Cyclist Australia

The stage is set

After four years pushing limits and punishing legs in the Snowy Mountains, L’Étape Australia has moved to the NSW South Coast and Southern Highlands, starting and finishing in Kiama. Meaning ‘the stage’ in French, its mission is to recreate the ‘Tour de France legend’ – and it does so in 15 events worldwide. Any sportive from L’Étape is bound to be a big day on the bike, so when preparing for this ride I knew it would throw up plenty of challenges.

Spence and I travelled to Kiama about five months before 6,000 riders are set to test themselves on the demanding new course for the official race, which is scheduled for 28 November 2020. We had each ridden previous editions of the event and were keen to see how this new route compared.

On paper, the Kiama event is similar to its forebear in the Snowy Mountains. The 2019 edition of L’Étape Australia was 170km long with about 3,000 climbing metres. The new Kiama course is 136km with 2,770 climbing metres. So, in 2020 you shed 34km and 230 vertical metres – not a big change in the scheme of things.

However, as usual, the headlines don’t tell the full story. Instead of one relatively short, intense climb and one long (relatively) gentle climb, Kiama has three steep drags that will sap your legs and have the capacity to break your spirit. These climbs are Berry Mountain, Col de Fitzroy and Saddleback Mountain. Learn their names, because this route will squeeze them into our nation’s amateur cycling lexicon alongside “back of Falls”, Willunga and Baw Baw.

Inauspicious beginnings

I wake to the sound of wind whistling through the house and the patter of rain on the roof. Today we’re testing the new L’Étape Australia route and my first thought is how the challenging task could be made even tougher by

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