L’Étape du Tour de France is (probably) the most famous mass participation bike ride in the world. Each year, thousands of amateur cyclists gather to ride one of the toughest and most spectacular stages of the Tour de France.  

2024 will be the 32nd edition of L’Étape du Tour. It will be held on 7 July 2024 on the route of the 20th stage of the Tour de France 2024, between Nice and the Col de la Couillole (via the Col de Braus, Col de Turini and Col de la Colmiane).

Sports Tours International is an Étape du Tour Official Tour Operator. They’ve been helping cyclists book tours to L’Étape and Tour de France since 1996. In this article we speak with Clement Cicuto, Sports Tours’ General Manager for Europe. He gives the lowdown on L’Étape 2024 including firsthand tips on the Étape route, nutrition and what it takes to achieve success at L’Étape.

This guide provides an overview of the 32nd edition of the Étape du Tour to be held on 7 July 2024. Please read the rules, entry conditions and information on the official website if you want to take part. In the event of any discrepancy between this guide and information on the official website, please rely on the official website. We are not the organisers of the event (nor are we connected with them).

Part 1: What is L’Étape du Tour and is it for you? 

What is L’Étape? 

L’Étape du Tour is an annual bike ride organised by Amaury Sport Organisation (“A.S.O.”), the same people that organise the Tour de France.  

First held back in 1993, today it sees 15,000 amateur cyclists ride a stage of the Tour de France on closed roads. The Étape takes place in early July, usually a few days before the professional peloton rides the same route. This lets riders experience the same challenges and a very similar atmosphere as the professional riders.  

A.S.O. usually choose one of the queen stages of the Tour de France for L’Étape; the queen stage is always one of the spectacular mountain stages. This means that the Étape course changes every year. In recent years it has tended to be in the Alps, so you can expect big mountain climbs and spectacular scenery. 

Etape du Tour 2024 cyclists will also start in Nice

Etape du Tour 2024 cyclists will also start in Nice (credit: ©A.S.O. Pauline Ballet)

Why is L’Étape so famous?  

L’Étape piggybacks on the fame of Le Tour and is set apart from other European sportives and granfondos by that connection. It’s made special by the fact the route is different every year and that the route will always be a nearly identical copy of a stage of the Tour de France that the pros will ride just a few days later. Riding the Étape du Tour is a unique opportunity to challenge yourself and ride in the footsteps of cycling legends. It’s the way to get a true taste of the Tour de France.     

The L’Étape route takes riders to new areas every year, but the things you can always be assured of are magnificent mountain panoramas and excellent organisation.  Small things make it special – for example, the level of support from spectators, the vibrant expo at the race village, official classifications and an official podium ceremony with Tour de France jerseys.

Especially if the Étape finishes on one of the famous passes, you can expect amazing support from the crowds. On sections of the course, you’ll find roads with thousands of people cheering you on to the finish. The reason? Many of them will be there “bagging” their place for the pro race in a few days’ time. You are the warm-up act! 

Another thing that’s special about the Étape are the medals; they’re usually really nice and different every year. Many of our guests that come back year after year like to collect them. 

It’s a sign of quite how popular L’Étape du Tour is that A.S.O. have created international versions of L’Étape. The Étape series is marketed under the name Étape by Tour de France series. The events are held around the world to give local riders a taste of the Étape du Tour and the Tour de France.  

Give an overview of the Étape 2024 course 

The exact Étape du Tour date and location are announced in October each year. There’s always a sense of excitement at Sports Tours as we approach this time as to what the route will be.  

The good news is that wherever the route goes, we make sure our guests get the best hotels.  We’ve been organising Tour de France holidays for over 20 years, and so we have amazing relationships with hotels all over the Alps. That means we can use those connections to provide our riders with the best options for places to stay. Our hotels have prime locations close to the finish.

The 2024 edition of L’Étape du Tour de France, includes 4,600 metres of climbing over 138-kilometres. These kind of distances and amount of climbing are typical of what we’ve seen from L’Étape in recent years. However, the Tour organisers are suggesting that the 2024 Étape is set to be one of the more demanding routes in recent history. We will see!

La Marmotte v L’Étape: which is better? 

Many would say that L’Étape and La Marmotte are the two most famous amateur cycling events in Europe. They are both held in the breathtaking Alps, and many serious cyclists feel compelled to tackle both in their lifetime (albeit maybe not the same year, given they’re often only a few days apart!). 

Many people believe that the Marmotte course is more challenging than the Étape, so we’d probably suggest starting with the Étape and then taking on the Marmotte. 

Here are some important distinctions: 

  • L’Étape usually takes place in early July 2024, while the Marmotte takes place at the end of June.
  • L’Étape limits participants to around 15,000 riders, while La Marmotte allows a maximum of 7,000 riders.
  • L’Étape is held on fully closed roads, while the Marmotte is on partially closed roads.
  • L’Étape course changes annually and is unveiled in mid-October of the previous year, while the course for La Marmotte tends to remain roughly 95% the same year after year.
  • L’Étape usually covers fewer, and sometimes less iconic, cols than La Marmotte’s four unchanging iconic cols.
  • Some iterations of L’Étape are easier than others (relatively speaking!) but in any event, they’re usually shorter and have less elevation gain than La Marmotte.

Want to know more about riding La Marmotte? Read our article on La Marmotte.

Cyclists in Nice at an event similar to the L'Etape du Tour

Cyclists on Nice’s promenade at the Tour de France 2020 (credit: ©A.S.O. Alex Broadway)

Part 2: L’Étape 2024 route

Many of the climbs featured in the 2024 Étape route have been seen in Paris-Nice over the years (albeit usually from a different direction). 2018 saw Simon Yates win on the Col de la Colmaine, 2019 was a victory for Daniel Felipe Martínez on the Turini, 2022 for Primoz Roglic on the Turini and 2023 was Pogacar’s turn on Col de la Couillole.

 

Tour de France Letape stage 2024

Profile of L’Étape route 2024 (credit: © A.S.O.)

 

The four big climbs on the route of the Étape 2024 are:

Col de Braus

Col de Braus is 10 kilometres long, with an average 6.6% gradient.

Just 15 or so kilometres after the start, the Étape hits the Col de Braus. The Étape climbs the classic side of the Col de Braus, from L’Escarene. This side includes a set of much-photographed, neatly engineered switchbacks.

One of the things I particularly like about the Col de Braus is that you feel you are heading into the mountains, away from the craziness of Nice city centre. Of course, on Étape day, it won’t be quite as serene as quiet and serene as normal!

Col de Turini

Col de Turini is 20.7 kilometres long, with an average 5.7% gradient.

After descending Col de Braus to Sospel, there’s barely any time to recover as the road turns upwards again.

The Col de Turini climb from Sospel is probably the most well-known climb of the day. With around 1,200 metres of climbing, it demands respect and strategic riding. The climb gradually increases in difficulty, with switchbacks famous for the Monte Carlo Rally. As riders ascend through the Gorges du Piaon, you’re surrounded by a stunning backdrop of rugged rock faces and waterfalls. The village of Moulinet marks a mid-point for the climb. Watch out for the final five kilometres; with consistent 7.6% gradients, reaching the summit will undoubtedly be a relief!

Col de la Colmiane

Col de la Colmiane is 7.5 kilometres long, with an average 7.1% gradient.

The climb might be marked as a mere 7.5 kilometres, but in fact, it will feel much longer, as the profile is pretty much constantly upward all the way from the 82km mark at Roquebillière (568m). That makes La Colmaine more like a 20 km climb averaging 5%. By the time you’re at Saint-Martin-Vésubie, you’re at 925m above sea level – and this is where the official climb starts (7.5 kilometres at 7.1% average gradient). It’s a beautiful climb from here; the views from the hairpins on the climb to the high peaks of Argentera and Gélas are stunning and the smell of the fir trees may even overpower the likely smell of your own perspiration as you grind your way up!

Col de la Couillole

Col de la Couillole is 15.7 kilometres long, with an average 7.1% gradient.

Barely has the Col de la Colmaine descent finished, and you’re on to the final climb of the day. The climb hugs the side of the mountain and provides fantastic views down to Saint-Sauveur-sur-Tinée below. On the way up is the wonderful village of Roubion, built on the side of a cliff, overlooking the Vionène Valley. The finish summits at 1,768m.

You’ll be riding in the steps of cycling legends; the pass is known for the famous 1975 Tour de France stage with Eddy Merckx and was the Paris-Nice 2017 highest stage finish. It was also part of the Mercan’Tour Classic Alpes-Maritimes in 2021 and 2023 and saw a spectacular finish from Pogacar in the 2023 Paris-Nice.

Cyclists in the mountains behind Nice, similar to the route to be ridden by cyclists on the L'Etape du Tour 2024

Cyclists on the Tour de France 2020 stage 2 close to where the Etape du Tour 2024 will take place (credit: ©A.S.O Alex Broadway)

Part 3: Practicalities of taking part in L’Étape 

How to get a place on Étape du Tour 

To enter the Étape du Tour, you need to register on the official Étape website. Entry registration usually opens in October and spaces are limited, so it’s important to secure your spot early. You will need to provide personal details, sign a waiver, and pay the entry fee. 

If you don’t get a spot, don’t worry, as an official operator of the Étape, Sports Tours gets a generous allocation of tickets and we usually still have places available after the ticket-only options have sold out. More details below. 

Remember your medical certificate 

Before participating in the Étape du Tour, you will need to obtain a medical certificate. This requirement ensures that you are fit to take part in the event. The Étape website provides a detailed template for the certificate, which needs to be completed and signed by a doctor. It must be dated within one year of the event.  

What are the cut-off times for L’Étape du Tour 2024?  

These are not yet known. We will update the article once they are published. 

Is L’Étape du Tour on closed roads? 

Yes, it is. However, note that Étape regulations incorporate a number of safety requirements including a reminder that you’ll still be sharing the road with the event organisation vehicles, e.g. safety and medical vehicles. More information on their site, here. 

How hard is L’Étape du Tour? How do you train?  

The Étape du Tour is a challenging ride, designed to replicate the difficulty faced by the professionals. Expect demanding climbs and technical descents. It is essential to train and prepare hard to ensure you can complete the distance within the time cut-offs. 

The event attracts the best amateur riders from the world over, and especially towards the front of the field, competition is fierce. Only the best cyclists can hope to finish anywhere near the podium. Simply to finish is something to be proud of; literally thousands of riders abandon every year. 

Can beginner cyclists enter L’Étape? 

Technically they can – but it’s not a great idea. It would be much more sensible to start with an easier event, get yourself confident with cycling in big groups and cycling in the mountains, and then attempt the Étape. 

Do you need a training plan for L’Étape du Tour? 

Yes!  

However, what your Étape training plan looks like will vary considerably depending on how experienced you, how fit you and your objectives for the event. 

L’Étape training plans are well outside the scope of this article, but consistency, commitment, hill climbing practice and developing your aerobic and fat-burning capabilities will be key.  

An Étape d’Tour training plan is outside the scope of this article, but here are some key points to consider 

  • Cycling the challenging Étape requires physical fitness and specific cycling conditioning. Don’t underestimate the level of fitness needed, even if you’re fit from another sport.
  • Developing the ability to climb all the hills is crucial. Descending skills are important for safety, whether you’re a professional or amateur. Learn good technique to stay safe.
  • It sounds basic, but it’s also really important to know how to properly fuel your ride and take on food and drink even when exhausted. Without this ability, finishing is unlikely.
  • Mental strength is key as L’Étape will probably be one of the toughest challenges you’ve ever faced.
  • Give yourself a good taper in the last two weeks to make sure you’re fresh for the event.
  • Remember to pace yourself. It’s better to start easy and finish fast than it is to start fast and finish past your limit.

On the topic of mental strength, have a watch of this video that David Millar created for Sports Tours. In it, David shares his tips for tackling L’Étape.

What support is there on the route? 

L’Étape event support 

The event provides a mechanical assistance service with a neutral support car and Shimano fixed mechanical service points positioned along the route. However, of course you might not find assistance the exact moment you need it, so be prepared (more on that below). 

L’Étape feed stations will be found along the course. The feed stations are stocked with water and basic nutrition like nuts and bananas. 

Two private feed stations 

We offer two private feed stations on the course, with abundant food and drink options. These stations are less crowded than the official ones, allowing for easier access. Each station is equipped with a bike mechanic and basic first aid for your convenience. By using these private stations, you can save valuable time as they are quicker to enter and exit compared to the public stations.  

How to plan your nutrition? 

Make sure to fuel your body properly and stay hydrated, even if the weather isn’t sunny.  

If you’re participating in a hot edition of L’Étape, it’s crucial to pay extra attention to your fluid intake. If you start feeling overheated, take advantage of any opportunities to cool down.  

For instance, try riding in the shaded part of the road whenever possible. You can also use roadside water troughs to cool yourself off.  

If you’re riding with Sports Tours, make sure to pack a day bag that you can access at the first feed station. This way, you can store any unwanted gear and replenish your preferred nutrition. 

A final practical point, all of our Étape hotels provide an early breakfast, with a great selection of food (and coffee!) but feel free to check with them exactly what time that will be and what food will be available. If it doesn’t match your needs, consider taking your own breakfast and eating it in your room. 

This has article has more tips for cycling nutrition for long events.

What kit choices do you suggest for riding L’Étape? 

Compulsory kit 

Étape regulations state that the following items are compulsory: “helmet, water bottle, repair kit with two spare inner tubes or a specific tubular tyre or tubeless tyre puncture repair kit as well as a in the event of a puncture.” 

And also… 

Be prepared. Take spares of everything, including riding kit.  

Thoroughly prepare your bike or have a bike shop do it for you. Take the time to research the course carefully and ensure you have appropriate gearing 

Make sure you bring a good supply of preferred gels/bars, electrolyte tablets, 2 x spare tubes, Co2 canisters or frame pump. Don’t forget the sunscreen – or zinc if you prefer it. The packing list here may also assist. 

The weather can change at short notice, even in July. The minimum you’d want to have with you is arm warmers and a gilet; a light rain jacket may also be a good idea. The temperature can drop on higher elevations and fast descents can get chilly. More tips on weather in the Alps, here.

If it’s looking likely to rain, overshoes, long finger gloves, and knee warmers may be in order. Pack everything you may need and check the forecast when you arrive. Leave anything unnecessary in your hotel room. Stay ready for any weather and enjoy your ride!

Make sure you’ve got appropriate bike and travel insurance that’ll cover you if you (or your bike) in case of emergencies. 

And finally, how about jotting down the key summits, distances and feed/water stops on your bars. By the halfway mark, you might find your brain isn’t functioning at top speed and a reminder of the key milestones could come in handy!   

Cyclists in mountains similar to those on the route of L'Etape du Tour 2024

Tour de France 2020 Etape 2 in the Nice Haut Pays – cyclists on L’Étape du Tour will take on similar climbs (credit: ©A.S.O. Alex Broaway)

L’Étape accommodation: where should people stay? 

Accommodation for the Étape du Tour varies depending on the route and stage towns each year.  

If you’re going DIY, this can be one of the biggest headaches as so much accommodation gets booked up ahead of time by the Tour de France and people like Sports Tours! The best advice is to book as early as you possibly can. Looking for small, bike-friendly B&Bs and hotels in the area is a good way to go as they can provide local advice and support. There is often useful accommodation information the Étape du Tour website. 

We have worked with our hotels for many years; they fully understand the needs of our cyclists and provide services you need. There’s the early 5am breakfast on the day of the event, you can leave your bike in your room or in their secure bike storage and they can also arrange massages for you. 

Can you hire bikes for L’Étape? 

If you don’t have access to a suitable bike, you can take advantage of the bike hire service offered by the Étape du Tour organisers. However, it’s important to plan ahead as there may well be limited availability.  

Sports Tours guests can happily book road bike hire for the event if you prefer not to bring your own. However, I would say that it is really important to book this with, or as soon as possible after you book your main package, to ensure you secure the bike with the specifications you need. As you can imagine, demand for rental bikes is extremely high during this period.  

How should cyclists get to L’Étape du Tour 2024? 

For those that can drive rather than fly, there are certain advantages: it allows you to avoid bus transfers. You can also bring more equipment and spare parts for your bike and reduce the risk of your bike getting lost or damaged during transportation or assembly. It also makes it easier to check out the course and explore more of the surrounding area.

If you’re flying in, as the Étape du Tour is being held in Nice, getting to the Étape 2024 is easy. This site has information on direct flights to Nice and Nice train station is also extremely well connected.

If you fly, Sports Tours always arranges regular airport transfers from the most convenient international airport to the event. For L’Étape 2024, airport transfers will be available from Nice airport to the hotel throughout the day with our first transfer at 11:30am and our last transfer leaving at 20:00. On the return leg, after the event, our earliest airport transfer is for flights departing after 9:30, leaving the hotel at 07.00.

What tips would you give to someone wanting to do this event? 

Start of L’Étape 

In previous years, riders have been put in groups of about 1,000. The fastest riders have set off first and those pens typically have the lower number pens. 

Respect your starting pen and don’t drop litter  

Since 2019, the organisers have started disqualifying people that begin from a starting zone in front of the one they were allocated. The official website notes that in 2022, 122 people were disqualified for this. 

Likewise rules have been introduced to disqualify anyone disposing of waste outside the refuse disposal area. In 2022, eight people were disqualified for this. 

Other riders 

This is such a big ticket, famous event that it attracts riders of all levels, many of whom will be nervous and inexperienced. Prepare to ride confidently and decisively; your attitude will greatly impact your ability to stay out of trouble. Expect some stop-start riding; be ready to brake if needed. 

We’ve noticed that many L’Étape participants struggle with descending. If it’s something you’re good at, this gives you the chance to make up some time on the descents and improve your position; if that’s important to you. Just remember to always ride sensibly and don’t take unnecessary risks. 

David Millar prepared these tips on descending for us, which might help:

Spectators 

Every year the Tour de France prepares a map which shows the best points for spectators to spectate from. It’s worth looking at the official site.

There’s also a live tracking app so you can follow your rider(s). 

Some useful French 

These are the key phrases to know for the Étape! 

  • Merci: thanks 
  • Désolé: sorry  
  • Arrête: stop
  • À gauche: on the left 
  • À droite: on the right 

Highway code and travel information 

As ever, it’s a good idea to check current travel information before you book and travel. For UK visitors, the UK government travel information pages for France are here. 

You should also read and follow France’s highway code. 

What is there to do before/after the Étape du Tour? 

It’s always exciting to be in France during Le Tour, it’s the annual party that sweeps through the country. If you want to arrive early and recce some of the awesome climbs and/or check out the location of the feed stations, our team at Sports Tours can help you book additional nights. 

For those that want to ride both the Étape and the L’Étape, we can also help you arrange that! Get in touch with us.

Nice old town with Tour de France flags

Nice’s beautiful old town, taken at the Tour de France 2020 (credit: A.S.O. Pauline Ballet)

Part 4: L’Étape du Tour tours  

What is included in a Sports Tours package? 

Sports Tours’ packages include 

  • 2 or 3 nights accommodation in either a 4 star or 3 star hotel in the start area (extra nights available on request) 
  • Daily breakfast including early breakfast on race day 
  • Transfer from the finish area back to your hotel 
  • Bike storage at your hotel either in the room or in the hotel bike store  
  • Assistance at the event expo and throughout your stay from our team of guides/reps 
  • Mechanical support from our professional mechanics 
  • 24 hour emergency number 
  • Étape du Tour race briefing 
  • Two additional feed stations on the route 
  • Sports Tours cycling jersey
  • All hotel taxes 

Mechanical support 

Our team is available to assist riders with any last-minute mechanical issues on the Saturday before the event.  

On the day, we will also have  mechanical assistance available at our private feed stations. That said, it’s important to know some basic skills yourself, such as repairing punctures and changing inner tubes, as it will save you time and keep you moving.  

Saturday morning briefing 

We run a briefing session on the Saturday morning where our experienced reps share information about the event and tips for successfully completing it. There’s also a Q&A so you can ask your own questions – and of course you can also speak to any of them outside of the briefing too. 

Morning of L’Étape day 

The exact itinerary will depend on the 2024 route.

We will have a kit drop facility at the start, so riders can drop off the kit they don’t need at the start – they are reunited with this kit back at their hotel. Many exchange their jackets for a bin bag which they wear to keep warm at the start; hanging around for 30 minutes or so in a pen waiting to start can be very cold this early in the morning with just a short sleeve jersey on!

What you get from Sports Tours that you don’t get from other operators? 

Only L’Étape official operators can offer many of the things we offer. For example, the extra feed station, pre-race briefing, transfer back to your hotel, mechanical support pre-event and Sports Tours cycling jersey. These things really make a difference to your overall experience. 

We can also bolt on extra Tour De France experiences to your weekend – there’s more about our Tour de France cycling holidays in this article. 

By trusting your L’Étape to Sports Tours, you benefit from the nearly 30 years of experience we and our team of experience L’Étape reps have had in helping riders get the most from L’Étape. 

How do you find more info about Sports Tours L’Étape packages?  

Head to the L’Étape page of our website.

Alternatively, call us and speak to one of our expert team who will be able to talk you through the options for your L’Étape experience.  

 

A huge thanks to Sports Tours for these valuable insights on taking part in L’Étape. 

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Clément Cicuto

Clément Cicuto is General Manager for Europe at Sports Tours International. He’s in charge of creating, planning and implementing all the company’s events in France. He’s been planning Tour de France (and L’Étape du Tour de France) trips since 2010 and loves the challenge, excitement and variety they offer. Based near Paris, he’s close to the Tour’s organisers and grateful to them for their continued support that ensure Sports Tours can offer such fantastic experiences to its clients.

Last Reviewed: 25 September 2023

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