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Frustration as last-minute L'Étape du Tour date change due to French election leaves thousands of cyclists with logistical headache

The major sportive that is using the route of stage 20 of this year's Tour de France has been brought forward a day to Saturday 6 July, leaving many of the 15,000 riders taking part with travel and accommodation concerns...

With just three weeks until L'Étape du Tour, the major sportive has changed the date of the event, bringing it forward a day to Saturday 6 July due to French President Emmanuel Macron calling a snap election.

The major sportive, always attended by a large contingent of travelling British cyclists, follows the route of one of the hardest stages of each year's Tour de France and was expected to involve 15,000 amateur riders taking on stage 20 from Nice to Col de la Couillole on Sunday 7 July — via four major mountain passes, including the Col du Turini.

However, in a much-criticised statement, the event's organisers and the Mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, communicated that the sportive will now take place a day earlier, on Saturday 6 July, due to the election in France, a switch that has given many a logistical headache considering travel and accommodation was likely booked well in advance.

The date change follows President Macron calling a snap election in reaction to a poor result in the European Parliament vote last week, the French now returning to the ballot box in a few weeks for parliamentary elections where two rounds of voting will take place on 30 June and 7 July.

Mayor of Nice, Mr Estrosi, said in a statement that it is "no longer possible to organise" L'Étape du Tour for the original date and that "in consultation with the prefect of the Alpes-Maritimes Department, Hughes Moutouh, and ASO the event organiser, we have jointly agreed to move the race forward to Saturday, 6 July 2024".

> Scramble for refunds as cycling sportive organiser goes into administration after suffering heavy losses through the pandemic

"By bringing it forward by one day, we can make sure that the 15,000 participants get to live out their passion in our corner of the world and, at the same time, we can guarantee that all the voters in our department have no problems getting to their polling stations on Sunday, 7 July for the second round of the legislative election," he said.

The route remains the same and the event's organisers communicated that the race number retrieval village opening hours have been extended and shuttle services will also be "rescheduled as needed".

"This is insane"

Needless to say, changing the date of a major international event where people travel from around the world to take part, impacting accommodation and travel plans that have been booked months in advance, has not gone down well with many participants planning to be on the startline next month.

One of the hundreds of cyclists to respond to the organisers' social media announcement was Frazer Watson, who called the decision "insane".

"No accommodation to book, flights on the Saturday, plans made," he summarised. Another British-based participant said: "You can't expect 15,000 riders to change logistics at less than four weeks' notice. Has to be an option to defer."

The author of the Greatest Cycling Climbs book series, Simon Warren, wrote: "15,000 people turning up in Nice, flights paid for. Hotels paid for and they just change the f*****g date of the event. Are you serious?"

Doug Graham, another British rider travelling to the French Riviera for the sportive, asked: "Serious question. How do I get a refund? Surely I am entitled to one, I can't shift my dates by a day."

It's not just the Brits either, a cyclist travelling from Belgium saying: "What the actual F? Three weeks before the race starts, you guys decide just to move the race one day earlier? When people are coming from all over Europe, and have been booking things months in advance, just so to be ready for this race and find accommodation available, which always sells out very fast. How is this even possible?"

Riders travelling from within France joined in the uproar, Vianney Martel calling the decision "incredible" and showing "a lack of respect for those who come from far away and we had to organise travel and accommodation well in advance".

The 138km route for this year's event takes riders from Nice to the Col de la Couillole and passes the Col de Braus, Col du Turini and Cole de la Colmaine before the final ascent to the finish, racking up nearly 5,000m of vertical gain and mirroring the penultimate stage of the men's race that the Tour de France peloton will tackle on July 20.

It is not the first time the event's organisers have come in for criticism, the 2020 edition cancelled in June 2020 due to the pandemic, however after months of silence would-be participants were informed they would have to wait more than a year and a half to get their money back, ASO instead issuing a voucher that could be used against future events.

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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7 comments

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neilmck | 1 month ago
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The alternative would have been to cancel it. The locals have to get to their polling stations at all times of the day on the Sunday.

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Rendel Harris replied to neilmck | 1 month ago
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neilmck wrote:

The alternative would have been to cancel it. The locals have to get to their polling stations at all times of the day on the Sunday.

Yes, it does seem a bit harsh that ASO are getting the grief for President Macron's somewhat bizarre decision making, not a great deal they can do about that. Wouldn't most people riding such an event travel to arrive on Friday evening anyway?

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brooksby | 1 month ago
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Quote:

It is not the first time the event's organisers have come in for criticism, the 2020 edition cancelled in June 2020 due to the pandemic, however after months of silence would-be participants were informed they would have to wait more than a year and a half to get their money back, ASO instead issuing a voucher that could be used against future events.

I wonder how much profit the organisers make?  Behaviour like that would lead me to believe that they don't exactly have a float to pay for their outgoings…

As regards this year, if they behaved like that over Covid then I wouldn't be holding my breath for any refunds over this year's debacle.

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Secret_squirrel | 1 month ago
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I've never done this and any temptation to do so was scuppered by 3 friends who did it and whom only 1 avoided the broom wagon.   They all got split up into seperate pens and the slowest was in the last pen to go.  WFT?

Sounds the organisers couldnt hold a pissup in a brewery.

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mark1a replied to Secret_squirrel | 1 month ago
1 like

The thing that has always put me off is the logistics of the start & finish being in different locations in most editions, and then getting yourself & bike either back to the start, or to the start initially. I've never really liked the idea of taking one of the event shuttles and then leaving my bike in one of the mass bike parks.

The ideal year to have done it was 2020, and I had actually entered it. It was the Nice->Nice tour stage 2, via the Alpes Maritimes (https://road.cc/content/feature/tour-de-france-2020-stage-stage-preview-...). I had Eurotunnel booked, and a campsite just on the outskirts of Nice. Of course, covid happened, and it was postponed a couple of times in 2020, followed by another attempt in 2021, before finally being cancelled altogether. Thankfully managed to get full refunds for event entry, Eurotunnel and campsite, but a missed opportunity I feel. I'm waiting for the next circular route to be chosen.

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Flâneur replied to mark1a | 1 month ago
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2019 wasn't too bad (mountaintop finish in Val Thorens). I stayed up the mountain and had a 50k downhill/flat ride to the start in Albertville.

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roadeo_123 replied to Secret_squirrel | 1 month ago
1 like

First one I did was 2015, I got broom wagoned but you could get from the finish back to the start easily.

2017 was similar, 20km descent back to the start although i had pinged a spoke on the final climb so was doing it very carefully and slowly.

Much better to get accomodation at the finish where you can and then get an early bus to the start line. 

The reason the slowest get put in the last pen is because otherwise you have all the fast people overtaking. Seems sensible to me.

I have given up on the Mllorca 312 for a couple of years becuase their start system is super chaotic and does not start on time. That is being unabel to organise a piss up in a brewery

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