A recap of the past few days.
The day after the tour, I rode into town with Chris to see the send-off of stage 19.
After the start we met up with Doug and Audrey and climbed the road on the opposite side of the valley from our house.
It was an awesome ride up – twisting, (pitch-black) tunnels, and crawling under roofs of overhanging rock. The views were amazing and made up for the six and a half miles of constant, steep climbing.
On the way to the top we passed through Villard Notre Dame and then climbed a gravel road over the summit before descending the backside of the mountain in really cold rain.
The following day was when Doug, Chris, Eric, and I did the ride I last posted about. It was an exceptionally long and tiring day, but had some of the best scenery we’ve seen yet. Unfortunately I didn’t bring my camera, but I did steal a few pictures from Chris and Eric.
We started riding out to Col du Glandon, which is about 28 miles away, and 20 miles of consistent uphill riding. The Col de la Croix de Fer is right next door so we rode up it, too. Our original plan had been to ride Glandon, Croix de Fer, and Col du Madeleine. Best estimates would have put this at a 12 hour day, however, and with a late start, flat tire within the first 2 miles of the ride, and a lack of enthusiasm, we cut out Madeleine.
At the top of Croix de Fer we were in serious need of food and water, so we followed Chris’ Garmin to a market about 10k away. 10k turned into almost 20 though, and to the top of yet another mountain. I had no water for the last 8 kilometers (uphill, on the mountain) but felt fine, though some of the team were really dragging by the time we reached the top. The market was closed, as almost all stores out here are, for lunch from 1-3:30pm, but mercifully we found a public washroom with ice cold water and a small snack stand with french fries and paninis.
We also discovered tiny horses and a lake on top of the mountain.
The way back was pretty murderous. Another 16k back up to the top of Croix de Fer (most of it at 8+% grade) in the blistering sun on weak legs, and then a section of 12+% coming out of Col du Glandon. Once we hit Glandon though it was mostly downhill the rest of the way home (until Alpe d’Huez, which always manages to be a tougher climb than I remember).
The following day I didn’t ride. Eric, Milica, Chris and I walked into town to get money and groceries. I say walk, but it was actually a pretty strenuous hike, including using cables bolted in to the mountain side to aid in descending.
We found a cool waterfall, got our money, groceries, french fries, and some bread in town before hiking back up. That night we all watched the final stage of the Tour as they rode into Paris together.
Yesterday, Chris and I followed a ride in a guidebook we have that took us across town and almost immediately up Col d’Ornon – a climb the Tour riders went up on the same day as their double-ascent of Huez. It was a rough wake up after a day off, and we made the mistake of trying to chase some guy to the top (we never caught him), but the long descent into the French countryside was awesome.
Chris even got to pee off a really high bridge:
and I got a sweet new euro haircut:
By lunch we were exhausted and hungry, but of course everything was closed. So we rode on, practically delirious in the 90F sun. Luckily almost every town here has a public spring/spigot that you can stop at for water, so we were never in much danger of running out. But after a week+ of intense riding, we’re all running a serious calorie deficit and it became very noticeable yesterday. We were able to forget about that a bit during the unexpected but incredibly wonderful 9 mile long descent we rode down from one of the mountain passes, and we made it back to town with time to stop at the pastry stop to refuel before the climb back up Huez to the house.
Today we had a rental car and restocked on groceries. Chris and I are about to head out to visit a town described as “at the end of the road, and literally at the end of the world.” I’m not so sure about that ‘literal’ part, but I’ll be report back if I don’t fall off!
I have a bunch of great pictures from yesterday’s ride (well, at least until it started pouring rain and we had to descend 12+ switchbacks in the freezing rain), but I am so exhausted from today’s ride I can barely think.
We rode to Col du Glandon and Col de la Croix de Fer this morning, and then ended up on Col du Mollard for lunch, before turning around and doing it all backward. Col du Glandon and the ride to it is beautiful, through other-worldly meadows that look straight out of a Lord of The Rings movie. Unfortunately I didn’t bring a camera.
It was by far our longest day in distance as well as toughest day of climbing (and most vertical ascending). I forgot sunscreen, which was a terrible idea over 9.5 hours in the sun at this altitude, but the ride was totally worth it.
I’ve been doing nothing but eating since we got back to the house, and plan to take tomorrow off to rest my knees. We’re also desperately in need of groceries, which staying 1/3 of the way up a mountain and not having a car make extremely difficult to sufficiently remedy. We might need to call a taxi…
Yesterday was great.
While the Tour broadcasts super early for folks back in the States, in France it doesn’t usually roll out until close to noon, sometimes later. With 110k to go before the riders reached Alpe d’Huez, we had plenty of time to sleep in and get ready for the walk to the road.
Above is a picture I took of the actual Alpe d’Huez, as seen from the mountainside across the valley on our ride this morning. If you click to enlarge the picture, you can see the road from Bourg d’Oisans (in the valley) snaking up to the town of Alpe d’Huez at the top center of the mountain. Midway up the road I’ve circled the town of La Garde in blue, between turn 5 and 6 (counting from the bottom). The green dashes represent the ~1 mile road from La Garde to our house, circled in red. This should give you a sense of how much riding/climbing we’re doing at the end of each day to return to our house, as well as a sense of scale of the mountain that the Tour riders had to climb twice.
Yesterday around noon we walked to La Garde (sidenote: I was less sore from 3 days of riding mountains than from one day of walking 2 miles). We got there just in time for the promotional caravan, which is basically a parade of ridiculous cars and trucks with beautiful men and women riding on/sticking out of them throwing lots of free junk at all the spectators. Exhibit A:
I didn’t grab much because I was busy.
Audrey (the patriot pictured below), Doug and I were sandwiched between two Australians and a bunch of Dutchmen, all of whom were SUPER excited about grabbing 9 piece puzzle magnets and tiny packages of dried meat. The beer coozies apparently weren’t as exciting, so I snagged one.
We were lucky to see the riders pass through twice, as the speed even at which they climbed the mountain was such that you barely had time to register their presence before they were gone. Everyone along the route was in a good mood, with Australian and German fans particularly animated and entertaining. Eric got in the spirit (and on TV) with his purple zebra skinsuit:
At some point it was brought to my attention that at the next turn up the road there was a Captain America trying to steal my thunder. So of course we went to find him.
Dan, from Salt Lake City, isn’t even a cycling fan, but he was on a 2.5 week trip with friends through Spain and France, taking in the sites and reppin’ the good ol’ USA along the way. Stampede hung out with Dan and his friends for the second pass-through of the racers before we took off for the house, possibly drunk, just in time to avoid the rain.
All in all it was an excellent day. Overcast enough to avoid sunburn, cool enough to be able to not have to drink water with my beer, and only one fat European woman who ran out in front of riders trying to grab a loose bottle and taking down 8 of them. It was close, it was fun, and it was the One Hundredth Tour de France! Quite a way to spend a day.
Today I took a break from watching the Tour de France.
**NOTE: If you’re interested in watching for me/us during the Tour stage tomorrow, I will likely be at switchback 16 in La Garde en Oisans on Alpe d’Huez. It’s at 59.5km to go and then again at 11.5km to go to the finish (if they ride the mountain twice (it’s supposed to rain so it’s possible this won’t happen)). I will be wearing very America-themed clothing.**
With that out of the way, here are some pictures from today’s ‘rest day’ of biking up the back side of Alpe d’Huez and then hiking down into (and back up from) town to get, among other things, beer, chocolate, and toilet paper:
With The Tour coming through, tomorrow should be a real rest day. It airs bright and early back in the states, but we don’t expect the riders coming through until after lunch here. Folks were already out partying this evening, and even with the rain they’ll continue through tomorrow. I think our group might split up while watching the stage, but given the nature of the fans I encountered today I suspect everyone on the mountain tomorrow will be new best friends that we just haven’t yet met.