Dil and Matt’s journey to the Etape du Tour 2015

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015 12:18pm
Category: News

The Etape du Tour is an annual road cycling event which gives amateur riders the chance to take on a stage of the Tour de France on closed roads with professional support.

This year’s Etape du Tour takes place on Sunday 19th July, following the route of Stage 19 of the Tour – and two of us from Chain Reaction Cycles – Matt Cole and Dillon Osborne – were invited by Oakley to take on this mammoth challenge. We’re still wondering why we agreed…

This blog will record our journey before and after the big ride – it’s in reverse chronological order, so the new stuff appears at the top.

This year’s Etape du Tour was the most brutal bike ride I’ve ever done – a sentiment shared by many of the other riders I spoke to after the 138km assault in the 40 degree heat. It was also one of the most amazing experiences on two wheels.

Following the route that the pros will roll over during stage 19 of the 2015 Tour de France, the Etape du Tour was always going to be tough with 4,500 metres of climbing…I’ve never seen so many riders pushing their bikes, pausing en-route to rest, or simply giving up on the course due to injury, fatigue or exhaustion!

Leaving the town of Saint-Jean De-Maurienne we were into the first mountain, the Col du Chaussy, in no time to get the legs well and truly warmed up. The descent off the back of the Chaussy was marred by a crash up ahead, so there was a huge tailback of riders waiting to get through the bottleneck.

A drink/food stop and a spin down the valley took us to the day’s most daunting of challenges – conquering the almighty Col du Glandon, a 21km climb with a maximum grade of 12% and an average of 6.9%. This thing is a beast, and the number of riders who succumbed to the gradient combined with the mid-day heat were testament to how difficult it was.

I got into a rhythm, stuck my head down and ground out the miles. The spectators at the side of the climb were a real help – drenching me with water, giving me a drink or simply cheering us all on as we neared the summit. Any feeling of joy at reaching the top was quickly removed by the need to refill the water bottles and take on some food, ready to hit the next stage of the race, the Col de la Croix de Fer.

I’m a massive fan of descending, so the way down from the power-sapping climb of the Glandon and Croix de Fer was an absolute blast! Overtaking many riders on the freshly-laid tarmac and firing through the heat was a huge lift both mentally and physically.

It was easy to dismiss the climb of the Col du Mollard, but it wasn’t to be taken lightly, with many riders once again resorting to walking their bikes up the incline.

The final climb to La Toussuire Les Sybelles, and the finishing line, was hell. 19km with an average grade of 6% left me digging deep, spurred on by the prospect of crossing the line but depressed at the lack of speed with which the km markers were going down!

Over nine hours from the start line and my race was done, I’d completed the 2015 Etape du Tour. A painful, proud moment as I stumbled through the event village to the pasta party, questioning why I’d ever signed up to take on this hellish ride. Now where do I sign up for next year’s event…?

Thanks very much to our hosts, Oakley, who looked after us all weekend.

We are stoked with our new Chain Reaction Cycles kit!

Designed and created by Santini working with the in-house clothing team at Chain Reaction Cycles, this is the Pro Kit featuring an ergonomic fit, pro cut jersey. The fabric is super-light and stretchy, antibacterial and 100% polyester. Santini reckon it’s perfect for hot temperatures which is great considering where we’re going!

It’s a slick looking kit – navy and rich blues with some cool fluoro accents, subtle CRC branding and some classy Santini finishes. Plus it’s pretty slimming 😉 now to test it out on the saddle.

We got hold of some hydration tablets from the team at Nuun.

I’ve never tried their stuff before but it’s always great to try something different. They have been around for a while now and claim to be the first company to separate electrolyte replacement from carbohydrates. Nowadays there are loads of choices from top brands, but it’ll be cool to try some new stuff and see what it’s like.

This past weekend we embarked on our longest ride to date in preparation for the Etape du Tour. We plotted a route that followed a 100mile loop around the Inishowen Penninsula in Co Donegal, Ireland.

Leaving from Redcastle we headed north along Lough Foyle toward Moville and Stroove before following the coastal farm roads through some of the tight climbs of Kinnego Bay. We didn’t expect these to be as difficult as they were, wet roads and wind didn’t really work in our favour but they made it all the more interesting.

Stopping at Culdaff for a water refuel we then continued north to Malin Head.

I’ve driven the roads up there a few times and they’re great, but being on a bicycle really let’s you appreciate the scenery in all its glory. Green hills rolling into golden beaches with crisp blue water, old harbours, farm houses and a sense of a relaxed chilled out lifestyle grace you round every corner.

Malin Head has a steep little climb that hurts a bit after riding for four hours but there is a great little coffee set up there served from a van with great coffee and delicious homemade cakes and buns.

After gathering ourselves we pedalled out of Malin Head and headed south along the north west coast toward Malin and Carndonagh.

The roads out here are tough – some farm tracks, bumpy, slippery and fast with some sneaky climbs, but if you are up for the challenge you get to experience some beautiful sights.

The Vitus bikes were set up great, 28-tooth cassettes allowed us to spin up a lot of climbs in the saddle, saving the back and upper body for later in the ride.

The bike fit from last week was a great idea, my position on the bike was so much better than ever before, if you haven’t had a bike fit… Go get one, it’s worth it!

Leaving Carndonagh we rode along some incredible country roads and we were lucky enough to pass a bunch of friends and colleagues who were on the final day of their three day charity ride from the southern Irish town of Mizen to the northerly tip of Ireland, North Malin.

Stoping in Malin town was our half way point with the Garmins reading 50miles.

We knew we had to tackle the extra steep Mamore Gap.

Nutrition was key in this cycle; Mule Bars, High5 gels and High5 energy drinks got us through the cycle. Aiming at around one gel an hour and eating little but often. It seemed to work well, energy levels were steady throughout and there was a noticeable kick from the gels.

One thing to consider is how it all reacts with your digestive system though so doing a long ride before an event is a sure way of seeing how you handle it.

Eventually we reached the foot of Mamore Gap, 70miles in with around 1600feet of climbing already we took a deep breath and began the challenge.

This was tough, do not underestimate it. 20 minutes of riding, with an average gradient of 12% hard on the legs and mind, but some of the hairpins ramped up to 24% and these little surprises turned this tough climb into a monster.

I had to stop half way to regain my composure as I ran out of momentum but Matt charged on through straight to the top and we met in the summit. What a great feeling of accomplishment!

Leaving Mamore Gap we headed toward and through Buncrana. These were long flat sections and we were blessed with a tail wind the whole way back. After all that climbing it was good to get the pace up, legs moving and wheels rolling all the way back to Redcastle.

One of the stand-out points for me (as well as how important nutrition is) is the benefit from wider tyres. The Vitus Zenium SL I am riding comes with 25mm Continental Grand Sport Race tyres and they are awesome, minimal rolling resistance extra comfort and great grip. The roads round these parts are rough and these tyres were a treat.

The last 20 miles were tough… I was thinking about a cold pint of Guinness the whole time. Eventually we rolled back into Redcastle to finish off our ride.

Evening mid week blast with Matt rocking some retro Bike Radar kit and I had a new Vitorria cap to keep the sun out. Trying to keep the legs spinning as we build up to the Etape du Tour.

We caught up with the Kings Moss Cycling Club for a short stint which was nice. When you do loads of solo cycling it’s nice to ride with a group for a bit.

Legs are a little heavy feeling…might need a few roller sessions and some more sleep over the next few weeks. The bikes from Vitus are going great and making it super comfy and enjoyable.

Cracking mid-week ride in the sunshine again. Slightly different route , trying to get more consistent on the hills. New bike felt great! Vitus Zenium and the new Prologo saddle made a huge difference.

I’ve read a lot about tyre widths over the past year, and this is the first bike I’ve ridden with 25mm tyres – it’s awesome. Comfy and fast, just need to get used to the bike feeling slightly less reactive but for someone like me it’s great!

We had a chat with the guys at Vitus Bikes, Chain Reaction Cycles’ award-winning bike brand, who have hooked us up with a couple of bikes. I am going to use mine for a few triathlons this season too. Matt is pretty tall; he went for a 62″ Vitesse Evo full carbon bike.

I wanted something sportive friendly and comfortable, so after chatting with the guys at Vitus I chose a 54″ Vitus Zenium SL which is their superlight aluminium bike with Shimano 105.

Shout out to the Vitus team for sorting us out. We can’t wait to get riding them.

Matt’s Vitus Vitesse EVO features a lightweight T700 HM-UD carbon frame & fork with Shimano Ultegra Di2 electronic gearing rolling on Fulcrum Racing 3 wheels.

My Zenium is a straight build from Vitus with a superlight 6066-T6 triple butted alloy frame and a T700 HM-UD carbon fork. It features a full Shimano 105 5800 groupset then some solid Fulcrum Racing 7 wheels combined with 25mm Conti Grand Sport race tyres to keep this thing rolling great. The only change I made was to swap out the Vitus saddle for a flatter Prologo saddle to suit my riding style.

Weather has been pretty awful over here for the past couple of weeks so it was good to get out for a post-work ride this week. Joined by our friend, colleague and Spanish cycling weapon Pablo we went out along the normal 40km loop.

For me it was my first ride on the new bike. The guys here at Vitus have hooked me up with one of the Zenium SL aluminium bikes to take on the Etape du Tour in July as well as a few triathlons.

Bike rode great and allowed me to test the set up and make some alterations to the saddle height and positioning. Looking forward to the next outing…

A couple of weeks back we took a great jaunt out to the Antrim Coast. Starting in Ahoghill and pushing out through Martinstown. This was my first time going up into Glenariff Forest and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

At the top we were met with a fork, going right into the coastal town of Cushendall. Wow what descent, long fast and windy! But it was great. We climbed out of Waterfoot back up into the mountain and this was the first bit of real climbing we have done in prep for France. We learnt that we need to do a lot more climbing!! A great ride, 85km, a mix of weather and a great post ride sleep.

We got on this blog a little late, so here’s a quick photo post to get us up to date.

Spring’s been good to us, we’ve juggled riding in around our lives and got a decent amount of after work and weekend miles under the belt…

The 2015 Etape du Tour route

From Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne – La Toussuire – Les Sybelles. 145km with around 4500m of climbing. More details –

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