This year the body that runs the Tour de France and just about every other race around (including, of course, the Etape du Tour), the ASO, has two special ‘challenges’ to encourage people to sign up for both races, I gather.
The first is called the Madone Challenge, named after the famed climb near Nice that Lance Armstrong used to use as his benchmark when training for the Tour. In light of today’s news, maybe the Madone Challenge should be to see who can dope the longest without getting caught…but thankfully it’s not.
The Madone Challenge is simply a combination of your Act One (Alps) and Act Two (Pyrenees) times, listed on a spiffy pdf file on their site. Other than this great honor, you get 15 Euro coupons for Trek (makers of the Madone bike, of course) and Bontrager accessories. To become a participant in the ‘challenge’ you just need to sign up for both Etapes.
The next ‘challenge’ is infinitely cooler and makes me feel a tad less cynical. This is called the Challenge ‘Grimpeur’. ‘Grimpeur’, as you are surely well aware, is French for ‘cyclist with anorexic tendencies who has overcome the problem of gravity’, and if you fancy yourself to be one of these creatures this challenge could be for you.
Each and every major climb of both Etapes (8 in total) will be timed, using sensors at the official bottom and top (we had this last year on the Alpe d’Huez climb) and you will be able to see and compare your times unfavorably with those more grimp than you. Seriously though, this does add some handy stats for analyzing what went wrong or right during the event and could help in determining a better strategy for next year.
So, if you didn’t think that one or two Etapes was challenge enough, now you have even more to motivate you. Bonne Courage, les gars!