Tag Archives: cycling

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

Sometimes feeling small is the absolute best!

As the blog title says, you can feel very small in the shadow of something so immense. Just one more thing cycling can do for you. Put you in your place, in a very awesome sort of way.

Visiting the Tour de France isn’t all about riding the same roads as the race and being in huge crowds all day long. It’s also about the things that make France special, like trying to figure out why anyone would build roads in the crazy places they do. Oh yeah, there’s the food too, especially if you like the type of meat that hangs on one of those big rotating thingees and they scrape it off in layers.

Today was our first full day, which meant it was time to hit the ground running, er, riding. Originally the Tour de France wasn’t in the plan at all, until I discovered that the stage finish wasn’t too far from where our ride would be ending. But mostly, since my friend Larry had never ridden a bike in France, I wanted to introduce him to some of the special back roads with great pavement, little traffic and once in a while, a bit of insanity you’d never see practiced in the US. Since we were staying in Grenoble, what better way to start than the Vercors.

Most haven’t heard of the Vercors. The Alps, the Pyrenees, and if they’re really educated or a bit snooty, they’ll let you know about the Massif Central. But not the Vercors, which is good and bad. It’s almost as if it’s a semi-unknown semi-autonomous region in France, build within its own miniature-but-powerful mountain range. Perhaps no coincidence that it was also central to the Resistance movement in WWII.

I discovered that amazing piece of road, the Combe Laval/Col de la Machine, 5 or 6 years ago on a trip with Kevin. It was a beast of a climb, but that ridiculous road with the incredible views (shown in the photo at the top) made it worthwhile. But, the climb getting there was really grueling (Col de la Machine) and the payoff, the cliff road above, actually came too early in the ride. So I made some improvements. 🙂

Basically we did it in reverse, and it would have been completely awesome if not for the gnarly headwinds we faced once we had descended the mountain and were riding the flat roads into the town of Romans, where today’s ‘Tour stage finished.  I think I could improve upon it further still (even after dropping the flat section because there’s really no need to ride into Romans); the route we traveled up was supposed to have some cliff roads of its own, but a few years ago they abandoned the fun part in favor of a modern, uphill tunnel that’s over a mile long. Still, a very pleasant ride heading up to it. You can view our route below, including photos taken along the way if you click on the map.