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My original routing for this stage was pretty darned close to the final! Using this Google Map, you can go to Street View to find a good place to watch the race.
I’ve been to the Tour de France… 10 times? 11? I’ve lost track. I started the 2nd time Lance won and have missed just one since (in 2008). The first two trips, I was a beta-tester for what would become TREKTravel, and the experience got me hooked.
In the years since, my brother Steve and his wife Teri have done a number of trips with TREKTravel, both domestic and overseas, and look forward to a trip with TREKTravel to Spain this coming June. But since I know the Tour de France like few others, that’s what I’m going to talk about in this post.
If you haven’t traveled outside the US before, particularly to a place where English isn’t the normal language, I’d highly recommend the TREKTravel option. It’s a “no worries” experience, with every detail covered including choice hotels, transportation, meals… there’s not much you have to think about. They even supply bikes! And not just any bikes, but high-quality TREK Madone road bikes (or a hybrid if you prefer, and on some trips, you can even arrange for an electric-assist model).
TREK is going to offer a variety of trips to the 2012 Tour de France, and it’s not too late to book one. Yes, they do have a lot more offerings that just Tour de France trips, but since I’m kinda obsessed with France and the ‘Tour, that’s what I’m going to cover here. Leave your navigational and translation skills at home and leave everything to them.
If you want the ultimate French col (mountain) experience, you can’t do better than this. 10 days riding the most-famous climbs in France. The Galibier, Alpe d’Huez, Ventoux, Tourmalet, Peyresourde and one of my favorites, the Port de Bales. In addition you’ll have some beautiful rides through the lavender fields of Provence and rolling farmlands surrounding Lourdes. July 12th-21st, with several opportunities to view the Tour de France (which won’t be visiting Alpe d’Huez or Ventoux this year; you get those as bonus climbs!).
Want something more special? TREKTravel offers a VIP tour that includes access to the Village (the fenced-in pre-race departure area where you’ll be able to get autographs from the racers and mingle with celebrities) and the opportunity to ride the final 50k of a stage a few hours before the race and be photographed atop the podium! I’ve spoken with Chain Reaction customers who have done TREKTravel VIP tours in the past and heard stories of once-in-a-lifetime behind-the-scenes experiences.
TREKTravel has a full array of options for the 2012 Tour de France. And again, they take care of everything, including amazing food & depending upon the trip, even wine tastings! You’ll be getting a wonderful, no-hassle vacation of a lifetime. And if a taste of France isn’t your fancy this year, TREKTravel offers Napa Valley Wine Coutry, Moab, Vermont and a variety of other dream cycling vacations a bit closer to home.
We’ll have an informative evening with TREKTravel people April 25th in our Redwood City location. Click on the image in the upper-left of this piece for the details. Most important things to know are that it’s free and it will be fun!
Thanks- –Mike & Steve Jacoubowsky
Continuing in the “All miles are not created equal” series (basically a reaction to Strava.com claiming that yesterday’s ride in the rain was worth just 80 on their score of suffering), we have this from last July’s trip to France. About 85 miles into our 103 mile Glandon/Galibier loop, darkness approaching quickly, yes, getting a bit on the cold side, and a sign on the side of the road that says 2 kilometers to go. One of those cute little tombstone signs you see on all the climbs in France. You either embrace them or avoid looking because you don’t want to know.
The trouble is, this one lies. 2k. How tough can that be? Barely over a mile! 6 times around the track! Except that it’s not, because the 2k the sign references is to the presently-closed tunnel that cuts off the top of the climb. True, you might not want to go through the tunnel, you might want to be able to say you climbed to the very top of the Galibier and didn’t wimp out. Or you might just want to get down off that mountain before the sun disappears. Good rationalization, but not available to us today.That final section is nasty, but the top is incredible, and you’re thankful the tunnel wasn’t open, giving you the opportunity to wimp out… because you just might have. But Strava tells the story; you would have missed out on about a kilometer at an average grade of just under 10%.
Last night I got on a train at 9pm and headed for the airport. Right now I’m in Chicago, waiting for a 7am flight (5am back home) to take me back after spending here, sampling everything possible from the chocolate food group (dark sweet decaf mocha, chocolate croissant & chocolate muffin) before boarding my flight back.
Do I like flying through space in a narrow metal tube in a seat designed to precisely not fit my 6′ frame? Do I feel rested after three hours of on-again off-again sleep, trying not to spill my legs out into the aisle? Heck no! So why do it? Why fly four hours to a distant airport, only to get off and back onto the next plane home?
Yeah, still trying to figure that one out myself. I actually have a perfectly rational reason for doing so, but it’s the intangibles that make the difference. For example, I have virtually zero uninterrupted time to think when home or at work. My creative efforts are often as fitful as my attempts to sleep on a plane. But once I’m “airside” (behind security) I’m in an entirely different world where I actually have time to sit and think things through, whether it be marketing or product decisions or wondering about my place in the world.
There’s also the fun of people watching and picking up on how to deal with unhappy customers. There’s a lot to be learned in that regard, because the sample size (number of people with problems) is so large! Mostly what you recognize is that stressed out angry people have more issues than those cheerfully, or at least not angrily, asking for help.
But the “rational” reason I’m standing in line to get on a plane, again, is because airlines like United set up programs for customers who hit certain benchmarks (miles flown) and the benefits of those programs outweigh the cost and, er, suffering. So when they had a promotion for flying round trips to Chicago with double the normal mileage credit, and I found a relatively low cost fare at the last minute (less than a day before!), I bit and traded a nights’ sleep in a comfy bed at home for 8 hours in the air. I don’t expect any sane person to understand. –Mike–
This is from my trip with Kevin (my son, not the pilot I often ride with) to last year’s Tour de France. We’re about 700 meters from the top of the Galibier, an hour and a half before the race comes through. Catch his expression at the very end. There are so many reasons there really is nothing quite like the ‘Tour.
Oh, and if you think it’s nice & cozy hanging out with a few thousand of your closest friends on a desolate mountaintop in France, think again-
“Ladies & gentlemen, I give you the back side of water!” Does that bring back any memories? It should. I can’t imagine that many people haven’t ridden the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland, and been on the back side of the waterfall where you get that ridiculously-corny endlessly-repeated line. Having been to Disneyland too many times (mainly care of two too-spoiled kids who think it’s some sort of right to visit Disneyland on an almost-yearly basis), that line came immediately to mind riding up the D219 road opposite Alpe d’Huez a week ago last Friday (July 22, 2011).
Wow. It seems longer ago than that. But what a great day. It had its issues; getting a flat tire on the descent, and having the tube installed then go bad as well, but for me, getting to ride a road that I’d seen from across the valley (on top of Alpe d’Huez) for so many years, well, it was one of the highest things on my “bucket list.” That probably explains why it wasn’t quite the same for my son, for whom it was just another road, perhaps interesting, but somewhat a distraction from the day’s main event (climbing Alpe d’Huez itself).
Also making this interesting is Kevin’s epilepsy; at any point on a hard climb he could possibly have a seizure that might cause him to lose control and fall over. Because of that it was important for me to be riding to the outside, keeping Kevin riding up next to the mountain and as far away from the sheer cliff (protected only by those low bricks) as possible. If Kevin did have a seizure, he knew that I was going to end up literally pushing him down into the ground; this was not the place to risk him wobbling across the road. Fortunately, I didn’t have to put that plan into effect.
Alpe d’Huez, on its own, is a fine ride, but not really enough for a full day. Spend the extra 1.5-2hrs and climb up to Villard Notre Dame, have a coke (or two) and enjoy the view before heading back into the valley and up the main attraction on the other side (Alpe d’Huez). Park somewhere near the huge Supermarket (same place the ride starts on the Googlemap at the bottom of this page), where you can load up on inexpensive food & drink & various other supplies. This puts you just a kilometer out of the center of town, and, literally, right at the very base of Alpe d’Huez.
For a detailed description of what it’s like, see the photos below. Words really can’t describe D219. Just make sure you’ve got sturdy tires, spare tubes and a working pump, because the rocks that fall onto the road are incredibly sharp. Out of maybe 10 other cyclists we saw on D219, two got flats. Er, three. I got one myself.
Specifics: Elevation at base- 2400ft.
Elevation at Villard Notre Dame- 5050ft (Alpe d’Huez is just under 6000ft)
Climbing time- 1hr 9min (with a couple stops to enjoy the view)
Climbing distance- 5.0 miles
Grade- 6-10% with a few short steeper pitches but worth the effort
Road surface- Generally good but watch for small rocks as they’re very sharp
Food & water- Available in town at the start and at the top at the cafe
If you do both D219 and Alpe d’Huez on the same day, total mileage will be a very unimpressive 32, but climbing comes in at 6200ft. We’re talking quality miles here with incredible views.
- Just found another ride report for D219 from some guys we saw on the climb that day! Even a reference to us as “yanks.” And a mention of my flat even.
- Steephill.tv has an excellent ride & video report of D219
- Another link to a ride up D219 here.
- Info from the Bike Bourg d’Oisons site here.
- More references to it as part of a ride here.
- The last paragraph of this review on lights refers to one of the D219 tunnels as being “hors categorie.”
- A search page of photos taken in the vicinity
Today was one of those days where things just got better and better as it went on. We didn’t have to travel too far to see the TdF stage; our hotel in Villar d’Arene is less than 10 miles from the base of the Galibier (an all-uphill 10 miles, to be sure!), and then
(OK, something bad happened here; I had 10 paragraphs typed in that all just got eaten during the posting process. May be related to the continuing internet issues I’ve been having here. I’ll get things updated later, since it’s time to get ready for tomorrow’s Alpe d’Huez stage) –Mike–
Not the easiest getting up the Galibier this morning; first, Kevin had a seizure and subsequent face plant climbing up the Lauteret (he’s ok; this wasn’t a “Chris Horner” event), and when we get to the base of the Galibier there are literally many thousands of cyclist going nowhere because they’ve closed the road. And this is 6 hours before the race comes through!!!
But that doesn’t stop us. We’re stupid, y’know? There’s a literal goat path that connects with the Galibier maybe a mile up the road, and we didn’t come all this way to see the big stage on a TV in a bar! That plus we KNOW we can get there, while all these others are turning around and making plans to do something else.
Well here we are. 700k from the finish, and having no idea why they were turning all those people away ‘cuz the middle of this climb is EMPTY!!!
Oh, it’s cold up here so good thing I loaded up the rack bag with everything possible to wear. The light rain and hail seem to be gone though. Film at 11!