Stage 20 ‘There can only be one’

With part of the route closed to us for the big boys race, Alp d’huez was a fitting finale in the mountains. Although not as challenging as some of the previous monsters we have been over, few climbs are as iconic as this 13.8km ascent up to the ski resort.

With 21 numbered hairpins counting down to the top you always know where you are. Each has a previous winner’s name proudly stamped on, the one that every tour climber wants on their palmares.

Mel and I had been having some fun over the last few weeks when the roads were sloping upwards, pretty much sharing the mountain spoils (just for fun of course) but this was the final showdown for the ‘unofficial prize’ of the onedayahead climbers Jersey.

  

 

Images by Joolze Dymond 

I have climbed the Alp some 16 years ago on the camping trip with Phil and Pete, mentioned in despatches on an earlier post. Pete sent me a message that morning reminding me of my time, but I was 25, and hadn’t ridden 95% of a Tour de France prior!

I knew it started with a few steep ramps, you would have thought that I learnt my lesson last time, but oh no, through the town of Bourg d’Oisions past the very same camping site on the right, a left turn, the road then pitches to 11% and I stamp on the pedals.

 


All starts well enough, the first two pitches are despatched quickly. Turn 19 I try to get into a rhythm but after some 3200km in the legs it wasn’t easy. Corners 18, 17 & 16 and I hear Mel catch me and change gear, I drop down 2 sprockets and get out of the saddle but not much happens. Mel takes up the tempo setting, she is riding well.

We are passing an endless stream of riders all testing themselves, quite a sight, male & female, riders as young as 8 and some of advancing years. No matter what body shape or speed, they snaked up the climb each in their individual search for a time to compare with tomorrow’s stage winner.

Thousands would tackle the climb, but my focus was on one, Mel.

I was beginning to feel uncomfortable, my breathing was not relaxed and my pedaling way too laboured with still half the climb to the summit. Between corners 10 and 9, I got out of the saddle. My right hand hamstring fought back and said ‘no’, it tightened and I almost came to a stop. Mel drifted away from me. The next 500m I rode slowly and only pushing fully with my left leg but curiously still passing riders.

Through corner 7 the Dutch make camp here everytime the race comes up. A frenzy of fans, a 10m bar and lots of orange paint. At this point my leg came back to life and I rode a good tempo to the finish. Congratulations to Mel, and to all the riders in the team.

The final big obstacle in our way before the ride into Paris tomorrow is the 7hr transfer to Versailles. Not without incident, the tour bus broke down just outside Lyon. A four hour service stop, now travelling in a team van. The box on the dash says midnight, doh… !

Tomorrow is the day we dared not dream about too soon. Paris, we are almost there…




 

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~ by theboxterboy on July 24, 2015.

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