Photos from Alpe d'Huez - Road Cycling UK

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Photos from Alpe d'Huez

landis

Landis being led up the climb

landis

Stage 15 of this year’s Tour de France was always going to be a classic. Any stage that finishes up the Alpe d’Huez is going to throw up a surprise or two, and this year didn’t disappoint. I got myself to Le Bourg-D’Oisans with the aim to first ride the col, then find a good spot to watch the TdF action.

By the time I arrived (late, as I’d ridden Col de Telegraphe and the Galibier a little earler) the town nestling at the foot of the climb was alive. Gleaming white mobile homes were parked anywhere and everywhere, music was blaring from bars, barbeques filled the air with a delicious scent and there were bikes everywhere. Not just a few, but dozens upon dozens of them.

Waking up Tuesday morning, I’d found my pitch in a roadside laybay surrounded by campervans, and the main road now lined with even more cars. Groups of riders were going down the road every few seconds. Even at 10.30am as I rolled into the bottom slope of Alpe d’Huez, it was hot, damn hot. You’d be surprised at some of the people attempting the climb, and even more so with the choice of bikes: roadbikes of all ages, MTB’s, tandems, a three-person tandem even (anyone know the correct name for such a machine?), shopping bikes, folding bikes, and plenty of people dressed in costume. It must have been murder for the rider in the bear suit I passed near the top.

Even this early in the morning, with the riders not expected till late in the afternoon, people were claiming their grandstand seats. You have to be early to get the best spot, and any areas with shade (which there weren’t many of) were over-subscribed. The lower steeper slopes were very busy, but I managed to find a great spot on the inside of turn six. Turn six is one of the flatter hairpins, the approach is quite steep but exiting the wide hairpin the next few metres were quite flat. It’s was a good spot as any attacks would have gone ahead by the time they reached my position.

Once you’ve found your spot, it’s just a question of waiting. It’s all quiet until the multi-coloured and some bizarre corporate promotion band wagons come rolling through, dispensing free gifts to everyone. Once this dies down there’s another period of calm. The real excitement starts with the sound of approaching helicopters. Soon the sky is alive with them, and the first sign of the riders is when the flares are lit all around. At this point the crowd goes estatic, flags are hoisted high into the air, air horns blaring, people shouting, one German taking to banging the roof of his car.

It’s an experience. Not many words can describe the speed the riders get up the hill, the sheer determination evident on their faces and in the eyes as they grit their teeth up the tough climb.

Below are all my photos in the order they were taken.


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