The following begins a series of articles written by a good friend of mine, Michael Lowe. He probably doesn’t remember this, but after moving to Louisville in 1994, Michael was the first person in the local cycling club to chat with me during one of my first rides. In less than four weeks he’ll be riding in L’Etape Du Tour, a cycling event that will take riders from Modane, France to the famous and storied climb of L'Alpe D'Huez. The 68-mile ride replicates this years’ Stage 19 of the Tour de France. Leading up to the event Michael will be providing weekly dispatches about L’Etape Du Tour, some historical background, his training, and of course the event itself. I can’t tell you how jealous I am of Michael to be able to ride this incredibly legendary route!
Climbing mountains – on foot or by bicycle – has always been an enjoyable challenge for me. There’s something about the reward at the top that makes the sweat and the effort worth it. A tough mountain always brings a smile to my face – at the top anyways!
Hello, I’m Michael Lowe, and while I share the interest of most visitors to this site in hiking up and down mountains, particularly the Smokey Mountains, I’d like to share with you my challenge this summer – l’Etape du Tour.
l’Etape is an amateur cycling challenge held each summer in the middle of the Tour de France. On July 11, 2011, while the pros kick back on one of their rest days, I will tackle one of the toughest stages of this year’s Tour along with 4,999 of my newest friends from around the world. We’ll be starting in the French Alps and riding this year’s 19th stage: 109 km – three mountains – 3,500 meters of climbing. Those three mountains are the Col du Telegraphe, the Col du Galibier, and Alpe d’Huez, three of the most storied climbs in the colorful history of the Tour.
This year the Tour de France celebrates the 100th anniversary of the inclusion of the Alps in its course. The Col du Telegraphe was first included in the Tour in 1911. It’s been included 27 times since then, usually as a warm-up for the Col du Galibier, which again is its role this year. The climb is 11.8 km (7.3 miles) long, gaining 856 m. (2808 feet) in height (an average of 7.3%). The maximum gradient is 9.8% at the summit.
The Col du Galibier was also first used in the Tour in 1911. Only three riders were able to ride over the summit that year. Everyone else walked. I don’t intend to walk, but the climb is 18 km (11.2 miles) long, climbing 1245 m. (4085 feet) to a peak at 2556 meter (8200 feet), with an average gradient of 7%, most of the second half at 8% or better, and the last km at 10%. Whew! Good thing that the descent that follows is more or less 46 km long. If I survive the 45 degree temps expected at the top, the expected 85 degrees back at the bottom will feel good!
That leaves Alpe d’Huez, but I think I’ll save its description for next time.
Time for some last minute training!
Michael Lowe splits his time between Louisville, KY (his home) and Bristol, VA (his workplace). He's an avid cyclist, and also enjoys writing, photography, gardening, travel and hiking. He's hiked portions of the AT inside GSMNP, but completing a thru hike of the entire AT remains on his bucket list. His notes on l'Etape were written as a friend in support of this site, and we'd like to say thanks by pointing out that if you're a fan of adventure fantasy, we recommend Michael's books Wizardmont and Bryunzet,the first two parts of his Promise of the Stones series. If you're a fan of history, check out Charlotte's Story, the true story of how Michael's mother survived as a young girl in Berlin, Germany between 1943 and 1951.