I finally looked up the image that was taken by a commercial photographer on Alpe D’Huez and broke down and ordered a digital copy. The other 2 images are canned that came free with my shot.
Today was the 3rd and last day of our Live the Dream package. After an early breakfast at the Hotel the riders among us flew down the 21 hairpins of Alpe DHuez. We then rode on to Bourg D’Oisans to enjoy VIP access to the Start Village and riders enclosure. Graham Baxter took us to meet the Caisse D’Epargne team and had Luis Leon Sanchez and Alejandro Valverde sign my jersey.
It was fun to be in the area, check out the bikes up close, and see how it all happens before a stage start. The riders have to push their way through an incredible throng to get to the start…stopping to take pictures with fans all along the way.
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.
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.
These include shots climbing Col d’Izoard, the peloton coming through Guillestre hot on the heels of the breakaway that held the stage winner, and our long ride through the rain.
We were 4 hours in the saddle, much of it in driving rain. Stangely satisfying to be quite honest.