Excitement for the 2013 Tour de France is rife, with the impressive route for the 100th edition of the race announced earlier this week. And if you've ever dreamed of experiencing the iconic race, the Tour de Force might just be the challenge for you.
The event tasks individuals and corporate teams with cycling part or all of the Tour de France route, one week ahead of the pros. Riders raise funds for the William Wates Memorial Trust, a grants charity that supports disadvantaged young people.
Having a summer challenge to aim for is one of the best motivators for training over the winter months. We've set up a Tour de Force group on BikeRadar Training where you can chat to other people taking part and share training tips. And if you need to add some structure to your workouts, take a look at our professional training plans that will help boost your fitness and stamina in eight weeks.
A variety of options will be open to those wanting to take part in the Tour de Force. At 9am on 7 November 2012, 30 lucky applicants will get places for the full route, and then the rush will be on for the Tour Tasters, which take in different stages of the race.
BikeRadar spoke to co-organiser and lead cyclist Phil Deeker about how the latest route announcements will shape the Tour de Force 2013.
What are Tour Tasters?
"The Tour Tasters vary from a two-day pack of two relatively 'flat' stages, for those who just cannot afford the time to train or to stay longer on the event, to two nine-day packages where you ride almost half the route and finish on a big mountainous stage.
"All the Tour Tasters are designed to leave the rider with a real sense of achievement, usually due to the hardest stage being the last one in the pack! The route for 2013 is making this job quite easy – it's a cracker, with barely a dull stage. The stages flow really well as progressive 'mini tours' – Corsica, Provence to the Pyrenees, Lyon to Ventoux, Gap to Annecy."
2013 will mark the Tour de Force's second year of being open to the public
Which will be the most attractive stages for Tour de Force riders?
"The Corsican package will obviously be popular, as will the Alpine Finale. And what about a weekend away, riding from Tours to Ventoux? Although the superb final stages in the Alps will be the most challenging, the stages that enable riders to discover new regions of France are often just as popular.
"Stages 10 to 14, that take the race across France, follow a particularly interesting route in 2013 and offer a slightly tamer option for those who don't feel like taking on the mountains.
"The appeal of these packages is that you get to be part of a mobile bubble of crazy enthusiasm and solidarity, with riders of all abilities helping each other get through the almost-impossible. And all that to raise money for a great cause."
As lead cyclist on the Tour de Force, which stages are you looking forward to most?
"Of course, the series of stages in the Alps are my first choice, and Corsica will be a guaranteed treat. But less obvious installments such as stages 7 (Montpellier to Albi) and 14 (St Pourcain to Lyon), as well as the superb mountain stage in the Pyrenees (stage 9), won't disappoint. The beauty of riding the Tour is that every stage is an unforgettable ride, and the ‘easier’ stages often have several surprises along the way!
Details of the Tour Taster stages will be announced on the Tour de Force site on 1 November 2012, with places up for grabs on 7 November.