What's Cool In Road Cycling

L’Etape California: What you need to know for success

Finishing L’Etape California will be a challenge but it is not race. There will be a timed section for the final climb and creative awards presented for the best sufferface. It is important that you make sure you are prepared to make the most of your L’Etape California experience.

Greg LeMond the only American to have won the Tour de France once said cycling never gets easier, you just go faster. To this end, all L’Etape California participants regardless of ability and fitness levels will have a challenging day in the saddle as they battle to reach the summit of Mt. Baldy. Whether the goal is to simply finish L’Etape California or be crowned king or queen of Mt. Baldy it is important that all participants complete the necessary training to maximize their riding experience.

The best way to prepare for L’Etape California is to ride your bike 3-4 times per week and build intensity and distance as you get closer to the event. Given the significant amount of climbing involved in both short and long courses, participants should aim to ride on hilly terrain at least once a week. Climbing power, cadence, and efficiency are keys to riding strong in L’Etape California. Just like the pros, amateur riders will want to arrive to the final 4.3 miles of Mt. Baldy (the timed section) as fresh as possible which means adapting the body to a riding uphill with a smooth pedal stroke. Riders are encouraged to spin easier gears, alternating between sitting and standing occasionally to work different muscle groups. Keeping a consistent pace and staying within your comfort zone will help you save energy for the steepest sections at the top of the mountain. Riding practice intervals of 15-20 minutes at moderate to difficult intensity will help you feel more comfortable during the longest climbs of L’Etape California.


Food and Hydration
Cyclists need to remain hydrated to ensure their performance on the bike and overall health is not affected. This is particularly important for L’Etape participants when you consider the amount of time on the bike in the glorious California sunshine. L’Etape California is providing several hydration stations along the course, teaming up with Skratch Labs to provide water and a hydration mix to replace the fluid and electrolytes lost in sweat during exercise. For more information visit www.skratchlabs.com


Eating during a gran fondo is essential, especially if you are riding an event as long as L’Etape California. L’Etape California will be providing sandwiches and several varieties of snacks throughout the feeding stations along the course. We also advise participants to consume a filling breakfast of carbohydrates one to two hours before the event, which will prepare your muscle and liver glycogen stores for an epic day in the saddle.


Ride at your own pace
Even the best cyclists in the world can crack whilst climbing the type of mountainous terrain featured in L’Etape California. Even if you’re not aiming to be crowned king or queen of Mt. Baldy it is important to ride your own effort, not anyone else’s. Be patient in the early sections of the course and don’t be afraid to let groups of riders pass you. You will be rewarded with good climbing legs in the final section, which is also the steepest of the course. Perhaps the best example of this in professional cycling is Stage 21 of the 1987 Tour de France when Stephen Roche made the conscious decision to let Pedro Delgado go on the final climb. Delgado quickly opened up a minute and twenty five second gap which would have been decisive in the battle for overall victory. However, Roche did not panic and continued to ride the climb at his own pace eventually limiting his losses to just a few seconds which ultimately allowed him to win the 1987 Tour de France. This ride was best captured by Amgen Tour of California commentator Phil Liggett who was caught completely unaware of Roche’s heroic ride.

“Just who is that rider coming up behind – because that looks like Roche! That looks like Stephen Roche… it’s Stephen Roche, has come over the line! He almost caught Pedro Delgado, I don’t believe it!”


Guidelines and Safety
Gone are the days when the majority of professional cyclists chose not to wear helmets. In 1989, Greg LeMond famously wore an aerodynamic helmet to defeat Laurent Fignon by eight seconds and claim his second Tour de France. It was suggested afterwards that if Fignon had cut off his ponytail and worn an aerodynamic helmet, the reduction in drag might have been sufficient for him to have won the Tour. Today, wearing a helmet is mandatory for all professional cyclists and participants of L’Etape California. Please ensure you wear your helmet with the chinstrap buckled at all times while riding on the L’Etape California course.


Peter Sagan the all-time stage wins leader in the Amgen Tour of California has earned a reputation as one of the best descenders in the peloton. Anyone who observed Sagan’s fearless precision and sinuous lines during last year’s Amgen Tour of California will be left with no doubt that descending downhill is much more complex than simply letting gravity take over. It is an essential skill that when performed correctly with good technique will make the descent much safer. Whether you are a confident descender like Sagan or consider it your weakness like Trek Factory Racing’s Frank Schleck we are asking all participants of L’Etape California to descend cautiously and to ride within your skill and comfort levels. Please be aware of your surroundings especially when you are descending or riding in a group. Give care of riders in the local vicinity and avoid sudden and erratic movements, which could cause a collision with other cyclists. Because communication with other riders during the event is crucial, no headphones are allowed during the event!


The Amgen Tour of California is committed to minimizing its environmental impact by organizing greener cycling events. We ask all participants of L’Etape California to refrain from littering the course. Riders are to dispose of garbage in designated garbage bins only.


We’re sure you have all marvelled at incredible array of pro bike technology at the Amgen Tour of California. If you are in the position to have access to a top of the line carbon fiber bike like the new Cannondale SuperSix Evo it will certainly make a difference. However, the most important component to a successful L’Etape California is making sure all your equipment is in good working condition. While we are offering mechanical support during L’Etape California we advise all participants to examine their bike before the day of the event. Clean your bike, lube your chain, check your brakes and true your wheels. If you are doubtful about the condition of your bike before the ride, please consult the SRAM Neutral Race Support bike mechanic on-site at the event.

Since the final 4.3 miles of Mt. Baldy will average nearly 9% gradient we are also recommend participants use a 34-tooth front chain ring and a 28-tooth rear cassette. Stronger riders may opt for a standard 39-28 or 34-26 setup. Whatever your preference, we encourage you to choose gearing that allows climbing at 70-100 RPM and will reduce the muscle force needed to get up the hill.

Each participant is allowed one bag to be transported from the start to the finish – we hope you will take advantage of this service to change into a fresh pair of clothes or wipe down your body with baby wipes or a towel in true soigneur fashion.

For more information on L’Etape California visit: https://amgentourofcalifornia.com/letapecalifornia-register

Like PEZ? Why not subscribe to our weekly newsletter to receive updates and reminders on what's cool in road cycling?

Comments are closed.