L'Etape du Tour looms large

By Lindsay Crawford, L'Etape diarist | Friday, June 19, 2009 7.00am

BikeRadar diarist Lindsay Crawford is in Europe with his wife Estelle, preparing for his eighth L'Etape du Tour. He's riding two sportives in preparation for the July 20 assault of Mt Ventoux. This is a first in a series from Crawford, 69, who's reporting from Ainsa, Spain.

It’s that time of the year for your L’Etape reporter to surface, once again. This will be my eighth time for L’Etape du Tour and, as last year, I will ride in two other sportives while in Europe.

With a few minor exceptions, my training has been the same as past years. This is the first time in six years I haven’t used some stage racing, specifically La Vuelta de Bisbee and Tour of the Gila in the U.S., to build fitness for the hard work ahead. However, time on the bike is there with numerous five- to six-hour rides, and a couple of road races for a little over 500 hours since the start of the year.

Quebrantahuesos category winners from 2008. i'm at the far left in blue uci golden bike jersey.:

I’m writing this from Ainsa, España as I prepare for Quebrantahuesos on Saturday, June 20. Rode it last year, for the first time, as just one of six non-European entrants. I highly recommend this event with its usual 8,000-plus riders and it follows the same route, over the Pyrenees to France and back, every year. Typical of European sportives, it is very well organized.

Podium shot from the 2008 l'ariégeoise sportive.:

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The next week it will be L'Ariégeoise on the north side of the Pyrenees. This event starts in Tarascon and uses a different route each year with the finish at the top of a major climb. An added feature at this event is a big sit-down dinner, with plenty of food, drink and entertainment, after the event. And, they make sure non-riding companions are welcome at the dinner.

A little break after those two events to enjoy riding the roads of France before L'Etape du Tour July 20 with the finish on Mt. Ventoux, the same route as this year’s penultimate stage of the Tour de France.

If you are planning on riding any of the above or other sportives for the first time, remember to set realistic goals for yourself. Whether it’s to be at the front (where, in spite of the title, it’s a race), or meet a gold or silver time standard, or finish before the time cut remember to enjoy the training and participation.  

Check back for updates on my summer sportive adventures.

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