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Le Tour de France 2015 – Stage 20; Modane Valfréjus – Alpe d’Huez

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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.

Modane Valfréjus
Oleg Tinkov and his bodyguard. Photo©Ed Hood

One mitigating factor was that we stumbled on Oleg out for a run, complete with bodyguard/training partner and team car.

Modane Valfréjus
23 km to go. Photo©Ed Hood

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.

Modane Valfréjus
Callum tucks in. Photo©Ed Hood

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.

Modane Valfréjus
The summit of Croix de Fer. Photo©Ed Hood

Modane Valfréjus
Top of the col – a stunning place to be. Photo©Ed Hood

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.

Modane Valfréjus
One of thousands of Dutch folks having a great time on the mountain. Photo©Ed Hood

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.

Modane Valfréjus
The only thing to do is go with the flow on Dutch corner. Photo©Ed Hood

There’s music, drink, dancing, fancy dress and general mayhem – when the flares go off it’s a vision of an Orange Hades.

Modane Valfréjus
Each and every car has it’s contents scrutinised and greeted. Photo©Ed Hood

It took Callum a wee while to find his groove as all round him the craziness went on – and on.

Modane Valfréjus
The Gendarmes need good people skills for this shift. Photo©Ed Hood

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 …

Modane Valfréjus
A WWF wannabe ‘helps’ the cars on their way. Photo©Ed Hood

There’s a lot of exhibitionism goes on – but if that’s your thing …

Modane Valfréjus
The publicity caravan moves through the masses. Photo©Ed Hood

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.

Modane Valfréjus
A very special street party indeed! Photo©Ed Hood

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 !’

Modane Valfréjus
We’ve driven up this climb with drunken fans all over the road, it’s hair-raising. Photo©Ed Hood

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!

Modane Valfréjus
Ramūnas Navardauskas. Photo©Ed Hood

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.

Modane Valfréjus
Nicolas Roche works hard for the team. Photo©Ed Hood

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.’

Modane Valfréjus
Regular top ten finisher in many one-day classic and semi-classics, Giampaolo Caruso shows his feelings about the unique atmosphere on the Alpe. Photo©Ed Hood

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.

Modane Valfréjus
Tommy Voeckler has in the past stopped and confronted people who shouted abuse at him – not today though. Photo©Ed Hood

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.

Modane Valfréjus
Daniel Oss “just brings it home”. Photo©Ed Hood

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.

Modane Valfréjus
French fans celebrate their countryman’s victory. Photo©Ed Hood

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!’

Modane Valfréjus
The mountain will take some tidying, for sure. Photo©Ed Hood

We’re just glad we don’t have to clean up!

Paris calls!

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

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