Stage 17: Descending Lauteret and Climbing l’Alpe d’Huez!

We were up early this morning, picked up from the hotel at 7am to make the trip to the top of the Col de Lauteret.   Here is how the itinerary described the stage:

the best is saved for last…as L’Alpe d’Huez (cycling’s mecca) will play host to the final alpine stage and what a stage it is going to be.  It’s an absolute classic stage that takes in the monumental climbs of Col de Lauteret, the mighty Col du Galibier and the Col de la Croix de Fer before climaxing on the 21 hairpin switchbacks to the ski station of L’alpe d’Huez”

Luckily we were able to be a bit more picky, and our day of riding consisted of descending the 45 kilometers from the top of Lauteret, riding to the base of L’Alpe d’Huez, and then climbing L’Alpe.  The descent was truly magnificent…45 minutes of freefall with turns.  Lauteret descends through a series of tunnels as well…one long one with perfectly smooth asphalt and beads of light along its ceiling and each wall that had me feeling a bit like I was firing down an elevator shaft.

Climbing L’Alpe makes you feel pretty special.  The road was closed to vehicles and by race start their would be over 500,000 people lining the route.  Some had been there for a week or more camping with their families.  With a drop to the valley over your shoulder, accomodatingly cheering and smiling throngs lining the road and an expansive view of the Alps all around you its hard not to wear a smile while you climb despite the effort.

Riding into ski station at L'Alpe D'Huez
Riding into ski station at L'Alpe D'Huez

The finish line is in the middle of the ski station and is packed with people…turning my anticipated sprint to the finish over the last 200 metres more like trying to walk your bike up to the stage at a Stones concert. 

With the suffering over, I met Myrna at our hotel.  After 3 star accomodation in Serre Chevalier we were happy to find a beatiful chalet with balconies overlooking the race course at the Grand Rouses.  The Francais des Jeux team were staying there with us.

Myrna points to our room in the Grand Rouse, overlooking race
Myrna points to our room in the Grand Rouse, overlooking race We watched the race from the VIP area at the finish on a beautiful day…replete with TV's, free champagne, cocktails and canapes.
Andy Schleck takes 3rd in white jersey at Alpe d'Huez
Andy Schleck takes 3rd in white jersey at Alpe d'Huez

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