I’m headed to the Tour de France

by Arlyn on June 19, 2008

Plans are firming up for my visit to the Tour de France.  Here’s the details:

Day 1 – Fly

Fly to Paris, get in a nice 40km ride to shake the legs out and help with the jet lag.  I hear our hotel is very close to the Eiffel Tower.

Paris, France

Day 2 – Alpe d’Huez

Take the TGV (world’s fastest passenger train) to Grenoble.  Jump in the team bus for a short ride to Vizile and then ride to our hotel at the top of Alpe d’Huez.  Not the steepest, or the longest climb in France, but certainly the most mythical with 21 famed switchbacks, each honoring Alpe d’Huez stage winners from previous TdFs.

Here is the elevation profile – it’s steep at first and then relentless to the top.

Alpe d\'Huez

Day 3 – Ride most of Stage 17

Take the team bus to the Col de Lauteret where we join the route of the next day’s stage. We’ll do the Col du Galibier, Col du Telegraph, Col del la Croix-de-Fer, and Alpe d’Huez once more.

The Galibier is easiest from the Lauteret and the Telegraph is really just a minor bump on the descent of the Galibier.  First used in the 1911 Tour de France, the Galibier is often the highest point in the Tour

The route to the top is short, but sweet.  Averaging just 6.9% until the last pitchy section at the top which is 12.1%.  Nothing compared to the Monsters we climbed in early June.

Here’s the descent with the Col du Telegraph (we’ll ride it right to left, descending).  I plan on earning my Descenders jersey on this one:

After the Galibier, we head up the valley to tackle the Col de la Croix-de-Fer (Pass of the Iron Cross)

While not as steep as some mountains at only 5% average, the Croix is long at 39.5km.  And it does gain roughly 5,000 feet of elevation so it’s not to be discounted. This will be a major effort.

After the Croix de Fer, it’s back up Alpe d’Huez to our hotel.  I am so glad we’re staying on the Alpe!

Day 4 – The Tour comes to Alpe d’Huez

Stage 17 of le Tour finishes just beyond our hotel balcony, but don’t expect me to be sitting there, away from the pandemonium that’s coming to town.  Today, we have the option of hanging out in Alpe h’Huez with our legs up, riding down and back up Alpe d’Huez on race day to soak up the atmosphere or heading out to bag the Col de Sarenne.  I am honestly not sure what I’ll do, but I like the idea of riding down the Alpe and back up, stopping at a corner near the top to view the race go past.  I wouldn’t mind being one of those crazy fans so watch for me on TV.

Floyd picks his way through the crowd

And just imagine the crazy party that will rage overnight – my goal is to be able to wake up the next morning ready for the bike (just very slowly!)

Day 5 – Downhill to Grenoble

After the previous four days riding Alpe to Alpe, I’m sure to be happy coasting the 70km downhill to Grenoble today.  I think the excitement will come from being at the stage start.  Maybe I can bag an autograph or two.

Day 6 – Ride a stage of the Tour de France

We’re riding a complete Tour stage today, stage 19 from Roanne to Montluçon.  It will be 165km of rollers with only a single 3rd and 4th categorized climbs.  The peloton will be hot on our heels, and I assume that if they get too close to us, the race referee will pull off the course.  We’ll have to cooperate and get the group across the line in time.

I’m sure my legs will be toasty by the finish line. I wonder where I can get a massage?

Day 7 – Final Time Trial

No riding today, we’re touring the start area for the final 53km time trial to Saint Amand Montrond.  I’m excited to be able to wander around the start village, check out the riders warming up for the race and watch them leave the start house.

Fabian Cancellara TT

It’s likely that if the race was not won resoundingly on Alpe d’Huez, that it will be finished here.  Who ever is in the lead after today wears yellow in Paris.

Day 8 – Champs-Élysées

It’s another rest day as we make our way to Paris to watch the final stage on the famed cobbles of the Champs-Elysees.  It’s traditional that there be no racing for the GC on the final stage, but watch out for the sprinters.  Winning on the Champs means everlasting glory.

After the stage is won, we’ll see presentation of the final yellow jersey for the overall winner of the 2008 Tour de France.  My bet is he’ll be a very happy and very tired guy.  Then it’s off to dinner and a final night of celebration.  I wonder if there will be time to hop on the bike one last time and do a few laps around the Champs before packing it up…

Day 9 – Au revior!

Early trip to the airport for my flight home.  If this itinerary has you salivating, contact the good folks at http://www.bikestyletours.com.  I think there still may be a few slots open for you.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

will June 19, 2008 at 11:15 pm

Sounds like a great trip!

I may be doing almost the exact same ride as you the day before Alpe d’Huez (Croix de Fer from far side and then up the Alpe – we are still debating that day of our trip.)

On the Alpe d’Huez stage day, I’ll be watching the beginning of the race up Galibier.

On your Alpe day – Col de Sarenne is really beautiful – although almost worth renting a mountain bike – BUMPY!

On that day, don’t forget to do the very short ride above the town of Alpe d’Huez over Col de Poutran and ending at Lac Besson – just a 4 kilometres and very scenic.

Good luck and enjoy

will June 20, 2008 at 12:00 am

PS – don’t let the 5% average fool you …. that includes downhill stretches. This is a fairly serious climb.

Also don’t forget to peek at Col du Glandon about 2 kilometres from top of Croix de Fer on south side is a turn off and top of Col du Glandon is only minute or two away.

Donald June 20, 2008 at 3:40 am

Arlyn- Fantastic… it would be seriously hard to contain the excitement if I was headed there. This too, is one of my dreams. I hope to go someday soon… so I still have the physical ability to make the climbs.:)

thePig June 20, 2008 at 4:52 am

Looks like a fantastic trip and very well thought out. I wish my legs could carry me over the routes you have planned.

I also plan to be at Alp d’Huez for the tour stage. Although this will be at about day 17 of my tour (starting from the west end of the pyrenees) so will be highly subject to change. Would be great to cycle up Alp d’huez with my 4 panniers so I do hope we can make it there in time.

Arlyn Asch June 20, 2008 at 7:04 am

@Pig & Will: It’s a small world – see you all on the Alpe 🙂

@Will: Thanks for the tips on Glandon, Sarenne and Poutran. It’s nice to have a local connection.

@Don: Last year, I promised myself I would go without having the fitness, the money or any idea how it would work out. It sort of forced me to get in shape and to figure it out 🙂

Mike June 20, 2008 at 7:05 am

Once again I’m jealous, this looks like a great time. Will you be blogging while on the trip or do we have to wait till you return to get the report?

Arlyn Asch June 20, 2008 at 7:09 am

Hi Mike, thanks. I intend on blogging from the road using my (soon-to-be) brand new iPhone 3G. Flickr has a great way to upload photos to your WP blog. Here’s some examples from my recent monster climbs trip.



will June 20, 2008 at 9:24 am

be careful on French roaming charges when uploading photos …. 🙂

Tejvan Pettinger June 24, 2008 at 8:47 am

Really looks great. I want to go to ride those climbs!

will check out that flickr function, looks great.

Jennifer Sage July 8, 2008 at 8:07 pm

I know you’re going with a tour company, but check out my Blog on cycling in Europe – I’ve filled it with lots of tips on where and how to watch the Tour stages, what to bring and other insider tips. And I have a lot more info that I give to my clients. I specialize in sending people over there to do it on your own (whether to the Tour, or Provence, or Tuscany, etc), in total confidence. You’ll enjoy your tour, it sounds fun, but next time you may want to do it with just a few friends and have full freedom and flexibility. Contact me for more info! http://cyclingeurope.wordpress.com

Bon Courage!
Jennifer Sage

Arlyn Asch July 8, 2008 at 9:13 pm

Thanks Jenn, great tips.

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