Day 9 – Alp d’Huez

Phillipe GilbertPhillipe GilbertThe famous Alp d’Huez… The only Dutch mountain in the Tour de France… Apparently whenever it is included in the Tour, it triggers a mass invasion of Dutch cycle fans.  I can vouch for a huge number of “N” number plates.  With memories of the traffic on the last Alp stages fresh, we decided to drive 20km to the Logi (small, private hotel), and check in and then drive an alternate route, via the Col d’Ornon, which meets the main road near Bourg D’Orsons (The town below Alp d’Huez). 


CountrysideCountryside

The plan worked nicely, and the bonus was the beautiful French countryside scenery on the way and the village of Ornon.  After Ornon the number of cyclists on the road grew and grew.

OrnonOrnon

We probably shouldn’t have been surprised however when arriving at the end of the Col d’Ornon road (2km from Bourg D’Orsons) the Gendarmes turned us back saying “There is no more space for cars in Bourg D’Orsons”.  We found a field filled with other cars, parked and started walking!  The Gendarmes were right, every space that could hold a car or a campervan was used.  The town was literally “Full”.  Amazingly we found a restaurant that had tables free and we ate and watched the start of the race on TV.  As it turns out, almost everybody was already on the mountain and when we arrived at the base of the climb so did the Caravan. 

The road was narrow, the speed of the vehicles fast and the jostling for the “free stuff” intense.  For a while I thought we wouldn’t make it onto the climb proper, but there was a long enough pause between Caravan and riders for us to walk up to the first hairpin bend.

 Waving the flagWaving the flag

 

WaitingWaiting

Then the waiting (and in the case of the Danish supporters… the drinking!!!)

The leadersThe leaders

First was Ryder Hesjedal & Sebastien Turgot, quickly followed by Cadel & Bauke Molloma, both looking over their shoulders at the pursuing bunch

Bauke Mollema holds Cadel's wheelBauke Mollema holds Cadel's wheel

Even though it’s steep, the riders were still moving fast. 

What other sport could the crowd be so close to the elite athletes in their preeminent event!

Next was Andy and Frank Shleck

Andy and FrankAndy and Frank

 

ChaosChaos

Then the bunch, masses of team cars, riders between the cars… bedlam!

PelotonPeloton

8 minutes later came the peloton, surprisingly including the polkadot Jersey – Jelle Vandernert, who subsequently dropped to third in the KOM.

12 minutes after the leaders came the Autobus…

The AutobusThe Autobus

Cav doesn't look happyCav doesn't look happyTeam instuctionsTeam instuctions

 

The DevilThe Devil

Even the Devil was there in fine form…

We then beat a hasty retreat and because we were on the lower slopes and parked on the Grenoble side of town we had a clear run back to our hotel.

That was a huge buzz… On the slopes of probably the most famous climb… The most famous riders passing by (relatively) slowly only a meter or two away!  Very cool!