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Le Tour de France 2013 – Stage 18: Gap > Alpe-d’Huez, 168km. Riblon Saves AG2R’s Tour

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Alpe-d’Huez

I could never be a ski bum, 60 Euros per night for the room here at the top of Alpe-d’Huez – but you have to pay extra for sheets – and towels – there’s no toilet paper – then you have to clean the place at the end of it. A bit like borstal really, with off-hand, condescending staff.

If you were there ‘with the boys’ to watch the race that would be fine but not when you’re working.

All that said, it was a nice place to be, high in the Alps, the shop was well stocked and you could get L’Equipe with a two minute walk.

It’s edition 21,551 of L’Équipe today and they carry a big feature on Froome and whether his performances are ‘coherent.’

Fred Grappe who has biomechanical and physiological credentials and has advised F des J and the French Federation said that Froome’s rides stand up to inspection.

But L’Équipe also reveals that Froome has been tested 19 times during the race – 13 urine/blood tests and six biological passport checks.

A friend of mine maintains; ‘there’s no such thing as a random dope test.’

Given those 19 tests, there’s little doubt that the Powers That Be are highly suspicious.

And as I write this on the BlackBerry, we pass a banner which simply says; ‘FROOME ?’

Let’s hope it can become’ ‘FROOME !’

Alpe-d’Huez
The view from our chalet balcony – lovely. Photo©Ed Hood

It’s 20:30 and I’m writing this as we head for our hotel in Grenoble.

Getting off l’Alpe is horrific, even jumping into the car the minute the voiture balai (sag wagon) passes and having full credentials is no help to clearing the hill quickly.

It’s chaos all the way down and for miles out of Bourg d’Oisans.

But that’s just the way it is, Martin drives whilst I sit and write the words.

The trouble is that we still have all the pictures to put on the laptops, edit, position in the story and send – it’s gonna be a late one.

Alpe-d’Huez
The obligatory Publicity Caravan shot. Photo©Ed Hood

L’Alpe was it’s usual manic self – especially ‘Dutch Corner’ where we headed to first up to get some good shots of the madness.

Alpe-d’Huez
Dutch corner has become a tradition, but it gets wilder each time. Photo©Ed Hood

The Dutch folks arrive as early as Sunday to set up – tents, camper vans and DJ decks.

The music has been pumping all week – just a pity that Mollema and Ten Dam edged further down that slippy GC slope in a slide which began in yesterday’s time trial.

A shame because they have the most loyal and dedicated fans on the race.

Orange, red, white and blue are the colours and it’s obligatory that you’re wasted.

There’s drink everywhere – and noise and crush.

Alpe-d’Huez
Take care of that precious cargo. Photo©Ed Hood

Most of it is good natured but sometimes it’s borderline; the crowd gives the Sky team vehicles a really hard time, giving them the thumbs down, chucking beer on the windscreen and even jumping on the bonnet.

Alpe-d’Huez
The Team Sky cars get a hard time from the Dutch supporters, but if you rode for Belkin that’s different. Photo©Ed Hood