Welcome to the Alps
Tour de France rest day

Friday July 22, 2011
Belmont, France to Alpe D’Huez, France and back
113.26 km
6:32 in the saddle
2000 meters climbed

Andrew writes:

Today was the best day of our trio, and one I hope to remember for a long time. It got off to a rocky start because we had to wake up at 6am, and we had not gone to bed until after 1am. We packed some panniers with food and clothes, and Emmanuel had the beer and tent in his BOB trailer. We were ready to leave and out the door by 7am.

The roads around Alpe D Huez were closing at 1030hrs, so we had to leave early in order to ensure we could ride the 40km to L’Bourg D’Oisans which is at the bottom of the climb. Except for our first 4km out of Belmont which was downhill (top speed 63 km/h) the rest of the ride was to be uphill. It was a steady climb, yet we managed 20km/h and arrived at our destination just after 930. There were thousands of cars and bikes trying to get into place to watch the race. Most of the cars had been parked on the side of the road for a week in order to secure their place.

We joined the crowds making their way up the 13.8km climb and it was quite a spectacle! Around every switchback there was a party in full swing, and the views were incredible. After 2 hours of climbing, we reached the summit only to find the road blocked by cars and bicycles.

Emmanuel chose a great spot on the hillside to watch the race. We could see about 2km down and 1km up the road. We erected the tent, got changed into fresh clothes and ate a hearty lunch. There was still 4 hrs before the first rider would come into view so Amanda and I walked through the village of Alpe D Huez. The weather was nice, and in no time at all, the race was upon us!

It was quite thrilling to watch Alberto Contador climb up the hill. As he came into view he was being chased by two other riders. Finally as they rounded the switchback nearest us, one of the riders made his move (Rolland). The crowd roared as he attacked and rode hard up the remaining road. After 2km, he went on to win the race! Meanwhile, Ryder Hesjedal rode by only 1m55 behind the leaders. We were cheering so hard that we couldn’t take any pictures. The rest of the race took another 45 minutes for the last riders to finish the climb.

Rolland passing Contador, he would go on to win 2km later.

Emmanuel was quite happy as there had been no French stage victories during this Tour. I was happy because Ryder did well enough to move into the top 20 in the general classification. We took down the tent and started making our way back down the mountain.

CHAOS! That is what the ride down the mountain was. Thousands of cyclists on expensive carbon bikes, cars, campers, and trucks were all fighting for space on the narrow road. A lot of the road-weenies had flats tires from having to brake so much on the descent. It took us an hour to safely descend. It was almost 8pm at this point and we had 40-45km to ride back to Belmont.

Traffic was very bad if you were in a car. For us on the bikes it was a different story. We managed the return trip in less than an hour. I took the lead and Amanda and Emmanuel were stuck to my back wheel as we descended from 750m down to 250m over the 40km. Even the steep climb back to the house seemed easy after climbing the Allpe D Huez. In total, we had climbed over 2300m throughout the course of the day.

Dinner was wonderful and Julien/Selena our hosts have been quite accommodating. I am still not sure that I can get used to eating so late, and once again it was past midnight when everyone retired for bed. Tomorrow is the time trial stage which passes by right outside the house! I can’t wait!

Amanda writes:

Wow! If I were to sum up this day in one word, that’s the one; wow. I was scared of the climb and had a sleepless night because of it. I didn’t want to miss the event because I ride too slow. Emmanuel and Andrew were very accommodating in leaving extra early in case my legs didn’t cooperate. As I slept, my legs were cramping. I can only compare it how my legs feel while marathon training; likely a combination of the day before and my nerves.

As we were up early you can see the sun rising between the mountains.

The ride up was exhilarating. The crowds were awesome, the climb was challenging but not impossible. We walked nothing. We enjoyed the views and the crowds. I was very lucky that Emmanuel and Andrew carried all the items we needed.

Our first signs of the L’Alpe d Huez.

The base of the climb.

Andrew climbing with thousands of other riders before the official race. He was one of few people with panniers.

The vibe up top was totally cool. The race was awesome. The ride down the 13.8km was hard on the hands from using the brakes so much. Emmanuel had to stop and cool down his rotors. He did make out better than the roadies whose tires were popping left and right. Once down the steep climb the busy road at a steady 30-35 km/h was as exhilarating as the ride up.

The view from the top. Only a couple of hours ago we were in that village.

That’s a shot of Amanda riding up. They have blue men in France instead of green men.

Emmanuel and Andrew are set up just behind our flags.

This is as close as we could get to the finish line. The police had already barricaded the road.

This is what was left of the peleton after all the breaks.

Helicopters everywhere filming the race and they were super close. We were hoping they picked us up on TV. We were thrilled to see on the TV when we got back that yes, our flags were seen in France.

We arrived back to Belmont for another incredible French meal with wine and champagne. I had the time of my life today.

The trio that climbed today; what an awesome team!

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Welcome to the Alps
Tour de France rest day