Racing Chris Froome in an amateur version of the Tour de France

Going up against Chris Froome in an exhilarating amateur version of the Tour de France in Australia (and discovering that the local wines don’t make for a very good training diet)

  • L’Etape Australia is run by the Tour de France owners and the 2017 Yellow Jersey holder took part last year
  • So did MailOnline Travel’s Colin Thorne. The thing is… he spent the week before hitting the local vino
  • However, he managed to finish and watched in awe as Chris Froome raced past him up a steep incline 

It’s the sound of his tyres swooshing across the wet tarmac that I heard first. Then a flash of yellow and the fastest skinny man on two wheels in Australia raced away up the hill ahead of me.

Chris Froome quickly enforced the performance gap between a four-time Tour de France winner and a guy who’d spent the past week conducting in-depth ‘research’ into the best of the food and wine scene of New South Wales. Winner versus Dinner kept nagging at me for the next 50 miles.

I was in Jindabyne for the Australian edition of L’Etape, an event organised by ASO, the owners of the Tour de France.

Colin jetted from the UK to New South Wales to take part in the Australian edition of L’Etape, an event organised by ASO, the owners of the Tour de France. Pictured is Chris Froome leading the peloton in the 2017 event. He took part for fun as he was the Yellow Jersey holder

Colin, pictured, rode L’Etape on a Ribble R872 provided by Ribble Cycles of Preston

It’s a mass-participation bike ride that closely mirrors the experience of riding a Tour de France stage, right down to the yellow jersey holder dashing your dreams of a pro cycling career.


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But on this occasion the worst storm for 20 years had decided to pass across the Mount Kosciuszko region the night before leaving the course shortened due to flooding, much to my relief as it turned out.

I had clearly under-estimated both the terrain and my ability to pile on the kilos in the preceding week of gourmet experiences.

Chris Froome gives photographer Marcus Enno the thumbs up as he powers around the course

L’Etape, says Colin, offers a unique view of the Jindabyne area, which is near the Snowy Mountains

L’Etape is held on closed roads and offers a unique view on this region more renowned for its winter sports. Wild, open spaces, challenging, constantly rolling roads and the occasional monster Alpine-style climb will keep ardent bike riders in Strava-segment-chasing heaven.

The perfect base camp for this adventure was the amazing Lake Crackenback resort. Large enough to have a village vibe but peaceful enough to have numerous kangaroos happily bouncing through the grounds. 

It’s a peaceful oasis full of unique chalets, activity centres, restaurants and a spa. There’s something about mountain air that seems to cleanse the mind and body and I had rarely felt so at ease with the world.

The local town of Jindabyne, near the Snowy Mountains, is a thriving destination offering plenty of choice for the discerning and healthy eater. While vineyards are a few hours’ drive away near Canberra there is the bustling Wildbrumby Distillery to check out. During the winter season its products are essential apres-ski pick-ups.

Jindabyne is a thriving destination offering plenty of choice for the discerning and healthy eater, muses Colin, while vineyards are a few hours’ drive away near Canberra there is the bustling Wildbrumby Distillery to check out. During the winter season its products are essential apres-ski pick-ups

Free-wheeling: The cyclists that take part in the event enjoy clear roads – because they’re closed to traffic 

L’Etape is a mass-participation bike ride that closely mirrors the experience of riding a Tour de France stage

Colin finished the race soaked, exhausted and ruing a lack of preparation. But he was also exhilarated and full of admiration for the support of the locals. Pictured is Chris Froome coasting through the mist

Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa, pictured, was Colin’s HQ for the race. He said it was ‘large enough to have a village vibe but peaceful enough to have numerous kangaroos happily bouncing through the grounds’

Its bustling restaurant provided yet more incredibly tasty ballast ahead of my ride.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about L’Etape is how it brings out the locals who compete to decorate the route with Tour de France-inspired yellow, green or red polka dot roadside ephemera. 

In spite of the soggy, cold conditions in 2017 there was no dampening of support from the side of the roads.

It’s always hard to explain the euphoria that comes from finishing a serious physical challenge like this. I was soaked, exhausted and rueing my lack of preparation but I was also exhilarated and full of admiration for the region and the support of the locals, who made me feel like a champ.

TRAVEL FACTS 

For more on L’Etape Australia visit letapeaustralia.com. The next race is on Saturday, December 1.

Qantas flies from London Heathrow to Sydney on its A380 from £4,192 business class return. To book, visit qantas.com.

For more on things to do in New South Wales visit www.visitnsw.com. 

Bike: Colin rode L’Etape on a Ribble R872 provided by Ribble Cycles of Preston. RRP from £1,199.

Transport: Colin took his bike to Australia safely in a super tough case provided by Luke and Ollie Penney. Call 07870 409634 or email [email protected] or visit www.bikebox-rental.co.uk.

Australian customs require bikes to be inspected for traces of dirt on the tyres upon arrival. Ensure your bike is clean to avoid delays.

Stay: Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa – www.lakecrackenback.com.au.

Picture of Colin courtesy of www.sportograf.com.  

 

 

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