Saturday, July 23, 2011

Alpe D'Huez!

I’m posting this one late because sweet mercy I don’t remember the last time I was as exhausted as I was last night. Before I get started with the day’s recap, there was one thing from yesterday I wanted to mentioned and forgot. As we were driving to the Galibier, we were driving on the race route and because our van is the same color as the maillot jaune, people thought we were some sort of important people and kept waving to us and so we waved back. It was great fun and quite hilarious. OK, on to the events of Friday.

It was another early start for us as we left the hotel at 8:15 to head up the mountain. It was about an hour and a half drive from the hotel in Grenoble to Oz en Oisons which is where we would have to get the ski lift to Alpe D’Huez. I was a little frightened about this whole ski life situation because whenever I am on one, I am always afraid I am going to miss my jump.

Once the tickets for the lift were bought, we got in queue for the lift, which turned out to be a gondola, an enclosed sky bucket like the ones you would ride at Six Flags, only we were going up into the Alps which is a little bit different, eh. So, we rode through the first station up to the second, got off and on to yet another gondola which took us down into Alpe D’Huez village. Once there, we rode an open air type gondola which took us into the heart of the village.

The company we are with rented a chalet on the next to the last switchback on the Alpe D’Huez route, but it was not going to be ready until 1:30. It was 11:00 when we arrived. So, we had some café and then did a little shopping. I bought a Tour de France apron which they had not had at the other spot and also an Alpe D’Huez shirt and also a winter hat which turned out to come in very handy.

After the shopping was complete and we met back up together, we made the trek down to the chalet, it was probably a 1.5 kilometer walk and it was all downhill and a very steep gradient and I think we were all dreading the climb back up to the top. We passed all sorts of magical and mysterious people on the mountain. If you don’t already know, the mountain stages in le Tour bring out the crazy in everyone and Alpe D’Huez did not disappoint. The chalet was in an absolutely perfect spot. Up high from the road, it allowed us to see the riders coming from a distance and watch them through at least three of the switchbacks.

We had grilled chicken, sausages, pasta salad, fresh fruit, and of course fresh bread to eat for lunch. I don’t know what it is about the fruit and the juice I have had since I have been here, but it seems to be the best I have ever had. We all staked out a spot at the very edge of the not-too-high overhang but before the race got started, I went down to the street to catch some more swag from the caravan; particularly in hopes of getting my polka dot t-shirt, which was referred to yesterday as the holy grail of swag. I landed some more goods, but, alas, no t-shirt.

While I was waiting for the caravan to arrive, Steve and Jordan from Radio Shack Live on Twitter came over and asked me and the people next to me if we were American. They said they were from Radio Shack and I said, hey, are you Steve and Jordan, and they were. They did a little video interview with me about who I wanted to win, etc. and it is supposed to be posted on You Tube and their facebook page. So, those of you who use facebook can check out the Radio Shack Live facebook page and let me know if it’s on there. If it is, leave a link in the comments, if you don’t mind.

After the caravan passed, I walked back up to my spot on the overhang to watch the riders come through. We also had TVs; so we knew where the riders were and what was going on in the race, which was nice.

The first man through was Alberto Contador, with Sammy Sanchez and Pierre Rolland close behind. In the third group was the Schleck brothers and Cadel Evans. Let me tell you, the mountain was FULL of people from Luxembourg to see the Schlecks. I’m pretty sure the whole country was there, or at least 75% of it. Rolland ended up winning the stage and Andy Schleck ended up in yellow!! It was just what I had hoped for!!

Backtracking a little, if you watch le Tour on TV, you may notice writings on the road in the mountains. I have always thought it to be chalk and had intended to bring some with me but then didn’t. It is actually paint. And apparently it’s rarely painted over because there was old paint and new paint alike on the street. It’s really quite interesting.

After the autobus came through, it was time for us to make the way up the steep incline to the ski lift. Rather than take the road, we climbed a mountain trail which was steeper than the road and rocky, but a shorter distance. We had to stop and rest about three times – and it wasn’t just me. First of all, your heart is already working harder because of the altitude, then you add walking on a mountain trail at a steep gradient to the mix and also for me, major sinus issues. Yeah, not fun. I really thought my legs would be screaming at me this morning, but thankfully they are not.

We made our way to the first ski lift, which was the open air one and the line was quite quick. Then we got to the first gondola station and the line looked like it would take an eternity, or at least an hour. Thankfully, we were through quickly and made it to the next station to go back down to Oz en Oisons. The total time to get back down to Oz was about one hour, which was amazingly fast considering the mass number of people trying to get down on the lifts.

We made it back to the van where we were to drive into Grenoble and take another lift up to a restaurant reserved for us for dinner, but because of the traffic, we didn’t get back into Grenoble until almost 11:00 and so we had dinner at the hotel restaurant instead. All the others ordered a multiple course meal; but I just ordered one course and when it arrived, I ate it and vamoosed to my room, leaving the others to their other courses. When I got to my room and looked at myself, it was a scary sight. My face got some sun and wind burn, but particularly my nose is burned. I suppose because I was constantly blowing my nose (thank you sinuses), I rubbed off my sunscreen and make up and therefore it was more susceptible to burn. I should have worn a cap because I now look like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

Today we were able to sleep in longer, which was much needed and very nice. We will be sending our luggage to Paris on the van and after watching the time trial from the Velodrome, we will take the bullet train to Paris, a three hour and 15 minute ride. It has been a great week so far and I’m looking forward to more excitement ahead! Vive le Tour!

Our view on Alpe D'Huez


Jackie said...

I tried to look it up on YouTube & facebook but couldn't find it. Of course I am using my iPhone and it would be easier on an actually computer. Looks like you're having a blast!

Alison said...

I've liked them on Facebook, but they haven't posted anything from yesterday yet. I'll keep checking and let you know. :) The scenery there looks amazing! I'm so glad you are having fun!

Vicky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vicky said...

Hi Nat, I am going with a few friends to catch the TdF next year and while searching on the internet, stumbled upon your blog. It seems like we might be doing a similar tour with Custom Getaways as you did although shorter (just Alpe d"huez and Paris). Do you mind me asking how your experience was with Custom Getaways? Would you go with them again or recommend then to others? Do you think their 'access' was worth it? I would love to hear your thoughts. It seems like you had grand stand seats. Was that sufficient? I'm thinking of upgrading to one of the hospitality tents. Thanks in advance! Vicky