<More photos will follow>
Day 1, Wednesday July 13th.
At the Ventoux campsite we first took care of our camper van. Emptied our gray water tank, toilet cartridge and we filled up our water tank.
We then drove via Grenoble to our next stop camping Ferme Noemie in Sable. The drive was about 3 hours and we ran into some slow traffic around Grenoble. This was the day before the Tour de France stage at Alpe d'Huez and I expected heavy traffic because of the spectators. That turned out unwarranted, it was an easy drive to the campsite.
Soon we drove into the campsite, we were directed to our location in the paddock, which meant no electrical hookup. I was too late booking a spot and this left for campsite options in the area.
The views of the mountains surrounding the campsite were astonishing. Since we were low on groceries we rode our bike to the town Le Bourg-d'Oisans. There was a bike route along the river the Romanche into town.
The town was in preparation for the tour stages coming through the next 2 days. We had to be selective with our groceries as we only had our backpacks with us. But we could not resist the special occasion rose wine. On the way back I realized I did not have my phone anymore. Fortunately they had found it the grocery store.
In the meantime the paddock had almost complete filled out with campervan and the campsite was full of cyclists and our cycling enthousiasts. Around us were campers from England, Netherlands, Germany, Slovenia and Denmark.
After dinner we rode to town again to get feel for the festivities. All the patios were occupied but we did manage to find a spot for a beer. Since it was the night before bastille day there was going to be fireworks. We could not wait for that as we had no lights. We actually got caught by the dark as it got dark early because of the big mountains around us. The sun disappears at 6:30pm. Where normally the sun sets at is 9:30 in this part of France.
Day 2, Thursday July 14th
This was the day of the Tour de France finish on the Alpe d'Huez. The campsite owner had warned us about the craziness that happens on the climb and advised us not to ride our bikes up but walk. This would also allows to use the hiking trails that cut off the switch backs.
Well a hike it turned out to be. We walked 15 miles and climbed / descended 2500ft. We literally limped home. But it was worth it. We left 10:30AM and were back 9:30pm
One of the first specatables we saw were some frenchman in unitards doing performance arty dances on load music. At switchback 19. All the switchbacks going up are numbered. The higher you go the lower the number all the way to 1.
At swithback 11 was a contigent of Danes celebrating their hero Jonas Vingegaard who last days stage and took over the yellow jersey from Tadej Pogacar. In the meantime it had gotten quite hot. The temperature reached over 90F.
In the town La Garde was a restaurant with a outdoor patia where they sold beer and other refrehments. While I waited in line for the drinks, Paula secured 2 seats at a table with 3 Frysians from the Netherlands. While were chatting a LeClerk advertising car stopped and handed out merchandise white t-shirts and hats. Paula went out and got her a set.
Late walking up this turned out to be very handy. As she wetted the t-shirt in the streams next to the road and put them over her head to cool off and protect her from the sun. Later we ran into the car again and I secured myself a set as well.
We kept walking up, occasionally skipping corners by using the hiking trail. We almost missed the famous Dutch corner, switchback 7 as taking one of those trails. But the noise of the fans alerted us and we walked back down a little to see the rowdy crowd. As in Zwift reproduction of the Alpe dHuez climb the road is painted orange.
We decided to not watch the riders here as it was too busy and would not have an opportunity to see and photograph the riders. So we continued our walk up to the first part of the town Alpe d'Huez. We found a nice cafe and met a couple from Germany with whom we chatted, drank beer and wine until the riders would arrive.
We walked back down to switchback 6 where we found a place in the shade with a good view of the corner. After about 40 minutes the first helicopter appeared and the roar of the crowd below us announced the first rider come up.It turned out to be Pidcock who had escaped from the leading group at the earlier parts of the Alpe d'Huez. He was followed by a few other riders such as Chris Froome.
A little later the group with the yellow jersey leader Jonas Vingegaard came through, with Pogadcar in his wheel. I was able to make a little video of it. It only 6 seconds before they turned the next corner.
We waited for a few other riders such as Steven Kruijswijk and Wout van Aert, but then decided to start to walk down. In the Dutch corner things had gotten even crazier, the path the cheering fans created was barely wide enough for the riders to come through. Riders smiled, did wheelies and one Dutch rider accepted a beer handup.
Once all the riders passed, the spectators who were on there bikes started to wizz down. Followed by the tour caravan, all kinds of funny cars advertising goods. These were then followed by the team cars.
At the town were we met the Frysians in the way up, we notstopped for an icecream and a beer. And enjoyed them sitting on a wall along the road. We saw the policewoman we saw earlier in the day again. She asked us if we used our creditcard to get the icecream we answered in our best french that it looked they only accepted cash. I offered to by her an icecream but she very decidedly said no. Understandable. Can't corrupt the Gendarmerie.
The last few corners we were pretty tired and we still had to walk 4 miles along the river. They were long miles but we made it. A long but very satisfying day.
Day 3, Friday July 15th
We had no plans for today, but then I a conversation in the morning with a lady from Holland and she mentioned that after yesterday's Alpe d'Huez stage the next stage would start in the town Le Bourg-d'Oisans just 4 miles from our campsite.
We arrived there at 11ish and the stage would start at 1pm. And it was busy the main street was lined with team buses and support cars. Jump-Visma, Bora, UAE, Ineos.
All the bikes were being prepared by the support crew. Lots of people gawking at the activity.
We then approached the stage where the team presentation was. Paula staged behind stage, as there you had a good view on the riders riding the ramp up on the podium, also there was some shade.
I went across the street to get a good view of the podium. I had a relatively good view. Each team was announced with commentary, video, music and then the riders of team would ride up the podium and each of them announced.
Some of the more famous riders were interviewed such as the folks wearing the jerseys Pogacar, Vingegaard, van Aert but also Froome, Pinot and the stage winner of the day before Pidcock.
After the presentation I tried to reunite with Paula as the street was now blocked off. I missed the depart, but did see some of the riders getting to start. I now had to wait until all the team buses and support cars had passes before I was able to cross.
When Paula and I reunited, we decided to go for a ride towards the other side of town, it became a short one as we got hungry and had lunch at Thai restaurant in town. The chicken noodles with vegetables and covered with satesauce were very tasty.
After lunch we got some more groceries and went back to the campsite. We then had a relaxed rest of the afternoon and evening. We still were not connected to electricity but I gave the satellite TV a try and low and behold it did work on battery power. We were able to see the Dutch Tour de France talk show and then called it a night after I had layed out all my riding stuff for my Alpe d'Huez attempts early in the morning.
Day 4, Saturday July 16th
I woke up 10 minutes before the alarm would go off at 6:30am. Thanks to my prep work the day before I was quickly ready to start riding. But it went wrong when I wanted to top off my tires with the new battery powered bike pump. When I unscrewed the pump from the rear valve, the little valve came loose and my rear tired emptied out. This already made a racket, but then I had to pump the rear my the pump and took forever until I realized it was no longer adding air. So I had to use my handpump to get the tire up to pressure. Later that day I apologized to the neighbors for the early morning noise, but apparantly they had nor heard anything.
After saying goodbye to Paula I ride to the town Le Bourg-d'Oisans for a double espresso. That hit the spot and then was on my way within a half mile the climb started. My legs felt better than going up the Ventoux. I started with my 100 breaths seated and 20 breaths standing technique. But the 21 turns on the climb made me change tactics, as the grade goes down in the turns. Instead I stayed seated until I reached a turn, then I would shift up for the flatter section in the turn and once the grade picked up I would stand for 20 breaths before going back to a seated position again. Only when the straights were longer than 100 breaths I would use my original technique.
On the ride up I only saw a few people ascending but there were numerous people going down, ie the left earlier than I did.
With all my turns tactics I kept losing track what turn I was. I did not take any photos during the climb until turn 7, the Dutch corner. Upto so far I recognized m0st of climb from our hike up. After turn 6 it was all new to me. I was thinking that with turn 6 I was close to the top was a mistake. There was still quite some climbing to do and looking at wat later turned out to be turn 3 I thought after it would reach the top. Not. I had to do 2 more turns, after this emotional setback my back started to hurt a little and I got a little tired. In the end I did the 8 mile 3200ft climb in 1 hours and just over 12 minutes.
I then peddled around a little to find the cappucinno I promised myself. I saw a bakery, but it had no espresso machine. At a hotel I saw some buses from Trek Travel. One of the staff greeted me in Dutch. Must have been my orange jersey that gave me away. I asked him about coffee opportunties and he pointed back to the bakery. I ordered a chocolate almond croissant and got a cappucinno from their machine.
I resumed my ride to the gravel section, I had to climb a little further out of the town and then entered a mountain road not to wide. After about 1.5 miles a took a left on the gravel road. First I descended a bit but then had to climb for about a mile to get over a small pass. The gravel section that followed was magical with bright green field, a look over the valley below. I saw some riders coming up on what looked like a mix of a fat bike and and electrical scooter. They had a hard time on the loose gravel.
Just before the gravel ended I saw a cloud in the sky and just when I was wondering what is was about, I heard the tingling of bells. A huge flock of sheep came down the hill guided by the shepherd and his dog. The sheep were the cause of the dust cloud. The bells sounded very comforting.
Soon the gravel road ended and I was back on a regular road. This would lead me around the mountain and was very narrow at some point with steep dropoffs. At this point my dormant but always present scare of heights kicked in. Whenever where there is a low edge with a steep dropoff my legs turn to jelly. I battled it by not trying to look into the valley but to focus on the road. This helped a little. Fortunately it was all downhill and I was on the mountain side of the road.
Things got a little interesting when on a very narrow section 3 cars try to pass eachother. I had to overtake them on the valley side which was a bit scary. After this section I ended up back on the main Alpe'dHuez road and descended the last few bends there. The route then included another small gravel / jeep track section through the woods after which it brought me back on the bike path along the river.
When we got back Paula had arranged another spot on the campsite that had access to electricity. When we booked to campsite we had to reserve 4 nights in the paddock without electricity. Originally we had thought to only stay three.
After we moved to van to its new location we went for a bike ride and swim to lake Buclet. It was a little hard to reach by bike, as there were some sketchy hiking trails leading to it. The lake had a beautiful, secluded setting, with great views and would have loved to say peaceful. The latter was not the case as someone was blasting loud techno music across the lake. After our disco swim we rode back to the town to buy the coffee, we forgot to buy earlier. We buy all kinds of stuff and you can guess, again forgot the coffee.