The Snowy Mountains region in southern New South Wales transforms into a cycling mecca in the Summer time, with riders from all riding disciplines converging on the alpine region to take in the sights on two wheels. Featuring a range of challenging climbs, exhilarating descents, and fast flats, the roads are home to L’Étape Australia, organised by the Tour de France.
With closed roads, punchy climbs, flat-out sprint sections and yellow, green, polka-dot and white jerseys up for grabs, L’Étape Australia by the Tour de France is the closest thing many of us will get to riding in the Tour de France. Headlined by the participation of reigning Tour de France champion Chris Froome, L’Étape offers riders the chance to test their mettle against the challenging terrain and one of the best cyclists in the world.
With the event set to happen on Saturday, 2nd December 2017, we cover all you need to know about the event to make your summer alpine adventure a breeze.
How to Get There
Situated near the Southwest border of New South Wales, the Snowy Mountains are a two and half hour’s drive from Canberra, five and half hours from Sydney, or a seven-hour drive from Melbourne.
If you prefer to fly, Regional Express (REX) fly year-round from Sydney to the Snowy Mountains Airport located in nearby Cooma. The checked baggage allowance of 15kg means you’ll need to pack your bike carefully. Alternatively, major domestic and international flights (including from Singapore and Wellington) land at Canberra Airport, with plenty of hire car options on offer to get you into the mountains.
It is possible to get around without a car, however, it’s recommended that you bring your own transportation in order to see all the sights the region has to offer.
For 2017, riders can either complete or compete in L’Étape Australia with both Ride and Race options on offer. Both rides are run under professional conditions with riders setting off in waves based on estimated average speed over the whole event on closed roads. Beginning at Bullocks Flat Ski Tube terminal in Crackenback, the two rides differ in their overall length and difficulty.
Participants completing the Ride route will tackle 1700m of climbing over the 126km course. After a serene descent down from Crackenback, both routes head through Jindabyne up towards Rocky Plain before hitting a timed sprint point in Berridale. Both routes then head south through Dalgety before riders tackle the category two rated Col de Beloka. Following a 10km descent down towards Jindabyne, the two routes splinter with the ride route finishing in the town. Riders completing the Race route continue through Jindabyne, heading up the brutal 22km long climb of the Col de Kosciuszko capping off 2,727m of elevation gain over the 157km course.
Both courses are endorsed by Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme and offer a similar challenge to that faced by the peloton completing a mountainous stage of the Tour de France. Riders should allow four to seven hours to complete the race route and three to six hours to complete the ride route.
The route features a number of feed zones located at 30, 75 and 104 kilometres with the Race route scoring another at the 134km mark which lies at the foot of the Col de Kosciuszko. Medical and Mechanical support will be available at the feed zones listed above with rolling support available at the rear of the field.
For more information, head on over to the FAQ section on the official L’Étape Australia website.
With anywhere between 1700 and 2700 metres of climbing planned over the two routes, L’Étape Australia should present as a significant challenge for riders of every ability. We’ve rounded up a few fundamental tips and tricks to make sure both you, and your ride are in tip top shape coming into the event.
Get a Training Plan
With a little over two months till the event, the majority of riders entering will likely have a good base of winter kilometres in the legs by now. If not, eight weeks is still plenty of time to get your fitness to the point of completing the event. Think you don’t have time to train? Then check out our training tips for nine to five workers.
In the age of the internet, there is a wealth of knowledge and training plans available either for free or at a small monthly cost. Training plans such as those on offer from Todays Plan offer riders the ability to customise their training plans around the specific challenges that events, such as L’Étape Australia, are likely to throw at competitors.
For more information on preparation, including training tips from SBS commentator Matt Keenan, visit letapeaustralia.com.
Prep Your Bike
Preparing your bike is as important as prepping your body for the event. In addition to ensuring your bike is in perfect working order, consider what spare parts you’re likely to need in case something goes wrong.
To ensure your ride is performing at its best, it’s worth checking your bike in for a service at your local bike shop. This will not only have your ride feeling like new on the day of the event, but also reduce the likelihood of you suffering an event ending mechanical that could’ve been avoided.
When looking at the setup of your ride, it's worth taking the course profile into consideration. With near on 2000m of climbing, it’s probably best to leave those 80mm carbon wheels at home and look for something a little shallower to make scampering up the climbs that little bit easier. Gearing is another aspect to consider, fitting a 11-28, 30 or 32 cassette out back matched with a more compact crankset might just provide you with that get-out-of-jail gear ratio if your legs run out of gas on the day.
What to Wear
Whilst the event takes place at the beginning of Summer, this doesn’t necessarily guarantee sunshine and fair winds as alpine regions are notorious for their changeable weather conditions. The two routes take riders over a range of elevation changes and as such it pays to be prepared for all weather conditions.
Last year’s event started under overcast skies with a chill in the air, requiring many riders to opt for arm warmers and gilets. As the clouds gave way to sunshine, winds picked up presenting a whole new set of challenges. A simple way to ensure you are prepared for all conditions and aren’t over, or under layered for the event is to keep an eye on weather forecasts for the area in the weeks and days leading up to the event and pack accordingly. Check out our guide for more information on how to layer up.
Last Years Event
If you're considering entering and still sitting on the fence, the wrap-up video below should provide you with that little extra bit of motivation to get you across the line and into training for this year's event.
Where to Stay
The inaugural L’Étape Australia 2016 saw more than 5,000 international and interstate visitors flock to the region, so there’s no shortage of places to stay around the event. Accommodation options on the event weekend range from campgrounds through to five-star luxury accommodation, here are a few options to consider.
Sitting within the Thredbo Valley on the border of the Kosciuszko National Park, Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa offers self-contained Lake View apartments and Mountain View chalets. For non-riders and family, there’s a range of things to do at the resort including shared walking and mountain bike trails, two dining options and even a day spa to soothe aching muscles after a big day on the bike.
Moonbah Huts is located in the picturesque Moonbah Valley a short 15-minute drive from Jindabyne. The hut itself is situated on a small private lake that holds a variety of trout. Guests enjoy a rustic intimate setting to relax and recuperate before and after the event.
Located in the heart of Thredbo Village, the boutique Denman Hotel offers accommodation options ranging from rooms for the solo traveller and families through to King and Queen bedrooms for couples. For post ride relaxation visit the Terrace restaurant or Apres Bar to wind down overlooking the mountains you’ve just conquered.
Placed within Perisher Valley, Eiger Chalet is a small, family-owned and operated, boutique style German/Austrian influenced Ski Chalet. Given the ski tube will be running from Perisher to the race start and finish in Crackenback, this is a convenient place to stay.
Places to Eat and Drink
The region is home to a host of stellar food and beverage options sure to satisfy every rider and their support crew. For a classic wholesome Aussie pub meal with local beer and cold-climate wines, visitors can check out the Lake Jindabyne Hotel. Locally made beers can also be found at the Kosciuszko Brewery at the Banjo Paterson Inn, Jindabyne.
Further along the Alpine Way on the way to Thredbo, Wildbrumby Schnapps Distillery offer schnapps tasting on site made from locally grown fruit. If you enjoy fine dining, then visit Cuisine at Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa. Within the same valley, another fresh and delicious meal can be found at the Crackenback Restaurant and Farmhouse.
On the way back to Sydney or Canberra reward yourself with a treat and stop at Macenmist Black Truffles and Wine in Bredbo for some black truffles and local Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay wines.
Other Things to Do
Taking the family or making a long weekend of it? In addition to the excellent road cycling in the region, there’s plenty to do.
The most popular activity is to hike to the summit of Australia’s highest peak, Mt Kosciuszko. With a peak of 2,228m, it leads you to breathtaking views of the region. In case the race got the better of your legs, the scenic chairlift runs 365 days a year, which provides a 2km shortcut to the top. Weather can change quickly up the mountain, so be sure to take a warm jacket and some water.
While you’ll want to save your legs for the main event, any spare energy can be spent tackling the slopes on a mountain bike. Hire equipment and lessons are available for first timers at Thredbo Village, with near endless trail options. There’s plenty of easy rides perfect for the whole family too, including the cycle track that runs around Thredbo Village. Check out our guide to the best mountain bike rides in NSW for more information
Other family friendly activities include the 700m bobsled track at Thredbo Village, rock climbing and abseiling in Kosciuszko National Park, fly-fishing in crystal clear rivers and creeks, a tour through the Yarragonbilly Caves or a visit to the Snowy Hydro Discovery centre in Cooma to learn about the Snowy Mountains Power Scheme.
L’Étape Australia is part of a growing calendar of major events in the Snowy Mountains, with the Snowies Mountain Bike Festival (9 - 11 February 2018) and Australian XTri National Championships (24 – 25 February 2018) also driving visitors to the region. For more about the Snowy Mountains region, head to visitnsw.com
For more information on L’Étape Australia including how to register, training advice and route details, visit the official website here.
Disclaimer: This is sponsored content. Staff of BikeExchange Australia wrote this content with help from Destination New South Wales.
Images provided by Destination NSW