Stage 18: Firing down L’Alpe D’Huez to Athlete’s Village

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. 

Alejandro Valverde Autographs My Jersey
Alejandro Valverde Autographs 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. 

Myrna in the mix before the start
Myrna in the mix before the start

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

Col dIzoard

Ah France,

Ill apologise for the brevity of this post now. They dont use qwerty keyboards here; and i am delirious for a beer and something to eat:  From now on q is a:

rode through col dizoqrd qnd on to guillestre; sqw the tour go through guillestre qnd then rode bqck qround to serre chevqlier:  stqying qt the Hotel plein sud in serre chevqlier:

for the bike geeks; the col dizqoqrd waz fqntqstic:  20 k of climbing with a grqde thqt zent from 6% to 9% to 11% and eventuqlly q posted 12%!.  qn hour qnd 45 minutes of climbing on tilt much of the time


Getting ready for the Tour de France

I’m starting this blog 4 days before Myrna and I set off for our dream trip to the Tour de France.  We received the itinerary and the riding days are exciting and challenging.

I feel like I am ready.  Yesterday I hit out on a 65k ride to Horseshoe Bay and felt strong on the climbs, confident on the mini-descents. I felt very within myself…ready to take on the challenge of France in a light-hearted way.  How else can you approach riding parts of the scariest stages of the hardest bike race in history?

I’ve been steady on the bike the last 4 weeks…3-4 rides per week to get used to being in the saddle.

I am finding as the trip approaches that my vanity is starting to show.  I now have cycling socks for the first time.  My mountain bike shoes from 1985 have been replaced with roadie shoes…the first pair I’ve ever owned.  I have matching water bottles (they match eachother, not the shoes…I’m not that far gone).  Chief among these vanities are newly shaved legs.  I’ll just say that they’re taking some getting used to.

Bike insured, bike box reserved, bike tuned.  Here we go!