Tuesday, September 21, 2021
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Le Tour de France – Day 5: Stage 17, Embrun to L’Alpe D’Huez

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Ola!:  Wee bit Spanish there in honour of Carlos, a great ride — one that puts him up with the legends. But?… Is it enough to win him the 2008 Tour de France? We’ll find out on Saturday, in the chrono; Cadel has to be the favourite though. It’s 9.00 pm and we’re still in the Salle de Presse on L’Alpe D’Huez, another long one, but they all are. We spent the night in Pra Loup, a word of advice, do not visit the Club du Soleil les Bergers hotel, it’s not the answer!

We skipped breakfast and headed for Embrun, having its second visit from le Tour in 08; the stage started there on the Saturday we arrived. The scenery en route to Embrun was spectacular.

L'Alpe D'Huez
All the towns on the route make a huge effort for the race. Photo©Ed Hood

We didn’t stop there, just picking up race route as far as the half way point on the Galibier; I don’t have the words to do the landscape justice, but here’s a photo Martin took.

L'Alpe D'Huez
The famous Galibier. Photo©Martin Williamson

We had jagged peaks; azure lakes; glaciers; scree slopes; water falls; rocks torn, scarred, twisted and burst apart — one jaw dropping vista after another.

While the caravan, which we had shadowed up until that point headed over the Galibier, we took the direct route to L’Alpe.

The race crossed the Galibier and Croix Fer before they tackled the most famous mountain of them all.

L'Alpe D'Huez
Multinational party time. Photo©Ed Hood

The caravan didn’t take the biggest vehicles over the Galibier, they diverted on to our route and Martin had a bit of the old Carlos Sainz stuff to get past the Vache Qui Rit wagon and all the other bizarre trucks.

L’Alpe was as my buddy John and I left it – to head for Monaco in my trusty Opel Manta – after witnessing Pantani’s triumph.

The crowds weren’t the same, though — definitely down on those heady 90’s years.

‘Enough already of the good old days stuff,’ I hear you say, ok, ok!

L'Alpe D'Huez
We met up with Steve and Katherine at l’Alpe d’Huez. Photo©Martin Williamson

Martin’s buddy, Steve “Firestarter” Mathison was on the hill, he’s honeymooning in France, doing the ‘camper van thing.’

We met them on Turn 9 and as Steve and his new bride Katharine jumped in the Volvo I jumped out, on one of my ‘walk the course’ kicks.

L'Alpe D'Huez
Say Bye to the maillot Franky. Photo©Ed Hood

Richard wanted us to split up today, two sets of pics and two pieces from the Tour’s most evocative day. It’s up on Pez, as are all the tales of our Tour travels, it was a great experience.

L'Alpe D'Huez
Flemish corner. Photo©Martin Williamson

But I can’t help but think that pro cycling isn’t what it was in terms of being ‘the people’s sport.’

There were barriers for the last four kilometres; they make things different, maybe even sterile.

I know I’m the guy who goes on about how hairy it is to get off the mountain top finishes, but all the teams stay at L’Alpe, so there would be no riders braving the ‘crazies’ on the descent.

The only regret I have today is that I couldn’t stay with the Dutch fans and watch Menchov come past.

The Dutch fans maybe go a tad far with the drink, but they give a race great atmosphere; it’s just a pity that the Belgians don’t have Tour riders at the moment.

What we need is another good Dutch climber and a Belgian GC contender.

L'Alpe D'Huez
Plenty of spaces at 1km to go, with an hour ’til the race arrives. Photo©Martin Williamson

We have to get to Grenoble now, that’s about an hour on clear roads, much longer with traffic, so I’ll say ‘bon nuit,’ thank you for reading and; ‘see ye the morn, neebur.’

L'Alpe D'Huez
That was hard. Photo©Ed Hood

Ed Hood and Martin Williamson
Ed and Martin, our top team! They try to do the local Time Trials, the Grand Tours and the Classics together to get the great stories written, the quality photos taken, the driving done and the wifi wrestled with.

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