19 October 2011

2012 l'Étape du Tour Mondovelo

You too can race the Tour de France

Citizens race: l'Étape du Tour Mondovelo 
Official Website: l'Étape du Tour Mondovelo
ACTE I - 8 July 2012: 140 kilometres from Albertville to La Toussuire/ Les Sybelles 

(Stage 11) 
ACTE II - 14 July 2011: 197 kilometres from Pau to Bagnères-de-Luchon 
(Stage 16)
l'Étape du Tour Mondovelo ACTE I Route
Albertville to La Toussuire profile stage 11, 2012 Tour de France
l'Étape du Tour Mondovelo ACTE II Route 
Pau to Bagnères-de-Luchon, profile stage 16, 2012 Tour de France

You too can race a stage of the Tour de France

Every year the organizers of the Tour de France, offer the opportunity for regular (and extremely fast) citizens to race a stage of the Tour de France. Last year was the first time two stages were organized for citizens, in 2012, the choice of two stages (acte I and acte II) will again be possible. One stage is in the Alps, one stage is in the Pyrenees. It used to be tradition to offer this event on one of the rest days, but the organizers have realized coordinating the equipment and personnel is easier to arrange closer to the actual date of the real stage of the Tour de France.

Thousands of cyclists register for these cyclosportif events every year. Roads are closed by French Gendarme just as they are for an official stage of the Tour de France. Rest stops are available (if few). The pace is fast. l'Étape du Tour Mondovelo is a timed event, with cut-offs times where riders will be cleared off the route before certain check points if you do not meet an announced time (well published ahead of the race). 

Take these cut-off times seriously, they used to place the American and British riders in the back of the pack, but modern practices attempt to rank the riders by ability, allowing the faster riders to be in the front, slower riders in the back. If you begin in the back of a 10,000 person pack, there is little time to waste, even though the race begins in a very well executed shute approach. Effectively unleashing 9000 riders across the start line within 35 minutes. 

I have three tips for participants, the first is to train, the second is to learn and use the signals, commands and terms for riding in a pack in French, the third tip is to be ready for any and all weather. Bring gear for very hot weather and very very cold stormy weather. The routes are arduous, the fact that Acte II begins in the Pyrenees-Atlantiques, travels through the Hautes-Pyrenees, and finishes in the Haute-Garonne says it all. The experience is incredibly exciting, as fans line the route to cheer the amateur riders. I will never forget the sound of "Allez Madame, Allez Madame."

Registration may be arranged through an official approved Travel Agent. A few Tour Companies might sell registration only, most offer complete tour packages, arranging airport transfers, accommodations, registration, and transportation. Transportation is the biggest concern. If you try to do the race on your own, you will need personal transport as early as 5:00am and pick-up in the afternoon at a different city 140 or 197 kilometres away. Or you may use the services of the Event Shuttle. We used High Gear Travel (listed below), in 2005 and 2008, they made registration arrangements, providing us with the forms and clear instructions.

How to Register for the l'Étape du Tour Mondovelo:
List of official Tour Companies (Travel Agents) who will arrange registration into the event (registration is by country). Only approved tour guides can make arrangements for you if you have citizenship other than French. French citizens do not have to go through this process. You must also have an approved race license and proof of previous performance of skill level. Spaces are limited so register early.

l'Étape du Tour Mondovelo travel agents and tour companies (select agent by your nationality). Contact the company directly for any inquiries:  
Thomson Bike Tours  USA, UK, Canada, Australia, Argentine, Spain, Mexico
Trek Travel  USA, UK, Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa
Sports Tours International UK, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, South Africa
Custom Getaways USA, Canada
Cyclomundo USA, South Africa, Brazil
Bikestyletours.com Australia, New Zealand
Ronan Pensec Org UK, USA, South Africa
French Cycling Holidays UK, USA
InterAir Germany
Bra Tur Norway, Sweden, Denmark
OnYourBike.ie Ireland, Canada, South Africa
La Fuga Italy, UK
Anderson Bicicletas  Brazil
En Route Fietsreizen Belgium, Nederlands
Turismo Kamel Brazil
Trail Seekers Ireland
Kokusaï Kogyo Travel Service Japan 
JFT Cycling Singapore Singapore, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong
Sport & Helseferie AS Norway, Denmark, Finland 
Vélo Québec Voyages Quebec
Cycling Holidays Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Lithuania 
Discover France UK, USA
Great Explorations Canada 
High Gear Travel USA, Canada

Related articles:
Etape du Tour details released; uses La Toussuire/Les Sybelles and Bagnères-de-Luchon stages of 2012 Tour by VeloNation 
Images of the l'Étape du Tour Mondovelo:
you get a medal when you finish! (my brother Straw)