Tour de France
Alsace to the Alpes
We well and truly hit the Alpes today!
Having left the Voses behind us, we leap-frogged le Tour and arrived a couple of days ahead of the Peloton. Rather than sit around in wait, we took the opportunity to complete a ride through the Chartreuse Mountains that was a minor epic and brought about the kind of smiles that only a healthy amount of self-induced suffering can.
The Chartreuse Plateau sits just to the north of Grenoble and offers one of my favourite ride loops in France. There are a multitude of climbs that can be included with small variations, and this time we conquered both the Col du Granier and Col du Coq (my favourite) in the one outing. The Tour makes only a brief visit to the Alpes this year and won’t be covering this area, but many past editions have.
We had our first taste of summer as the team inched their way up Granier and vests were soon being thrust through the windows of the support van. Spectacular views of snowcapped mountains greeted us as we rode above the treeline and the guests made a game of spotting the hangliders leaping from the rocky outcrops above.
On the descent, through some welcome shade, I embarrassed myself a little as I slipped on some silt and corked my thigh (actually, maybe it was an oil slick…). Taking a new role as director sportif, I enjoyed the air-conditioned cocoon of the PAC van, whilst the Rudy led the pack huffing up the climb.
Offering up a bonus commentary to the riders being dropped at the base of Le Col du Coq, I didn’t need to convince them that this 120km loop is the most beautiful ride in the Alpes.
After a gorgeous descent through alpine meadows dotted with towns frozen in time, we stopped for a picnic lunch. A rest by the riverbank and a patch of shade put everyone in high spirits, refreshed for the mountain looming ahead.
Tomorrow we’ll be tackling the icon that is l’Alpe d’Huez. Another climb that the Tour isn’t using this year but that we just couldn’t stay away from ourselves.
The couple of high mountain stages to come in in the Alpes, especially the Mountiantop Finish on Chamrousse, will be critical in setting up the tone for the rest of the tour. Nibali will no doubt be looking to solidify his advantage over Richie and Valverde, while they’ll probably be keeping an eye on each other at the same time.
Can’t wait to get to the roadside!
Written by Phil Anderson