We were pleased to have made it this far and even more so to have got into the campsite. We quickly put up tents before cycling back into town for food, we shopped for lunch, a picnic by the river. Dinner, a hearty meal of pasta and tomato sauce and also for breakfast….bread, cheese and ham 😉
Sitting by the river eating our lunch we finally managed to escape the melee of bikes, all sorts, all colours and by people of all ages riding them. In front of us was our next challenge though….Alp D’Huez, the next day would see us cycle it, slowly of course !
After breakfast we packed our tents, loaded our bikes and cycled the 4km to the foot of the mountain, ahead lay 14km of hairpin bends and thousands of cyclists. It was incredible to see so many cyclists all in one place, all with the same goal, some racing, some like us going slowly and stopping for photos.
We were part of something, it felt amazing and even better when another rider complimented you for getting so far on a heavy bike. Thijs was by far the best of the three of us and he quickly cycled of, stopping frequently to photograph both Naomi and myself as we made our way.
Naomi and I were very pleased when we finally made it to the top although there was a little confusion about where the end was. We did however find both Thijs and the finish and get photos to prove our accomplishment !!
After a well earned coffee it was time to find a place to set up camp.We were lucky here as we found a spot next to a roundabout with easy access to toilets and drinking water and on grass…..very pleased !!
Tents up and lunch consumed we were content then some more Brits set up tents next to us and we had a good old chat, with the great weather and amazing scenery it was a fabulous afternoon. A bit of a walk about before dinner, a bottle of wine followed as did an early bedtime, we’d be up early tomorrow 😉
The day had finally arrived, the Tour de France would be climbing Alp D’Huez today, not just once but twice and we would be on corner 7 “Dutch Corner” to watch them. All of Naomi’s scheming and planning had payed of, we’d done it and we were very excited. We ate breakfast and were quickly packed ready for our descent towards corner 7, it was harder going down than getting up though. So many cyclists still coming up the mountain and so many people already on the mountain waiting ! It was estimated that there were over 1 million people on Alp D’Huez and three of them were us !!
We found a spot to park our bikes next to a church, locked to some railings, they’d be safe there. Then we walked down a little more until we found a small patch of grass to pitch Thijs tent, we’d use this to keep our kit in during the day.
The atmosphere during the day just got better, the Dutch certainly know how to party. There was loud music close by, cold beers, food and thousands of raucous and appreciative people. Just about every cyclists passing by got a cheer although the loudest cheers were reserved for the Dutch, children or those on strange looking machines. There was one tandem where the rear rider was facing downhill and pedalling backwards. The old guy on a bike that had wooden wheels and no gears. Touring cyclists dragging trailers with kids and luggage ! Children on proper race bikes showing there parents the way up the hill and all these people were cheered loudly on there way past 😉
Next came the Tour de France procession, all the sponsors cars, team coaches and cars came slowly through the ever growing crowd. The sponsors throwing free gifts and merchandise into the crowd created even more cheering and applause, it was mayhem !!
Then finally, silence !! It was eerie, just a moments silence before the first riders were seen on the hill, the helicopters tracking their progress. And then without warning they were in front of you, the crowd surged forward creating a very narrow passage for the riders. You could barely move let alone get your camera out, then they were gone and the crowd relaxed momentarily. For the next 40 minutes the riders approached, the crowd moved and we all tried to take photos, then it was over for this time round. There would be a short wait before they would be back for the second ascent, time to check the photos and see if you managed to take any good ones !
Then the helicopters were back signalling the return of the riders on their second pass, the speed they cycle up hill is incredible ! This time we put the cameras away and concentrated on just watching and enjoying, trying to spot riders we knew. With Thijs help we spotted Mark Cavendish and Chris Froome but they were gone in the blink of an eye. Finally the last rider came on through to a huge cheer and that was it, the Tour de France for us was over. We’d had a great day on the hill, the Dutch crowd were warm and hospitable and very knowledgable but it was time to leave.
We collected our bikes and very slowly picked our way through the huge crowds and back to the campsite. This time we were out of luck, even on touring bikes we were turned away because they were full. They suggested another site further away and as luck would have it they had room. Tents up we headed back to the first campsite for dinner in there restaurant, town would be mayhem !!
We ate well, drank a few cold beers, talked about the day…the Tour, Alp D’Huez and planned the next bit of our trip. We still had to get over the alps so we weren’t done yet !!
That’s it for now 😉