Category Archives: Tdf trip planning

Information on seeing the Tour de France in person, including the process I go through myself each year- figuring out the TdF route, finding places to stay, rental cars, trains & more.

Riding/Working/TdF Planning

Where do I start. No write ups for Tuesday’s or Thursday’s rides. Nothing really eventful; still riding stronger than Kevin (not the pilot), and that’s likely to continue because he didn’t ride at all today (Sunday), leaving me to do a solo effort. Up Old LaHonda at a pretty good clip, 22:08 according to Strava. Leaving me to wonder where those 9 seconds were lost! Best recent historical time was back in September when I clocked a 22:04, so even 5 seconds faster would have been nice. Still, pretty good speed on the climb, especially on the first half. Then headed south on Skyline, something I rarely do, then down Page Mill, looped out to our former store location in Los Altos (still vacant after 2.5 years!!!) then back via Sand Hill and Woodside. Just 48 miles but felt pretty good and was able to keep the watts up later in the ride.

Work. Oh. My. Gosh. I need to be so grateful that we have work, that we’re allowed to be open, which is so much better than many can say. But the stress of working through the day non-stop, no time for lunch, phone ringing every two minutes instead of once every 6, lines outside the door many times during the day… it gets to you. And the masks. I have a pretty nasty lung condition which I’ve compensated for by breathing more often than most. Specifically my lungs clear CO2 at 28% efficiency of a normal person, but, because my lungs have been trained to breathe more often, I can still climb a hill on a bike. Just… loudly. But the masks. Wow. I get out of breath just talking to someone on the phone! Climbing stairs? Yikes. Thinking I’ve got another year of this ahead of me is scary.

And then there’s the shop move. Getting the new location ready has been a Covid-19-enhanced nightmare. Few things are going right, but somehow it’s all going to magically pull together and we’ll be wondering why we didn’t make this move years ago.

So sometimes I start feeling a bit helpless, hopeless, and generally down. Because what’s to look forward to? That’s what keeps me going. Something to look forward to. So, I bit the bullet. Despite the questions about how Covid-19 is going to play out, I’ve made arrangements to see the Tour de France again. The rescheduled Tour de France, which will run from August 31st to September 20, nearly two months later than normal. Found some very inexpensive air fares, but seriously don’t know if United is going to keep flying nearly-empty planes or cancel a lot of them, potentially making it difficult to get to where we need to be, when we need to be there. But I need hope, so I’ve got everything blocked out, hotels in Grenoble (7 nights), Mulhouse (2 nights) and Paris (1 night). No idea what the ‘Tour might be doing to keep things from getting too crowded, but we’ve generally not had much trouble finding a not-too-crowded spot on the big climbs. The finale in Paris? I have no idea how they could control crowd density, if they allow spectators at all.

And will the local trains be running? I hope so, because I’d really rather not rent a car, and I’ve mapped out an itinerary that allows us great access using the combination of local trains and our bikes. The 2020 TdF route at first looked downright hostile to fans, in terms of seeing many of the stages, due to long distances between some of them. But it really does look like I’ve got it figured out. One of those brief moments of clarity where it all came together.

Except, of course, that it could all come apart, if the trains aren’t running, or they decide to exclude fans entirely. But the worst-case scenario is that we’ll be able to ride some of the best cycling roads in the world, on our own. Life could be worse.

Friday’s ride was pretty AMAZING

This climb is so fun they warn you when you’re 5km away

Heading up the Col d’Iseran, a beautiful climb but where are all the people?[/caption]Got some catching up to do; this is actually Monday July 29th, sitting in a lounge in Toronto on our way home. But need to cover a pretty nice ride, Friday’s trip up the Col d’Iseran.

Weather has been a continuing issue so we drove to about 25 miles from the summit, bypassing some of the long, gradual grades leading up to Besson. No problem finding a place to park the car, but a bit nervous about food. You just don’t know how many villages there will be, and how many will have shops selling sandwiches. On the lower flanks, it wasn’t a problem, but once we got to the hill, there was some concern that we’d be on fumes. More on that later.

The mountain is relentless. It just keeps going, and going, and going. Unfortunately, it was broken up nastily by long stretches where the gendarmes required us to walk our bikes. Did not realize how much walking we’d be doing, and how our legs would feel.

One very surprising thing was how few spectators there were. This was the first time we’d been on a major climb where there were no issues finding good spots to take photos. Some of this may be due to the remoteness; accessing the Iseran base is about a two hour drive from Grenoble. Still, not THAT much further from the Galibier. Go figure.

Our survival depended on getting to the top for more food & drink!

We were a bit concerned about the weather, after the prior day’s fun descending from the Col du Lauteret. I know from experience that weather above 8000ft can get dicey very quickly, and the top of the Iseran is at about 9000ft. We were initially thinking about not even getting towards the top (due to the amount of walking involved, courtesy of the Gendarmes) but we were running out of both food and drink. Not a good thing. Getting up closer to the top was almost a matter of survival. So we set out to climb the final 2k, almost entirely on foot (yuck!) and found a place selling cokes and sausage sandwiches (the best!). Stocked up and headed back down to a really cool place right around 8000ft. Great photos, and got a feel for what was happening in the race as things had split up before getting to us.

Kevin squeezed against the wall

Kevin was squeezed tightly against the inside wall, and had some very tense moments when it appears cyclists were going to run right over him. I was going for longer shots.

After the last rider came through, we quickly packed up and descended the hill, encountering just light sprinkles on the way down. Meantime, just a very few miles away, the road had been devastated by a localized heavy downpour that created a mudslide across the road in one place, and so much hail in another that it couldn’t be cleared off in time before the race got there. They ended up cancelling the race after it went over the top of the mountain. We had no idea just how bad things were, so close by.

Peter Sagan leading the sprinters to the top, well after the leaders

The descent… it was one of those super-long descents where it seemed like it was longer, more descending, than the climb up it was. It didn’t seem like THAT bad a climb, and yet the descent just went on… and on… and on. There were two spots where you had to do some climbing on the way back, but they actually came as a welcome relief, a chance to stretch the legs a bit.

And then, finally, we were back at the car. This is a climb I’d love to do on my carbon-fiber Trek Emonda, and without the Gendarmes.