L'Etape Czech Republic by Tour de France 2024: In the sign of news
The organisers of L'Etape Czech Republic by Tour de France have prepared significant innovations and especially new challenges for the fourth edition of the race. The largest domestic event for amateur cyclists is entering a new era in 2024 and road bike lovers who have been enchanted by the atmosphere of the event under the patronage of the Tour de France will definitely have something to look forward to. "We want to preserve the best of what has been built up in previous editions, while constantly pushing the project forward. Our main motivation and driving force are the participants themselves, with whom we are in contact practically on a daily basis through a multitude of communication channels," says Tomas Pravenec, director of the organizing agency Petr Čech Sport.
The main novelty of 2024 is the inclusion of a second separate event. "We will hold the traditional event on the already classic date, a hilly race in Central Bohemia with a start in Prague on 15 June. In the second half of the holidays, namely on 17 August 2024, we have prepared a novelty in the form of a mountain stage," says Přemysl Novák, head of the L'Etape Czech Republic by Tour de France project.
"We will start with the popular event at Prague's Strahov, from which cyclists will embark on three different route options of 130, 105, and 61 kilometers. The exact description of these routes can be found on the project's website, but I believe we will pleasantly surprise the participants again," further explains Novák and adds, "The main attraction will once again be the completely closed roads, providing participants with a unique experience comparable only to professional riders. Huge thanks go to the representatives of the city of Prague and the Central Bohemian Region, without whose commitment and enthusiasm, this arrangement would not be possible."
The maximum capacity of the event has been set at 3500 participants, with the Long route accommodating up to a thousand cyclists, the Medium route a maximum of 1500 participants, and the Short route 1000 starters. "The most interest is in the Medium route, which is already 90% sold out," emphasizes Novák, who, compared to the concluded 2023 edition, expects a transfer of participants between the two longest variants. "The third edition showed that many cyclists from the Medium route were in excellent shape. We believe that it will be a challenge for them to prepare for the Long route, which is slightly shorter, with a slight decrease in the number of elevation meters."
Great attention will again be paid to the shortest route, which confirmed the organizers' expectations during the previous year's edition. "The short route worked as a lure for new road cycling enthusiasts and also for women, who made up over twenty percent of the participants on the shortest distance. In this established trend, we will, of course, continue. We want to offer the experience of the unique atmosphere of the race to people for whom cycling is more of a weekend activity," explains Novák, outlining the philosophy of the entire event.
The organizers also reveal more about the planned August novelty. "A total of 101 kilometers in length and over 2100 meters of elevation gain. It will be a tough challenge, but still designed and thought out so that no cyclist needs to fear it. We don't want to reserve the mountainous version of the race for only the chosen few. We are all about sharing experiences. The average difficulty will be set so that even someone who doesn't have the time to train sixteen hours a week can complete the route," explains the director of the new mountain stage, Svatopluk Fořt, adding that its capacity at the premiere will be a thousand cyclists. The start and finish will take place in Prachatice, and the route will lead to Český Krumlov, Kleť, and other beautiful places in southern Bohemia. "For a few kilometers, we will even enter the Boletice Military Training Area, which is normally closed to the public, and thanks to the permission and cooperation of the Czech Army, we will have the opportunity to see it directly from the cyclists' saddles," says Fořt. "Also, in the case of the August novelty, I would like to thank the leadership of Prachatice, Český Krumlov, and the South Bohemian Region. They have embraced the event, and I can promise all participants an exceptional experience from the rider and fan perspective."
However, that's not all when it comes to news. The organizers are introducing the HEROES category, in which enthusiasts can tackle the Short June route and the August mountain project on bikes made before 1989. "We sense a lot of nostalgia and healthy craziness among fans. We've seen many such bikes in previous editions along the route and on Strahov itself, where their owners added to the fantastic atmosphere of the project. This activity will allow them to take their vintage bikes directly onto the racecourse. Ján Svorada will be the ambassador for this event," introduces one of the novelties Přemysl Novák and also adds another variation: "There will also be a group of riders labeled GRUPPETTO at the start. We borrowed the term from the professional peloton, where it represents a group of cyclists riding behind the main peloton. It is mainly formed in mountain stages, where it consists mainly of sprinters and domestiques who are not interested in placement. Their main goal is to finish the stage within the time limit to avoid exclusion from the stage race. The same principle will apply in our case. In the case of the Short June route and the August event, this group will be led by Tomáš Bábek. Its participants will not have to undergo a challenging ride in a large peloton but will calmly ride the course with a professional guide and the certainty of meeting the time limit."
In addition to the mentioned Ján Svorada and Tomáš Bábek, Zdeněk Štybar and Martina Sáblíková remain in the team of ambassadors. The new face specifically for the mountain stage is Tereza Huříková. The junior world champion in cross country and road time trial, who lives in Vimperk, is strongly connected to Šumava. "We are also negotiating with a personality from abroad who would follow up on Andy Schleck's excellent performance in the second year of the project," hints Tomáš Pravenec, who is also pleased with the interest and loyalty of partners. "Our partner portfolio is largely stable, which is excellent news for us. It confirms the immense strength of the Tour de France brand and also testifies to their long-term satisfaction with our work in marketing and communication."
This is also confirmed by Jana Sedláčková, a member of the PPF Foundation's board, which will also be associated with the project in 2024. "The scope and form of cooperation for 2024 are still being adjusted, but we are glad to be part of it again. For PPF, this is an example of how Czech talent can work with international inspiration and create an exceptionally successful project."
The last news is crucial for the organizers. The agreement with the ASO regarding the license for the L'Etape Czech Republic project has been extended until 2027. "Already under this banner, we will organize two events, and the new contract also opens the possibility of adding a third event. We have no shortage of ideas and enthusiasm. We are looking forward immensely to the coming months and years," concludes the information from Tomáš Pravenec.