The Tour de France

Dear friends

Sorry it has been so long since my last post update… but I have been very busy. In a way I have come full circle as I am now almost back to where I published my last post. Now in Pau which is only 130km from Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle . In that circle though I have had some great times. Firstly just before I left Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle I had a random encounter with Bruno and Ines, a couple out biking on a Sunday afternoon who I met whilst having coffee at the hotel. Later that afternoon by random chance I run into the same couple in a town 20 kms away. This time we exchanged names and contact details. Two days later whilst thinking about getting in touch with them, Bruno rocks up as I am having coffee at the same hotel! I ended up staying with them the night before I headed to Switzerland, and now in a couple of days I time I will introduce them to my wife Gill and we will stay with them for a couple of nights.

I started my big travel from Saint-Jean-de-Luz at 3am, with Bruno escorting me to the motorway. A big day of driving to Switzerland but I made it before nightfall. Another random chance happening, the freeway leading to Zurich on a Friday afternoon was grid locked so thought may as well take slow scenic route than slow motorway route. I turn off the freeway and end up passing along a road that looked really familiar… it turned out to be the same road that I had done the time trial on for the Swiss round of the EHC in 2011. Although I took the slower scenic route, I was very happy to get to Karen and Gerald’s just before dark. It had been a long day.

View of the Rigi

View of the Rigi

View of the Rigi

View of the Rigi

I was really counting the days down to meeting my beautiful wife Gillie who was flying into Zurich on the Monday… and Monday couldn’t come around quick enough. A couple of hard training sessions and some exploring and two sleeps later and it was Monday and pick up Miss Gillie I did. It was so awesome to see her… my greatest support.

View of Lake Lucerne from Vorder Lutzelau

View of Lake Lucerne from Vorder Lutzelau

View of Lake Zuger from Cham

View of Lake Zuger from Cham

Our week in Switzerland was a consolidation week from a training point of view, it was all about getting big kms in. The little town Walchwil is beautiful, perched on the side of the mountain and over looking Lake Zuger. This was one of our favourite rides. Karen, Gerald and daughter Violetta are old friends of Gillie’s and were awesome hosts for an athlete in training. It was really special place to be for that period with plenty of rest and recovery between sessions and loads of motivation from Karen (who is 8months pregnant and kicked my ass twice up big hills). Like all great places when travelling, we soon had to move on. This time to start our ‘five bergs in five days’ adventure.

View of Lake Zuger from above Walchwil

View of Lake Zuger from above Walchwil

Street view old town, Zug

Street view old town, Zug

We left Switzerland heading for the French Apes via Italy. We got lost a couple of times, went through the impressive Mont Blanc Tunnel which connects Switzerland and Italy, went over some cols, and arrived in Bourg St Maurice. We had three nights here and on the first day started to get our climbing arms and legs in. The first col was the Col du Petite Saint-Bernard,(Climb information) rumoured

Col du Petit St Bernard

Col du Petit St Bernard

View coming down the Col du Petit St Bernard towards Bourg Saint Maurice

View coming down the Col du Petit St Bernard towards Bourg Saint Maurice

to be the mountain pass that Hannibel took the elephants over and my first ever col…it will always be memorable! The next day we drove to Bourg d’Oisans and straight into the Alpe d’Huez.

Alpe d'Huez

Alpe d’Huez

View from part way down the Alpe d'Huez towards Bourg d'Oisans

View from part way down the Alpe d’Huez towards Bourg d’Oisans

Only short (16km) but steep and with it’s famous 21 switchbacks signposted at every corner. Rain awoke us the next morning (always puts a dampner on things) but we drove to La Grave approx 20km from the top of the Col du Galibier.

Col du Galibier

Col du Galibier

View from the Col du Galibier towards Col du Lautaret

View from the Col du Galibier towards Col du Lautaret

After a couple of coffees waiting for the rain to stop, we started out. First to Col du Lautaret, and then on up to the mighty Col du Galibier. (with a quick roll over to Italy at the top).

Another 3am start the next morning, we drove to Malaucène in Provence for our Mont Ventoux ascent. As you drive across the relative flat lands of Provence you see the volcano looming before you. With sign posts every km with distance, altitude and steepness, we were almost thrown by the 12.5% indicator at around the 15km mark. It was a brutal climb, yet amazing at the same time.

Mont Ventoux

Mont Ventoux

Looking up at Mont Ventoux

Looking up at Mont Ventoux

Once back to the car we continued our drive to Pau, arriving at a Gite that evening. The next morning, we were up early again to drive to Luz-Saint-Sauveur in the foothills of the Pyrenees for another ascent – our fifth in five days – the Col du Tourmalet. This was particularly special as the Tour de France comes through this same path on Wednesday 18th. This was a beautiful climb.

Col du Tourmalet

Col du Tourmalet

The last 1km, Col du Tourmalet

The last 1km, Col du Tourmalet 

The support I received from people up the hills has been amazing, other cyclists, onlookers, my beautiful wife. That afternoon we had another special experience. We were lucky enough to be welcomed by Matt Keenan into the media area for a glimpse of the behind the scenes of the Tour De France as it finished in Pau that afternoon.

Finish Line

Finish Line

This was overwhelming! It is a moving production of gargantuan proportions! There were so many trucks, leads, tents, buses, barricades, stands, technology+++ that all gets packed up at the end of every stage, moved on, and set up again every day for three weeks. We got the impression that the non cyclists, work just as hard as the cyclists to put the show on! Some probably even harder… We were quite amazed. Watching the extent of media interviews for someone like Brad Wiggins, gave some insight of how easy it would be to be for him to be fatigued by just the media.

Brad Wiggins

Brad Wiggins

We awoke the next morning to witness the show move on, the riders, the team cars, the officials, the media, the team buses, the police, the stages, the barricades – all to be set up again for the next depart!

Until next time

Cheers

Stu&Gill

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One Response to The Tour de France

  1. Paul Crowe says:

    Great Blog Stu, and the tour bonus to boot, good for you guys.. & I dont think I would even like to drive my car up some of those climbs!! Stay safe and love to Gillie xx

    Crowey

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