A long way to the top, but we got there!

Why is the Tour de France so different, so special compared to all other bike races? What compels some us like moths to a fly to travel thousands of miles to a mountain top like this?
It wasn’t easy getting to the Izoard, but it didn’t have to be. Advance information pointed to limited access to the mountain and a complete closure of the backside, so Larry and I left early enough to try to get to the side the race was climbing. That plan didn’t work. Briancon was totally slammed with cars and the police had already shut down the roads you could use to get to the base of the climb. Unfortunately, we thought we spotted a loophole… a tiny little road shown on either apple or google maps, don’t recall which.

One to make Kevin jealous- he likes to get the reflections in the sunglasses. Nailed this one!
That tiny little road bypassed the closed arteries and reconnected to the highway outside of town. Or so we thought. We drove our rental down that tiny, very steep, single-lane road, with cars parked on one side and a wall on the other, only to get almost to the bottom and discover three other cars had the same idea… and found the road blocked. No exit. Imainge backing up a stick shift car in those conditions. It’s worse. We had a seriously-smoking clutch but somehow got the car out of that hole in one piece.

We decided what the heck, let’s try the backside, it can’t really be shut down. Or hopefully. But first we went back into town to see the actual stage start, which was actually pretty cool. After that we drove a couple miles out of town to find a place to park, got on our bikes and voila, joined literally THOUSANDS of other cyclists doing the exact same thing! The road wasn’t closed to cyclists, just cars, and it was a great ride on a really nice day.

Larry found a place 120 meters from the finish and took a zillion photos, mostly of hands and cameras people put in between his camera and the riders, but he did get a great shot of a very happy & relaxed-looking Warren Barguil, the stage winner. I did something very unusual and hung out above the finish line, actually watching the riders come through instead of trying to take lots of photos.

On a personal note, there have been no issues regarding my cycling and the chemo drug they’ve got me on, despite expectations otherwise. It does cause a lot of itching, but Allegra seems to take care of that. Which of course I ran out of! Fortunately lots of pharmacies in France, so I’m itching to pick some up tomorrow. Also, had Kevin been with me this year, I think I would have surprised him, riding much stronger than he would have expected. –MikeJ

First “real” day at the TdF, and it was a big one

Did I forget to tell Larry, who’s with me on this trip to the Tour de France, that the Galibier was, well, big? No, didn’t think so. But I don’t think it really set in until he got his chance to sink his teeth into it this morning. It’s a beast!

The original plan was to take a ridiculously-early-morning train from Grenoble to a station near the base of the Galibier, but that would have required a 5:45am alarm. Somehow that just didn’t seem reasonable. So I worked things around a bit and figured we could, in fact, drive there if we parked a few miles from the base of the climb, and woke up at the much-more-reasonable hour of 7am.

This should have worked out fine, giving us enough time to make it to the top before the roads were shut down, but Larry’s from Houston, and they don’t have mountains in houston (especially so after they took down all the tall oil derricks you see in old movies and pictures). Of course, a hill is nothing but a flat road tilted up on its side, right? But riding over 20 miles on a road tilted on its side can beat down just about anyone, so we didn’t get up there quite as fast as planned. Not a huge deal though; we found a nice spot about 4k from the top. What I didn’t expect was Larry suggesting we finish the climb after the last of the race had gone through. Kind of dumb on my part; if I were him, and I’d traveled all this way to France to ride my bike, and I’m just a few miles from the top of one of the iconic climbs in the world, wouldn’t I want to make it to the top? Well duh!

4 kilometers doesn’t sound like much. Less than 3 miles. But it’s a pretty tough 3 miles, and at 8000ft+, the thin air has an effect too. But it felt good being up there, first time for him, second for me (kinda 3rd but not quite; first time was the 103 miles Glandon/Galibier loop I did with Kevin in 2011, second time was a few years later, but stopping about 300 meters shy of the top because they wouldn’t let us further up, and besides, that was from the easy side while the 1st and 3rd times were from the much-nastier northern approach).

More on this day soon, but have a 6:30 alarm tomorrow morning for the Izoard stage, which, logistically, is a bear. Not even sure we’ll be let up the hill at all. Hope so! –MikeJ