Thursday, July 15, 2010

L'alpe d'huez, col de madeline, col du glandon, col de croix de fer

We're sitting at the side of the road on bastille day, 200m from the first sprint points on the stage that is bastille day.

When we load this up onto the blog, it will have been 2-3 days since our last blog and there has been much to do. Jac has ridden the 21 switch backs to l'alpe d'huez. Mark did an amazing job to drive the campervan across the col du Glandon. We've cheered a group of Aussies from Begariding up the Col du Glandon. This is one tough ride due to the steep descent and ascent down and up from a lake in the middle of the climb. Jac then pulled/paced one of the riders from the Col du Glandon to the Col de la Croix Fer and recieved the well deserved ribbing on arrival.

We made our way down the Col du Glandon through an amazing valley and could see the col de Madeleine in front of us. Through La Chambre which was already in party mode at the base of the Col De Madeleine. On the outskirts of the ski village, we found our spot for the next 28 hours. A tent flying the Belgium flag contained some big beer drinking Belgiums. These guys made us feel extremely welcomed in France and helped Mark position the campervan and relax with a well deserved beer.

\While our friends battled the nights thunderstorms and rain, we were concerned with the angle of the campervan affecting our sinking and shower drainage. they had enough beer to keep them warm through the night and we didn't have a care in the world as we were on holiday.

Jac descended the Col de Madeline and climbed back up it with the comfort of a closed road. She passed a group of french cyclists including a lady to whom she called Allez Madame, Allez and then was called a Marmotte - a badger like creature who lives in the mountains. She then passed some itialian men on their bikes and had fun for the last few km's fending off a couple of the attacks.

By the time she'd arrived, Mark had been shopping at the local boulangerie to buy bread and the most beautiful buttery croissants. As we had lunch and as we ate lunch, we had fun watching the spectacle of people making their way through to the top- walkers, cyclists, young, old, fat skinny. French, dutch, danish walk oast the door our our campervan. Not many girls on bikes, but when they were , they were on mountain bikes. We cheered the aussies as we went up

Mark headed up after lunch to find a spot at the top, at which time, Jac would then head on up on the bike. But alors!! The gendarmes closed the road to cyclists 2 hours before the tour was due to arrive. After a quick swap of bike shoes for hiking shoes, Jac headed cross country straight up the side of the mountain in a race to the top to beat the caravane.

Rick gave Jac some advice before leaving - just pinch yourself every now and then so you know it's real. Yesterday she had to. Cadel was in yellow. We would see him on the Col de Madeliene in yellow (pinch number 1). We found our position 50 m from the top - behind the barriers amongst thousands of people (pinch number 2) we put the aussie flag out on the barriers (pinchnumber 3).

Jac sought information about the race - there was a break away, Vino had taken off and was more than 4 mins ahead of the main peleton. Casar was at the head of the course. The saying was true - if you try to speak French with the french, they will welcome you. This lady had a task of updating her husband who was next to us a the barriers and now the information was for Jac also. Where is Cadel, where is the yello jersey? She said he is at the back of the peleton. The genedarme in front of us, who could speak English - jumped at the chance to add in English, 1 hour. He got some boos. Then the lady came back - Vino was not in front. Alberto Contador and Frank Schlek were attacking head to head.

The helicopters came first, then the team cars with people to provide drinks positioned themselves, the cheers and then the cyclists. Casar (FDJ) was in front and while they were lower down in the GC, they weren't going slow. Before they had reached the top, they were in top gear for the descent. We waited - no cadel, Contador and Schlek went through, Lance, minutes passed - the gendarme suggested 1 hour. No BMC riders and then at least 6-7 minute later was a larger group of riders. Cadel was supported but he was down and out. Our hearts sank but we cheered these amazing cyclists and spotted Rogers, Lloyd, Lancaster, Renshaw as they flew over the top.

Afterwards, the spectacle had to descend. Bikes rightly had right of way and started the descent 100's and 100's. We trundled back to the car and then when it was our turn, headed down to find a new campsite for a new day.

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