This 2011 Etape deserves a place on the podium as the most difficult edition ever due to the course profile coupled with the appalling weather conditions.
Setting off in July you’d expect the weather to be fairly warm. Not this day as the roughly 4,000-man amateur peloton set off from the start line at Issoire at 7am 17th July.
The stage profile already had everything in place to daunt the participants, with constant ups and downs which made it difficult to find one’s pace. The course was the infamous stage 9 of this years’ tour which saw a few top names crash themselves out and the TV car incident which saw Johnny Hoogeland impaled on a barbed wire fence.
The drenching rain, strong headwinds and cold temperatures (hardly 7°C on the route) did not accompany us throughout the entire day, but they did stay with us the whole morning. Typical winter weather!
Finally, there were only 1982 finishers in Saint-Flour. I, thankfully, was one of them. The rest either abandoned or got swept up by the wagon. Congratulations to all those who completed this freezing adventure!