Category Archives: Personal stuff

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

Long travel day to France behind us

Larry standing in for my son Kevin, sleeping on the train…
It’s 10pm here, probably 2pm back home? Time to get to sleep after being up pretty much continuously since 7am yesterday morning. It starts with a 9:30am flight from SFO to Chicago, followed a couple hours later by a 6:20pm (Chicago time) flight to Paris, arriving 9:30am (Paris time), then a train that’s supposed to leave at 11:57am (Paris time) but is delayed due to suspicious baggage, which might also have been why they chased us (and everyone else) out of the place we were eating in the train station 30 minutes prior. So the train we’re taking to Grenoble, which has a 14 minute connection in Lyon, is now 10 minutes late. 4 minute connection. That’s just not possible with two people, two bikes, two suitcases, right?

Good inexpensive food is never an issue in France…
That’s where technology comes in. When you buy your European train tickets from Trainline.eu, they send you updates on what track your next train will be leaving from, which saves you a LOT of grief in crowded, complicated euro train stations. And it turns out we arrived on track K, and were leaving on track J which, just this one time in my life, actually was adjacent, just like it ought to be!

So my friend Larry from the way-back days, who’s seeing the Tour de France for the first time, arrived with me in Grenoble in one piece, not much the worse for wear. Of course, Larry can sleep on planes, and trains, and even hotel rooms, while I’m up plotting out details and just generally a bit restless because, as they say, does anybody really know what time it is? I sure don’t!

That rarest of all rare photos; me having a beer!
Tomorrow morning we take a train out to an obscure city adjacent to the Vercors, a spectacular mini-mountain-range, where we’ll do a pretty gnarly 54 miles ride, carrying all of our camera gear because the end of the ride conveniently drops us off near tomorrow’s Tour de France stage finish! Then we take another train back to Grenoble, pick up the rental car which we’ll need for a couple days from now, and just keep on moving on, one foot in front of the other, riding our bikes in France.