over, and my confidence boosted.
 

Training for the Etape du Tour Bike Race with Trek Travel

 
Our friends had recommended getting in one big ride during our training. A 70 or 80 miler with a good 6000-7000 feet of climb. Mason and I finally found a weekend day when we could dedicate six or eight hours to cycling. We took off for Jalama – a ride through Santa Ynez’s Pinot Noir growing hills in the Santa Rita Hills area and on to the majesty of the Pacific Ocean at Jalama Beach. The ride went well, though it was challenging. From about the 50-60 mile mark, Mason began to bonk. Though a seasoned athlete, he was not accustomed to the fueling and hydrating required to sufficiently manage oneself on extended cycling trips. At mile 60 we stopped and contemplated whether or not we would continue, or call our boys to pick us up. We decided to press on for another five miles and then make the decision. It was strange for me. I’m a relatively athletic female. Not great, but coordinated, and able to play most sports. But my husband has always been the strong one. And I was now actually worried about him. I mounted my bike, and he his – at least I thought so, until I heard the clash of metal meeting pavement, and Mason exclaim, “I broke my f&%^ing finger.”
 

Training for the Etape du Tour Bike Race with Trek Travel

 
I looked over, and as he disentangled himself from the bike, he raised his hand. There, at a nauseating angle, was his right ring finger. Instead of straight up, it pointed 45° right. He couldn’t ride, as he needed his right hand to apply the brakes, so we called 911. We called our boys to bring the truck, and meet us at the Lompoc Emergency Room. True to our family ethos, when they arrived, we all had a good laugh. Fortunately, the finger was just dislocated not broken. The trip would go on. And Dad was no longer infallible.

I’ve left out one little, teeny, tiny detail. I don’t clip in. This is cycling sacrilege. It’s like playing tennis with a wood racket, or playing baseball with one of those old Charlie Brown mitts, or using a wooden driver in golf. You’re handicapping yourself. You lose efficiency and power with each revolution of the crank. But here’s the deal. I hate being clipped in. I’ve had four knee surgeries, and it scares the tar out of me to be trapped in my pedals. And yes, I did ride clipped in for about two years – so I’ve tried it. I’ve managed to fall three times. All at slow speed – as in 5 mph or less, and it still hurts. So I decided to eliminate all that angst, and just ride in my golf shoes. Yup, my golf shoes. Not the kind with spikes, but the ones with nice little plastic nubs that grip my sweet mountain bike pedals. Voila. I can hop off any time I like.
 

Training for the Etape du Tour Bike Race with Trek Travel

 
On that note, I can tell you that for a brief period of time, there was a somewhat subversive campaign to coerce me into clipping in. Our friends told Mason, “You realize she will be the only rider on the L’Etape who is not clipped in, right?” Mason conveyed this to me. I said I wouldn’t rule it out. Then Mason and I did the Figueroa loop together the following weekend. I passed through a barely running creek overflow and yelped to be careful because it was slippery. Slick moss lay just below the surface. My sure-footed husband was once again embroiled in a slow-speed crash. Fortunately, he fell left, keeping his newly located right ring finger safe. Nope. I am going to continue to wear my golf shoes. If he can fall while clipped in, I’m sure to fall.

All in, I managed to put in 41 days of training in that two months leading up to our departure – about 1200+ miles and 94,000+ feet of climb. Mason had several business trips in his schedule and was thus unable to log as many miles. We had prepared as much as we could given our circumstances, and relished the private time together. Now D-Day was upon us.
 
 
Training for the Etape du Tour Bike Race with Trek Travel
 

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Bicycling’s 6 Great Bike Trips for Tour de France Fans

“If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to ride a full stage of the Tour de France, this is your trip. Trek Travel is an official Tour-recognized outfitter, meaning you get guaranteed entry to l’Etape du Tour, a fully supported gran fondo that traces the 146-km route of Stage 20, which takes in some of the most fearsome passes in the Alps, like the Col de Colombiere, Col de la Ramaz and the Col de Joux Plane.”

Joe Lindsey | May 4, 2016

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Private

If a date is marked as Private, it is reserved for a private group.

Looking to travel with a small group or looking for a custom date?
Call our trip consultants at 866-464-8735

What is the Difference?

Ultimate Luxury:

Savor some of the most spectacular, 5-star properties in the world. Exuding luxury and elegance, these one-of-a-kind accommodations offer the chance to rejuvenate at award-winning spas, dine at Michelin-starred restaurants, and more.

Luxury:

Enjoy luxurious accommodations handpicked for a refined experience. From signature spa treatments to delicious local cuisine, you’ll be more than provided for; you’ll be pampered.

Explorer:

These handpicked hotels provide relaxation and fun in a casual and comfortable environment. Delicious cuisine and great service mix perfectly for a memorable stay.

Combined:

On select cycling vacations, you’ll stay at a mix of Explorer and Luxury hotels. Rest assured, no matter which hotel level you’re at, our trip designers carefully select every accommodation.

Activity Level

Level 1:

Road: 1-3 hours of riding. Up to 25 mi (40 km). Up to 1,000 ft (300 m).

Gravel: 1-3 hours of riding. Up to 20 mi (35 km). Up to 1,000 ft (300 m).

Hiking: 1-3 hours of hiking. Up to 5 mi (8 km). Up to 1,000 ft (300 m).

Level 2:

Road: 2-4 hours of riding. 20-35 mi (35-60 km). Up to 2,500 ft (750 m).

Gravel: 2-4 hours of riding. 15-30 mi (25-45 km). Up to 2,000 ft (300 m).

Hiking: 2-4 hours of hiking. 4-8 mi (6-12 km). Up to 1,500 ft (450 m).

Level 3:

Road: 3-5 hours of riding. 25-55 mi (40-85 km). Up to 4,500 ft (1,500 m).

Gravel: 3-5 hours of riding. 20-40 mi (35-60 km). Up to 3,000 ft (900 m).

Hiking: 3-5 hours of hiking. 6-10 mi (9-16 km). Up to 2,000 ft (600 m).

Level 4:

Road: 4+ hours of riding. 40-70 mi (60-110 km). Up to 8,000 ft (2,400 m).

Gravel: 4+ hours of riding. 30-50 mi (45-80 km). Up to 4,000 ft (1,200 m).

Hiking: 4+ hours of hiking. 7-15 mi (11-24 km). Up to 4,000 ft (1,200 m).

What are your trip styles?

Classic - Reserve:

Savor the finer things as you relax in luxurious 5-star accommodations and wine, dine, and ride in some of the most unforgettable destinations around the world.

Classic - Signature:

Explore beautiful destinations by bike, enjoy extra inclusions, savor delicious local cuisine, and enjoy the perfect mix of accommodations.

Classic - Discover:

Enjoy a casual cycling vacation with fantastic routes and comfortable accommodations.

Ride Camp:

Train like the pros in some of their favorite riding destinations.

Pro Race:

See the pros in action at the biggest cycling events of the year.

Cross Country:

Tackle an epic adventure that takes you point-to-point across mountains, countryside, and more.

Self-Guided

Enjoy a bike tour on your schedule with just your chosen travel companions.

Single Occupancy

Sometimes it’s more convenient and comfortable to have your own room while on vacation. We understand and that’s why we offer a Single Occupancy option. The additional price guarantees a private room all to yourself