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2013 Etape du Tour

For information on the next Etape du Tour, go to the VeloNomad Etape landing page.

The 2013 Etape du Tour route announcement has caused a collective apoplexy amongst the Etapperati.

“Sacre Bleu! It stinks!”
“Mon dieu! It’s too short!”
“Pooh-pooh, ziss stinks like a good French cheese! But in a bad way. (Sacre Bleu!)”

Now that everyone has had their 2c worth, and since there’s no point in saying “if only” for another stage, let’s take a look at the 2013 Etape in more detail.

As this is a long article, you can skip through to each section using the links below.

Before we dive in, though, check out this interview I did with, where we discuss Etape du Tour 2013.

  1. 2013 Etape du Tour route
  2. Who can do Etape 2013
  3. 2013 Etape du Tour logistics
  4. 2013 Etape du Tour accommodation
  5. Timing of the Etape
  6. Getting there
  7. Watching the TDF
  8. What to pack
  9. Taking your bike
  10. Gearing your bike for Etape
  11. Nutrition
  12. Training for Etape
  13. Recovery
  14. More information

2013 Etape du Tour Key details

2013 Etape date: July 7 2013
Registrations open: November 28th online
Start/finish: Annecy-> Annecy – Semnoz
Distance: 130km
Tim’s Difficulty Rating: – 5/10 (9/10 if you ride a 56/46 x 10-23)

2013 Etape Route

At first glance, compared to some of the previous Etapes (notably 2009 Ventoux, 2010 Tourmalet and 2011 Alps), this Etape appears tame.

Does that mean it’s not worth of consideration? I think not.

Here’s the profile of the route (per the TDF stage 20) and the final climb.

2013 Etape profile

2013 Etape profile

2013 Etape profile

Annecy-Semnoz profile

Thanks to reader Laurence for sending the a Strava ride which is about the approximate route.

There’ve been comments that the 2013 Etape du Tour route is not hard enough and to some degree this point has merit; there’s a noticeable lack of any HC climbs.

However, the profile is reasonably lumpy, at least lumpy enough to cause trouble for those who are unprepared (more on training for Etape below).

The distance is not too taxing at 130km, especially given the reasonably low level of ascending to be done (3500m – thanks to Laurence’s heads up regarding the amount of ascending).

But, how’s the final climb up Annecy-Semnoz; I don’t know about you but the final climb at 10km with an average of 8.5% is not trifling.

And of course, you can make the Etape as hard as you’d like. If you go easy in a 34×27 up the climbs it will be a romp. If you go flat knacker and try to keep up with the leaders, well, that’s a different story.

And ultimately, the Etape is a stupidly fun experience – closed roads, 10,000 cyclists and riding in France. Even if this route does lack some epic HC climbs, I guarantee you’ll still have a blast.

As you can see from Laurence’s Strava ride, 4000 calories and 7-odd hours in the saddle is a long day.

Entering for Etape 2013

Entries will open on November 28th, from the ASO’s Etape website, probably around lunchtime CET (Paris).

As this is the only Etape, I expect online entries to sell out quickly.

If you miss out, you’ll need to contact a tour operator affiliated to the Etape, like CycloMundo, Trek Travel etc.

Who can do Etape du Tour

Pretty much anyone could have a go at Etape 2013, with a bit of training (see below).

Also read this article on who can do Etape.


One happy consequence of the elected 2013 Etape route is the simple logistics involved.

Since the start and finish are basically co-located, you won’t need transport to the start and from the finish (unless you’re staying outside Annecy).

What’s not to like about that?

Having done Etapes with the start/finish in the same area, and Etapes with the start/finish far apart, it’s much more preferable like this.

Transport for Etape is ALWAYS a hassle, so with this Etape there’ll be no schlepping around with transfers.

The 2013 Etape Survival Guide discusses Etape logistics in MUCH more detail.

Getting back from the top of Semnoz to Annecy will be a cinch; it’s only 22km or so (direct Google Maps link).

View Larger Map


Annecy is a big town, and given that there is only one Etape this year, competition for hotel rooms will be intense.

Given the Tour de France will be about 400km/4.5 hours away on the Med Coast, there’ll be less competition for accommodation from the Tour.

(As a side note, if you want to be in or near Annecy for the Tour, book now.)

However, it would be prudent to start looking now; VeloNomads are emailing me telling me that they are booking now.

Unfortunately, we don’t have any listings on the VN Cycling Accommodation page for Annecy (yet).

(By the way, if you’re an accommodation provider in the Annecy region, I’d love to have you on the VeloNomad Cycling Accommodation Listings page. Have a squizz and if you’re interested, drop me a line.)

You can book through your local travel agent or using an online site, links below.

I discussed the pros and cons of using travel agents vs booking accommodation yourself, in this post on Finding Cycling Accommodation.


The timing of 2013 Etape is quite odd. The Marmotte is the day before, meaning local resources will be stretched (thanks to reader Paul N for noticing this).

The 2013 Etape is early in July (neither here nor there as far as I am concerned) which means you’ll need to stick around in France for a while in order to see any of the Tour.

This is discussed in more detail in the “Watching the TDF” section below.

Getting there

I’d personally fly into Geneva as it’s only 42km from Annecy.

If you’re on a long haul flight from the South Pacific, or Africa, consider flying Emirates (Emirates route map).

(I’m a big fan of Emirates and the new Qantas/Emirates is a boon for Aussies and Kiwis.)

Lyon (90mins) and Grenoble (1 hour) are also good options and are served by international airlines as well as Air France, BA and others.

Whilst Nice is 6 hours away, it might be a good option in order to do some sightseeing (and to do Ventoux on the way to Annecy).

Alternatively you could fly into Heathrow and catch the Eurostar, or into Paris, and grab a TGV to Annecy.

Watching the TDF

I’m a big advocate of getting to France a week before Etape to acclimatise and taper for Etape.

This puts you in France on or around July 1.

The Tour is in the Alps from 10-12 days after Etape, meaning you’ll need to be in France for at least 3 weeks to see the TDF in the Alps (arrive in France a week before the Etape, to acclimatise).

The Tour is in the Pyrenees July 8 and 9, meaning you’re probably only going to be able to see one Pyreneean stage. Not worth it in my opinion.

So the best bet to see the Tour is do Etape then just ride and enjoy yourself until it reaches the Alps.

TDF route

TDF route

What to pack

The key thing is not to overpack. Packing the right cycling gear is important.

Download the free cycling trip packing list and check out the packing for a bike trip article and video.

The Cycling Through France guide has lots more information on what to take, as does the Tackling L’Etape guide.

Taking your bike

I definitely think you should take your bike.

Read the most insanely detailed guide to taking your bike overseas, or download the ebook for only $5 to find out the pros and cons of taking your bike.

That article and ebook contains everything you need to know about taking your bike overseas: pros, cons, insurance, packing, storage and lots, lots more.

You ought to also check out:

Gearing for Etape

Although at first glance this Etape parcours appears to be not overly challenging, I can assure you that for many people, it will be.

I’m a reasonably climber with a high level of fitness (A/B grade rider). At my peak, I still would not ride this course with a full sized (53/39) crankset.

Most of the very top riders doing Etape are very experienced and could do this course on a 53/39 with 11-25 (or even a 23!).

But for the vast majority of readers and Etappers, a compact would be desirable. The maximum I’d take is a 52/36 (SRAM Red).

As for rear cassettes:

  • If you’re riding a 53/39, take an 11-27 or 11-28 – your legs will thank you
  • If you’re on a 50/34, you might still want to have the option of an 11-28. There’s nothing worse than running out of gears and already having very tired legs.

Unless you’re really not prepared for Etape (start training!), you might want a long cage derailleur (e.g. SRAM 36) or a 32, but if you do some training and are prepared, an 11-28 will be the maximum you need.

Read this review of SRAM Force and Apex cassettes for more gearing info.


Where do I start!?

There are a few things to consider here; from nutrition months before Etape, to just before, during and then after Etape.

First up, you should be taking care of yourself everyday, way before Etape, using a nutrition plan for cyclists.

In the lead up to Etape, you need to fuel-load. Read more about Fuelling for Etape.

The amount of information I could write on nutrition for Etape is huge, so get started reading with the articles below.

Training for Etape

“Should I train for Etape?” – this is the question a lot of people’s lips.

Some people will be able to turn up to Etape 13 with little to no training. If you race A or B grade and are of a reasonable level of race fitness, and can climb a bit, you will probably be ok.

If you’ve never raced, never trained and/or done barely any riding in serious mountains, then you need to train.

If you think you can just turn up and “do” Etape, I urge you to reconsider. You know, check yo’self before you wreck yo’self.

Even fit people can benefit from training. Check out my 2010 Etape experience to see why.

And, watch this video I made for an Etape promo that explains why turning up without being fit is folly.

VeloNomad has two resources for those looking for a training program for Etape.

Training for Etape – 16 weeks

This is a stand alone guide providing training for 16 weeks leading into Etape. For most people with some training/racing/climbing experience, this will be adequate for last minute conditioning.

Check out the Training for Etape guide.

Cycling Training Program – long range

The VeloNomad cycling training program is a subscription based training program delivering you your weekly training program at the start of each week.

Framed around 12 week training blocks, after each block you graduate to the next level.

This is the cost effective way to get a quality cycling training program without the expensive monthly charge if you had a personal coach.

The VeloNomad cycling training program is ideal if you want to do Etape but need to lose weight and/or have practically no experience with racing, intense training, or riding in the mountains.

It’s also ideal for those with racing/training experience, who want to focus on training just for epic mountain sportifs.

Check out the VeloNomad cycling training program.

Other training for Etape reading

I’ve written a few articles on training, which are very relevant for Etape.


Successful recovery from Etape requires a few things (yes, including a Heineken).

Tim in river with Heineken

Recovering from Etape

  • Proper nutrition before and during Etape
  • Proper training before Etape
  • Post Etape nutrition and self-massage

The nutrition and training elements are discussed above.

An important element is post ride massage. Whenever I go overseas with my bike, I take a foam roller and baseball.

After big rides I will use both of these to essentially massage key areas.

The articles how to recover from long bike rides and How to recover from Etape du Tour contain more recovery information.

The Guide to Recovering from Etape contains a step by step instruction guide, with photos, showing you how to treat yourself after Etape.

Need more info?

There are many, many articles on VeloNomad providing information on Etape and cycling holidays to France. Your best bet is to start searching and exploring. The below list is a great starting point.

The 2013 Etape Survival Guide gives you all the specific detail you need in a handy printable PDF for only $5. Download it below or read more.

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by Tim Marsh

Tim is an ex Melbournite now living near Byron Bay on 10 acres, happily growing mangos, avocados and lots of other stuff, with his wife Kate, son Arthur and adorable Golden Retriever, Whiskey (RIP our 1YO G/R Poppins :( ).

15 comments… add one

  1. Hi
    I rode around the route (or a near as one can guess from the Etape web site) the day after the announcement.
    The total climbing was 3500m rather than the 3000m quoted above. There are a lot of small climbs and false flats in the first half which will be very taxing.
    I had not done any endurance training as this ride was quite unexpected. So being less than optimally fit and struggling up the Semnoz on 34×25 is possible but not fun. I would have rather had a 34×28. I doubt I would have gone faster but it would have been easier on my knees and quads.

    1. Hey Laurence,
      thanks so much for this feedback. Do you have the ride uploaded to Strava?

      I think you’ve identified where most people will be in for a surprise – endurance. Combine the climbing (even just lots of little ascents) over 130km and suddenly 130km becomes hard.


  2. Any links for where you can hire a bike for the etape. Flight booked but no room on plane to carry bike!!

    1. Hey Nigel,
      Start Googling Annecy Bike Hire, or try the VeloNomad forums! (


  3. Hi Tim, thanks for the info, well done. We did l’etape 2011 to l’Alpe d’Huez and it brings up one question for anyone who has ridden the 2013 route. Are there any tunnels? The only thing we didn’t love about doing the ride were some fairly long and poorly lit tunnels which made riding them in a group rather dicey. A small headlight would solve it, it wouldn’t take a massive commuter light.

    Thanks again, July will be here before we know it, time to ride!

  4. We are taking another option for seeing le Tour and riding l’etape. Flying into Nice and staying nearby for five days. Le Tour opens on Corsica and then they hit the mainland, we will watch the TTT and the Depart the next day. Then head north towards Annecy with plenty of time to ride and be tourists. This gives us plenty of time to be rested and ready for l’etape, as Tim wisely counsels, but still catch some of le Tour without spending three full weeks. We are coming from the States and it will be right at two weeks with no long transfer days.
    By the way, I originally had the trip planned as 10 days but my wife upped it to 14, who am I to argue with le Boss??!!

    1. Hey John, indeed, it’s best not to argue with the boss.

      Your plan sounds pretty solid – Corsica would be awesome if you could get there.


      PS, I don’t think there are any tunnels. And you are right, the 2011 Etape Alps with the tunnel off the Galibier into La Grave was madness. I managed to get far enough to the front to avoid it but bugger me it was soooooo sketchy.


  5. I cannot remember any tunnels when we did our best guess of the 2013 Etape route. The most technical part of the route was the descent from the Col des Prés. It steep and twisty with a few corners with slightly odd cambers. It is also very fast. The end of the descent is a bit of a shock – over a short bridge followed by a sharp (close to a right angle) left turn with a short sharp climb up to St-Jean-d’Arvey. That really gives one’s legs a shock. Hopefully no one will misjudge their speed and miss the turn.

    1. AWESOME feedback Laurence.
      Any other things to be wary of?


  6. Trying to think back to the route, most of it was quite straight forward. The first climb is very close to the start. Although short it is not the widest of roads and a bit steeper than some people might expect. So I expect there to be a traffic jam on that as people charge at 40kmh from the start along a pretty flat road by the lake and then hit a 6% gradient. I expect a lot of bunching 🙂 The climb to the Le Revard (i.e. the first big climb) is harder than the average gradient suggests. There are sections – especially at the bottom which are significantly steeper. However the main issue was that the rough road surface especially near the top. I hope it will have been resurfaced by July. The descent from that is short but a bit of a blast. The climb up the Semnoz (especially if it is a very hot day) could be extremely grim. Once again the gradient is anything but consistent. Repeated short stretches of gradients of well over 10% are followed by lesser gradients all the way up. This broke up my rhythm really badly. It is like an interval session.

  7. Guys, flying from Ireland for 2013 Etape, my plane has no more room for bikes, are there any companies that specialise in bike hire for big sportives in France like L’etape.


  8. Can you make comment on how we get back from the Finish to Annecy after the race? I can’t imagine they will let you ride back down the way we’ve come!

    1. Hi Phil, pretty much it’s a through road, but check out the 2013 Etape Survival Guide for more info.

  9. Hi Tim. Great page and very informative. I’m out for revenge after getting stopped after 140km in last years Acte 2 (the weather was diabolical and only just missed the cut) in the Pyrenees and had similar thoughts of disappointment following the announcement of this years route. Have signed up either way and looking forward to at least finishing this years one. Can you tell me if there is anywhere I could get a link to download the course onto my Garmin as I have looked but to no avail. Many thanks

    1. Hi Andrew,
      GOOD LUCK! I don’t have the course via Garmin, you could post on the VN forums or Facebook page ( for it?


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