Return to Alpe d’Huez

18 Jul

Heed this warning: If you ever have to get to the top of Alpe d’Huez, it is WAY easier (by which I mean “really fusking hard”) to do it on your bike rather than on your feet. In fact, I couldn’t even make it to the top when I attempted to walk up it to witness the finish of Stage 18 of the TDF.

I plopped down at the 10km banner and took a nap. I woke when 4 orange-clad Dutch dudes came up and set down the 2 26-packs of beer they lugged up the mountain. The Dutch, I’m telling you, really know how to party! “My” Dutch dudes were perfectly content to kick it with me at the 10km banner (better view of the surrounding mountainside vistas and better visual contrast for photos of the racers) rather than heading to the Official Dutch Corner. A couple R2R people made it to the Official Dutch Corner and they look like zombies this morning — a helluva hike + a helluva party = an incredibly destructive event.

Only 36 of us (out of 127) opted to go on the “watch it live” TDF excursion. Everyone else believed the weatherman (“torrential rains and flash flooding” predicted) and opted to just head into Grenoble to do sight seeing and TV watching there. The weatherman, however, got it completely backasswards: It was a 100% perfect day — 70* and slightly overcast. Could not ask for better TDF-watching weather.

Could not ask for better TDF-watching companions, either, all 1.1 million of them. I was consistently impressed by how cheerful and well behaved everyone was. The hodgepodge of languages and customs melded together to make for a universally good time. Everyone shared what they had, and picked up their trash (!), and smiles abounded.

The only bit of unruliness was when the promo cars whizzed by and flung their schwag into the crowd — elbows flew as folks scrambled to catch/gather-up t-shirts, hats, key chains, bracelets, sausages, gummy bears, laundry detergent, condoms, full water bottles (those FRIGGIN HURT when they hit you!), drink mix, pillows, and whatever else there was … that’s just a partial list of the stuff I got; there were many other promotional items that I failed to catch or snag quickly enough off the ground.

My “lunch” consisted entirely of foodstuffs that were flung toward me at 35mph + beers from my Dutch dudes. Fan-freakin-tastic, man!

And speaking of fan-freakin-tastic … Oh my! The fans sported some seriously crizzayzee costumes — or lack thereof. If you have even the slightest interest in people watching, then you would 100% LOVE being a TDF spectator. Who cares if the guys on bikes only whizz by in a flash?! There are endless hours of entertainment to be had at the TDF, for sure.

And speaking of guys on bikes. Damn. They are freakin’ fast, man. And freakishly skinny, too. In fact, the faster they are, the more they resemble pre-pubescent girls. Tiny, tiny fellows. Big lungs on strong little twig legs.

Watching these guys summit Alpe d’Huez twice was a lesson in how to suffer. Those guys must all be seriously into sadomasochism. There is absolutely NO way I’d EVER consider trying to become a professional bike racer. Bike riding is supposed to be fun. Even when you’re challenging yourself you should, in your core, enjoy it (at least IMHO). And there’s just no way those TDF guys were enjoying their ride yesterday (or any of the 17 days before that), unless their core is truly warped … which, come to think of it, is probably the case. Sigh.

Anyhow, it certainly was an incredible experience to be so up-close to them as they raced by. And getting to see them do it twice proved to be very instructive in terms of race dynamics — a topic for a future post, though, cuz I’ve got to wrap this up and get on the bus back to Milan. More on the TDF later…

One Response to “Return to Alpe d’Huez”


  1. Best Year Ever! | JustAdventures - December 30, 2013

    […] every day this month while witnessing bicycle-based miracles in Europe. Also, I hang out with the Tour de France pros and VIPs and then follow that up with some crazy epic not-safe-for-the-blog adventures in London […]

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