We checked something off of our bucket list: Le Tour de France!
We arrived in Paris, France on Thursday, July 25. Immediately we took the train to Lyon, rented a Peugeot, and headed for the Alpes. Our goal was to catch a mountain stage of Le Tour, so there was no time to waste. I was given the honor driving as I am the one comfortable driving a manual transmission, and let’s just say this was a bit of a challenge. Not only did I have to get used to driving 130km/hr, but I also had to set my fear of heights aside in order to drive up the mountains. Just to be sure I conquered these fears, Mother Nature was kind enough to throw a big thunder and hail storm our way. After white knuckling for a couple of hours, we made it!
Checking into our hotel, Altitude (how adorbs is that?), we found that they put two separate beds in our little honeymoon suite. Um, seriously? Those mountain nights can get cold!! On the plus side, we discovered was the balcony that opened to the stream running down the mountain. Talk about relaxing!
I explored our little village with a run, got a little lost, but beat the next round of rain. I call that a success!
Friday morning we woke and promptly headed toward the mountain for the 19th Stage of the Tour de France. We hiked about a mile and completed the journey by way of two gondolas. The highest paved road in Europe offered us a small crowd of people snagging the best viewing point of the professional athletes, festively painted pavement, lay cyclists challenging themselves on the climb up the mountain, and breathtaking views.
After challenging ourselves on foot, we too settled into our spots and waited. We ate and drank very little as there were no restrooms available, so we just relaxed and took in the fresh mountain air.
I’ll admit, I have never witnessed an entire Stage of Le Tour. Adam is without exception a cycling fanatic and explained to me what was about to happen. For example, I had no idea that each sponsor had elaborately designed vehicles that would pass before us well in advance of the cyclists. I was impressed (this the thousand photos I took)
(Disclaimer: these photos are from the finish line, but they’re the same vehicles. I promise!)
Then a zillion team cars/vans rolled by…
(Adam is a HUGE EF1 fan, so that’s the only team I’m posting.)
After the parade of vehicles passed, we waited some more. And as we waited, we watched the dark stormy clouds roll in and felt the temperature drop. No one seemed to know the timeframe of the storm, but we knew something was headed our way. And then helicopters. A flock of helicopters flew over us, with one behind. It became obvious that wherever that lone helicopter was, the leader was. Because we were at the top of the mountain, we also received confirmation of approaching cyclists as a crowd would run from one edge of the mountain to the road where we were positioned. And then they came…
Yes, I have posted many photos and videos, but I couldn’t decide which were the best, so I’m you get to pick and choose what you want to look at. Carry on.
Almost all of the riders passed when we noticed team vehicles and riders suddenly come to a halt at the top of the mountain. My first thought was, “An accident?!” “Is someone injured?” What were we to do? Run towards the cluster, of course! We saw many athletes putting on thermals, so we initially thought that they were prepping for the rest of the cold ride, but team support members starting exiting the cars and all seemed confused and were shouting back and forth trying to figure it what was happening. After just a few minutes of confusion, we all learned that the rest of the Stage was cancelled.
We later learned, after we have internet access back at the hotel, that the stage was cancelled due to inclement weather and a mudslide ahead.
(Watch the whole video!)
At thy point, everything was over for the day and a storm was clearly headed our way, so hundreds of us rushed to gondolas to get back to the base of the mountain. With only a few gondolas, there was quite the wait.
That was it for the day. I ran one mile before the hail storm started, so we just hunkered down for the evening after scurrying out for dinner. The next day we left the village to head for Paris so that we could catch the finish of Le Tour. We drove the same road with the previous day’s mudslide (boy did they clean that up quickly!), through another rain and hail storm, got stuck in traffic from the rerouting of Stage 10, returned our car and hopped onto a train to Paris all on schedule. Dang, we’re good!
Sunday evening was full of celebration and we took our place near the finish line. We were treated to hors d’œuvres, beverages, desserts, and great views.
To watch riders on their final eight laps of a momentous 21 days of competition definitely got me choked up. I can only fathom what they were feeling as the culmination of so much training and hard work was near. To observe how they celebrated the winner and all those that conquered 2,162 miles of road. Amazing.
Celebrating such feats requires some champagne!
After all was said and done, we made a quick visit to the team buses, enjoyed hearing the Colombian crowd proudly sing their national anthem, and headed back to our hotel.
Happy trails, friends!
Run Streak Day 627