Monday, July 25, 2011

Highs and Lows

My time in Europe is once again coming to a close, but it's a nice and happy ending.

These past few days have been incredible as I've been able to see so many different sides of the tour--on top of freezing Alpe d'Huez, on a hairpin bend in Grenoble and on the Champs Elysees in Paris.

Without further adieu, here are a bunch of pictures I've taken over the past few days.  I'm off to Florida.  Enjoy.

Our campsite on Alpe d'Huez.

I twisted my ankle the day before and got a "boot" from the pharmacy.  Of course, I had to customize it with a limited edition free sticker from the tourist office.

During the time trial, we found a really nice spot on a hairpin to watch the riders come by.  Very relaxing not to have to push and shove my way to see the riders.  They had to slow down so much because TT bikes are so hard to handle on turns.

Then we were off to the city center to watch the finish.

After the time trial we hopped on a train to Paris.  It was nice to be in a proper bed again.

Paris was busy but we managed to get some good views of the riders by stepping on our camping stools.  Those things come in handy.

First, we took a train to Creteil to watch the signing in then back to the Champs Elysees for sprinting madness.

Goodbye, Europe.  It's been real.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Stage 19 of Le TdF

We drove up the Col de Montgenevre to watch Wednesday's stage.  The weather was slightly unpredictable with heavy clouds and cold in the morning and beautiful sunshine in the afternoon.

Have lots of pictures to share from today's stage as we're camping at the very top.  I'll tell you one thing: it's friggin' cold beyond belief.

Monday, July 18, 2011

I beat that mountain's ass.

(if you prefer video to reading, scroll to the bottom of this post :))

I woke up this morning hoping I wouldn't have to ride my bike because the weather would be too shitty.  I was wrong.  I peered out of my side of the tent and saw the sun shining.  Crap.

After I returned from the grocery store with our morning pains au chocolat,  I saw my bike resting against the car, all ready and tuned for our ride.  What ride exactly, I wasn't sure.

After a few moments of debating, I told Ged I was only going to ride up the Col du Telegraphe, then bid him farewell as he pushed on to the Col du Galibier.  I figured a 12 km climb averaging 7.3% would be a good enough workout.

I left the campsite 20 mintues before Ged, so that we could reach the top of the Telegraphe around the same time.

Try not to be too jealous of my socks.

The morning was quite chilly despite the sunshine, hence the layers.  I also had a windproof jacket tucked into my jersey.

The ride up the Col du Telegraphe was a good one:  not too difficult that I had to use the triple, not too easy that my legs and lungs weren't laboring.

My legs were super stiff when I reached the top and got off the bike for pictures.  I'm not sure why they felt so tight, but I had to stop and stretch for a while to feel normal again.

Photo opp!

Then came decision time.  Would I A) Drop back down to the campsite and probably fall asleep or would I B) Follow Ged on to the Galibier.  Let me say that I really didn't want to do option B.  The tightness in my legs freaked me out a little and plus, it's a fricken' long way to ride a bike uphill.

Well, I rode on with Ged.  I would've felt a little guilty for making him do it by himself and I didn't have anything else to do.

The road dropped down 5km into Valloire then it was up, up, up.  Ged gave me a 30-minute head start this time.

Honestly, the first 2/3 of the ride wasn't bad.  Pretty gentle gradient and nice temperature.

The hellish part came when I was 5km out and started to struggle with the gradient.  My legs just wouldn't turn as easily as they were before.  In the last few km I was able to see the top, and seeing those switchbacks up to the finish took a toll on my sanity.

All I could think was "This is total shit" and "This looks way more than 3km to the top."  I even let out a few curse words which the Dutch guys passing me giggled at and nodded in agreement.

After cursing the heavens for a whole kilometer, I finally saw Ged 1km from the top.  I passed him and he quickly caught up to me to shout words of encouragement.

Once I reached the top, I silently vowed never to do this evil climb again.  At least, not this year.  Breathing was really difficult for me because we were so high up and there wasn't a lot of oxygen.  After I cried and drank some water, it was time for pictures and hot chocolate.

The descent was absolutely freezing.  Couldn't feel my fingers, which made me nervous about braking.

We made a quick stop in Valloire to visit the HAY PEOPLE (and to get baked goods at the boulangerie).

Here's the video as promised:

Now safe and sound (and showered) back in Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne.  I see a big bowl of pasta in my future...