Girls Eye View: Etape du Tour

Lou Gibson is not one to shy away from a challenge. Having completed Red Bull time laps, and given the girls from 5th Floor a run for their money coming a close second, as well as L’Etape 2017, and then qualifying for the World Champs in Varese – she is a woman who takes her riding seriously….

In her own words – without much swearing which is odd.

The Etape du Tour. Wow, what an experience.

I pretty much hated big chunks of last year’s Etape so I’m not sure why I did it again this year. Well actually I do know why, I wanted to battle my demons. Last year I struggled badly on the Col D’Izoard and had to get off my bike for a bit. That annoyed me and I was determined to stay on my bike this year and smash it.

So I signed up, trained my butt off (with the help of Will Girling setting me a training plan and nutritional guidance) and got the lovely chaps at Bicycle Richmond to slap every gear they possibly could on my beautiful pink Bianchi Specialissima.

I was ready. Rob, my lovely cowboy, flew over from Texas and a team of 6 of us travelled down to Annecy to take part in the event. We had a great trip down and got totally stuck into festivities in our hotel on night one and had the time of our lives.

Waking up the next morning, hungover and feeling like crap, I thought oh no, what have I done?!! Thankfully I was a little more restrained for the remaining 48 hours before the Etape and all was well.

Annecy was as beautiful as I remember from my last trip there about 8 years ago. We all had a good time exploring, we successfully registered and prepared for the Sunday morning.

I’m always a bag of nerves before any ride and Sunday was no different. Up early to try and stuff down some breakfast I really didn’t feel like, but knew I had to eat. Multiple trips to the loo. Last minute bike and kit checks and off I went to the start. Rob accompanied me, he was over for support and incredible support he was too. Luckily my friend Chris Hall and his mate James were in my pen. I joined them and we chatted and had a laugh until it was time to set off. It took my mind off the impending doom and I totally forgot about my 95 loo stops that I normally go for but don’t actually need before the start of a race. Happy days.

Off we went, over the start line and a wave and back rub from Didi the Devil himself as I went! Chris, James and I had a great time for the first hour or so around Lake Annecy and into the mountains. It was lovely. Nice, comfortable pace and great banter. Many many choppers around though and people thinking they were Chris Froome giving it socks, way too early on. Sure enough we passed most of those people pushing their Dogmas up the mountains a couple of hours later…

Lou with Bealzeebub himself

First Col was fine, Col de Croix-Fry, no problem. Sure, I was in my easiest gear and my legs were spinning at about 190 RPM, but I was ok. Next mountain, not so much. Glières was a bitch. Mainly because of all the people walking up it or going at pretty much no miles an hour, plus all the motorbikes going by. It was horrendous. How I stayed upright and didn’t wobble off my bike or off the mountain as I weaved around everybody I have no idea. It was narrow and steep as hell. Long sections of 15% and so so hot. I questioned why on earth I was there and vowed that me and the Etape were done. My hill induced Tourette’s was at an all time high as I struggled on. Then the proverbial monkey tried to hop onto my back and whisper doubts and concerns into my ear. I contemplated stopping and waiting at the side of the road for the crowds of wobbly choppers to pass. However, I knew I had thousands of people behind me and they were only going to get slower and wobblier as time went on. So I pushed on to the top. The treat at the top? A gravel section! Great. Thankfully it wasn’t that bad and I managed to escape without any falls or flats, unlike the actual Chris Froome who punctured on that section in Stage 10 of the Tour de France last week.

The scenery was stunning. It was hard to take it in though. It was absolutely boiling and I was nervous about the 2 remaining mountains as I’d heard they were the hardest.

Actually they were ok.  Col de Romme and Col de la Colombière, sure they were challenging, what mountain isn’t? But they were wider than Glières and I had room to manoeuvre and go at the pace I wanted to, not the pace of the person wobbling around in front of me.

Riding hard

As I went over the peak of the final climb I was relieved to have made it. I didn’t have to get off my bike at any stage of the climbs, I’d done it. I descended safely and carefully down into Grand Bornand feeling like a hero. I pretty much wore my brakes out though, I must get more confident at descending, it’s the one bit of my cycling that’s letting me down and losing me time. Having said that, overall I beat all the guys I went out there with hahaha, losers. 

Rob was waiting for me at the finish and we had a great time cheering all the other riders as they came through. It was fantastic. Really restores your faith in humanity seeing all the incredible emotions and feeling so proud to have achieved something so amazing.

I’d cycled 105 miles over 12,500 ft of elevation and somehow picked up a Queen of the Mountain Strava segment in the process.

Once my team were all back together again we then took up where we left off on the Thursday night and smashed the local wine and cheese like there was no tomorrow…..

Would I do it all again? You bet your lycra clad padded ass I would. See you next year Etape du Tour! Me, my pink bike and the unicorns will be back again for another large dose of Type 2 fun!!!