We didn’t want any slip ups on ‘le jour Alpe d’Huez‘ so we were offski early to make sure we were on the parcours in plenty of time.
Trouble is that we were on the road before the routing crews and had a wee bit of mucking around before we picked up the parcours.
One mitigating factor was that we stumbled on Oleg out for a run, complete with bodyguard/training partner and team car.
The stage may have been ‘all about L’Alpe’ but the Col de la Croix de Fer is no joke of a climb either – although the huge drop off makes it a descent where regrouping is possible.
We had breakfast roadside on the Croix de Fer; cheese and ham sandwiches, lemon tart and Nitromors coffee sitting by the roadside, watching the world go by – life doesn’t get much better.
Tough though the Croix de Fer is from a bike racing perspective, it’s a beautiful place; the bluest of skys, the fluffiest of clouds, the spikiest of mountains and the greenest of meadows – a week in a wee cabin up there would be a tonic for the soul.
L’Alpe; Callum was thinking that it wasn’t too bad, sure we had to drive round those walking and pedaling up – and then we arrived: Dutch Corner.
It’s mad, an assault on the senses – is it appropriate?
Absolutely not – but it’s unique and part of the Tour, now.
There’s music, drink, dancing, fancy dress and general mayhem – when the flares go off it’s a vision of an Orange Hades.
It took Callum a wee while to find his groove as all round him the craziness went on – and on.
We saw no trouble at all and the police handle it well – dealing with hordes of drunk young men under a hot sun is never easy …
There’s a lot of exhibitionism goes on – but if that’s your thing …
When the caravan arrives the scene becomes even more surreal as the weird and wonderful contraptions appear to float upwards on a sea of orange madness.
It’s like a river of people swirling on the hot tar; if your sober it’s hard enough to take in – if you’re drunk it must be, ‘a trip, man !’
It must be very stressful for the motorbike pilots, most everyone is drunk with impaired judgment and hyper-excited.
I saw one cop take a plastic beer cup full in the visor – nuts!
There were some wasted boys on that hill, none more so than big Garmin, Navardauskus who dragged the group along in pursuit of lone break hero, Geniez to get his team mate, Ryder Hesjedal into a stage winning position.
The big Lithuanian was brilliant, when he finally exploded at the foot of L’Alpe, Hesjedal patted him on the back – terrific team work and what makes bike racing so special.
Nico Roche put in another hard day at the mill for Froome.
The Sky cloak of invulnerability was starting to look a little threadbare the last two days in the mountains as that ‘Dodgy Spanish team’ finally went on the offensive – and very dangerous they looked too.
Quintana has youth on his side – he’s a wee bit wee to be a Terminator but, ‘he’ll be back.’
Whilst the Dutch riders and guys like Adam Hansen revelled in the hilarity on the hill, it wasn’t to everyone’s taste – Katusha’s Caruso tapping his helmet at the craziness.
And how are the mighty fallen – there was a day when Tommy Voeckler would have been a potential winner of this stage but he was languishing way down and on the end of verbal abuse from the fans.
Some riders had a,’thousand yard stare’ – big Daniel Oss was one of them; he just wanted up that hill and an end to the pain.
‘Pinot le vainquer!‘ said the commentator and mayhem ensued as the French fans went into orbit.
A great ride from the Frenchman; he’s saved his and F des J’s Tour and almost erased that memory we have of him acting like a spoiled kid earlier in the race when, ‘my bike’s not working!’
We’re just glad we don’t have to clean up!