Nikki & Grans TdF avec Alpe D’Huez

We arrived in Bourg D’Oisans late Saturday 22 July 2017.  Bourg is situated just past Grenoble towards the south of France & would be our base for the next couple of weeks.  It is also situated at the bottom of Alpe D’Huez and below is a brief summary of our Tour De France experience.  As we were heading towards the mountains, which we could see in the far distance, we were heading towards very dark thundery skies, which proved to be right as we seemed to be following the storm clouds all the way to our destination.

Sunday 23 July – it was sunny & warm.  I did a 31min run in the morning & then did some shopping followed by a few cat naps.  I then did a 1hr 15min bike ride in the afternoon up & then down the Col d’Ornon (2,293ft of climbing).

Monday 24 July – Coach 2 told me that we’d had a very big storm that night.  I didn’t hear anything so I think that she was telling porkies!!!  The morning was sunny & cloudy & did a 32min run.  In the afternoon we had rain as well as sunshine & we both walked to the local swimming pool for a swim.  The evening was cold so got the covers out to keep warm.

Tuesday 25 July – It was a wet start today but I still did a 31min run.  The afternoon was still on the cool side but I did a 1hr 30min bike ride which was part way up Alpe D’Huez & then across The Ridge (not sure what this road is but it runs across the mountain that overlooks the back of our house –  2,716ft of climbing).  It was still cold in the evening so the covers came out again.

Wednesday 26 July – today we had a sunny start & the day felt warm.  The thermometer in the kitchen was reading 31 deg C.  I did a 1hr 42min bike ride which went up the Pas de la Confession, which is a 14K climb & is possibly my favourite climb around this area (3,172ft of climbing).  I came back to find that there was a market in & around Bourg so we both had a wander around the town looking at & tasting / smelling the local delicacies.  In the afternoon we jumped in the car & did the reverse of my bike ride that I did on Tuesday.  When we reached Alpe D’Huez we decided to go to the top & register for my race on Friday (oh yes, that it is the reason that we are here because I’m doing the Sprint Triathlon).  They always have a good expo up here so spent a leisurely meander around before finding somewhere for lunch as registration didn’t open until 2:30 so we had a few hours to kill before then.  After registration we spent some time watching & cheering on the kids race before heading back down the mountain to Bourg.

Thursday 27 July – yet another warm start to the day.  We did a top up shop run by strolling down to the local supermarket (there are three in Bourg – one massive one just on the outskirts, a slightly smaller one  & a mini one in the centre).  When we got back to the house I did my usual warm up bike ride (20min) & run (10min) & then spent the rest of the day relaxing on the balcony watching the swifts, swallows, buzzards & a couple of passing Golden Eagles.  There were paragliders jumping off the Alpe which we could see from the top balcony.

Friday 28 July – RACE DAY – Finally.  This is our third time of coming here to race & as mentioned before in my race reports, they have both been very wet & freezing cold.  Yippee.  At last we have 30+ deg C & a beautiful day for a race.  The first order of the day, after breakfast, was to drive up the top of Alpe D’Huez (again) to drop off my run shoes in T2.  We then headed back to the house for another light bite before heading off to Lac du Verney (i.e. Lake Verney) which is owned by EDF & this is the only time that they allow swimmers or anyone in or on the lake.  Transition was very busy.  The French marshals wear black & white striped tops which make them look very official.  They announced that the water temperature was very warm (17 deg C) so wetsuits were not mandatory.  However when I entered the water (in my wetsuit) it must’ve been a French 17 deg C because it didn’t feel that warm to me!!!  With it being a mass start, & with 1300 athletes, there was not a lot of room for a warm up & I had to fight my way through (not literally) to get to the start line for the 1.2K swim.  Once the claxon had gone off I felt just a little bit of tightness around my chest.  This could’ve been from the cold or may be I went off too quick to get out of the melee, so I just had to ease off a little bit but managed to stay wide around the turns to keep out of trouble.  Otherwise the swim went OK.  It is always very difficult to get out of the lake because of the near vertical exit ramp to T1 where the wetsuit had to be taken off & placed into a black bag for transportation to T2 by the organisers.  I was now on the 28K bike ride.  It probably doesn’t sound that far but you do have to climb the 21 bends that make up Alpe D’Huez.  To get to the bottom of the Alpe it is such a hectic, & sometimes dangerous ride because there never seems to be any draft busters.  There is riding in packs, people cutting across you, people riding on the wrong side of the road (which are not closed for the race weekend) so I just played a cautious game until I reached the foot of the climb, where I put it on the 28 ring at the back & headed off up the mountain.  I thoroughly enjoy doing this climb & I made sure that I was constantly drinking throughout the climb because by now it felt very hot in the afternoon sunshine.  After an hour(ish) of climbing I eventually reached the top & into T2 where Coach 2 was waiting to cheer me on.  T2 wasn’t as smooth as usual because my shoes were hidden in between the bikes either side of me, but not too much time was lost.  I then headed off onto the 7K run which is an out & back on the mountain bike tracks which a bit of tarmacked road thrown in for good measure.  To my surprise, my legs felt OK & the run was going really well.  I was passing people all the time but I did struggle a little bit on the long climb after the feed station.  I was still making sure that I drank lots to keep hydrated.  We then had a quick descent into the village to the finish, through Transition to pick up your band then through to the finish line.  Afterwards, I sat in a nice ice bath which was very refreshing after such a hot race.  They had six tubs full of ice & there were a lot of smiling people sitting in them enjoying the cool feeling on their hot, aching bodies.  There was also a great selection of post-race food as well as Coke, water, energy drinks, Ice Tea, all manner of fresh fruits, peanuts, biscuits, crisps (in other words – food heaven).  My race results are as follows:

Swim – 21:40

Bike – 1:37:11

Run – 34:31

(Ride time up the Alpe – 1:11:11 – 3,897ft of climbing)

Overall time 2:37:12

Overall position – 248 (10th in my age group (& 1st Brit home in my age group)

Saturday 29 July – yet another sunny start to the day so we did a load of washing.  Today we discovered that there was a much bigger market going on in Bourg so we spent time meandering around the streets looking at all manner of things – apart from the usual food stalls there were clothes, bags, jewellery, even lawn mowers & a whole lot more besides. I then did an easy bike ride just to ease the legs.  Late afternoon / early evening we had a massive thunderstorm which was quite spectacular with the lighting & monster claps of thunder.

Sunday 30 July – the storm continued throughout the night & into the morning but it turned into a very sunny & very hot day.  Coach 2 spent the day on the balcony & I headed off on a 2hr 10min bike ride which consisted of 3,930ft of climbing which took me up to the top of Auris en Oisans ski station.

Monday 31 July – it was now turning into the start of a very warm week.  This is something that we have been looking forward to.  We both went for an early morning swim & the temperature was now peeking into the mid 30s so, as you do, you head off to do a 1hr 40min bike ride (what is it they say about mad dogs & English men!!!).  I headed back towards Lake Verney & did the climb behind it which was called Vaujany & it consisted of 2,054ft.

Tuesday 1 August – today was a monster day.  Today was a sunny / cloudy day so we had a road trip to Briancon.  The main reason for this was the previous week, I’d watched Froomie & Team Sky climb up the Col d’Izoard on TV.  So what Froomie could do, Starmie could do to.  This was such a great climb to do.  We parked near the bottom of the climb & I cycled back down to the start & Coach 2 waited for me to go by before she headed off up the mountain in the car, passing me & heading off up to find suitable places to stop to either take photos of me  on the climb or to pass up bottles & food / gels.  The lower part of the mountain is lovely with woods & meadows but the higher you go, the more the landscape changes & nearer the top it is completely barren – if you used your imagination you could almost believe that you were on the moon.  This an iconic climb & one that I have been wanting to do for some time now so this is now ticked off my list.  So after the obligatory photos of me standing next to the sign, I descended back down the mountain to the car & we headed off to do another climb, which had been recommended to me by a Dutch lady who was doing the long course triathlon, & the name of this mountain was Col de Granon.  She said that she had done both this & the Izoard & had found the Granon was much more technical & steeper than the Izoard, & boy was she right.  Nearing the top of this climb we were at 11-12% so things were starting to get a little difficult, but I made it to the top.  Not bad for an old skinny bloke.  In total, I rode for 3hr 35mins & did 7,998ft of climbing today.

Wednesday 2 August – we had a cloudier & coolish start to the day so I did a 31min run but as the day continued, yet again it turned into another hot day with no wind, so myself & Coach 2 headed off to the pool for another swim session.  It was now so warm in the house we had to put the fan on as well as having the windows & doors open.

Thursday 3 August – yet another hot day & another road trip.  This time we drove up the Col do la Croix de Fer to go over the Glandon & headed towards our next challenge.  Again, what Froomie could do, so could I.  If you can’t work out where I’m heading then I will tell you that my aim was to do the Telegraph & the Galibier in one hit.  Coach 2 dropped me off at the bottom of the Telegraph & headed off up the mountain to do as before.  I then headed off up the road behind her on my trusted steed, which is doing me proud.  I eventually caught up with Coach 2 at the top where we had a quick bite to eat before I headed off down the other side of the mountain towards the bottom of the Galibier.  Now I knew that this one was going to be a real testing challenge.  About a quarter of the way up I came across not the best of sights.  A fellow cyclist had come off & was being attended by paramedics in three emergencies vehicles & just as I was cycling past the air ambulance was arriving.  He didn’t look in very good shape.  I cycled passed them but must have been the last one that they let by because all of a sudden there was nothing on the road ahead or behind for quite some time.  Coach 2 was further up the mountain & could see what was going on & she confirmed that they weren’t letting anyone go by until he was safely airlifted.  I continued on & enjoyed passing such lovely scenery.  I passed the Marco Pantani monument (hero or villain – it depends on how you feel about him).  Yet again, this was such a great climb to do with such beautiful scenery.  I even saw a Golden Eagle which had just taken off & started to circle up on thermals.  Coach 2 was also watching the Eagle & said that she’d heard whistles from a Marmot which was obviously keeping a very close eye on this magnificent bird of prey.  I descended the other side of the Galibier, which eventually joins the Lautaret & had a good 15min descent but had to call it a day because there were three tunnels coming up & I didn’t fancy trying to wend my way through them without any lights, so I called an end to what had been a great day out.  With 3hrs 10mins of riding & 6,985ft of climbing.  Another two to tick off my list.

Friday 4 August – it was still warm so did a 36min easy run to start the day.  Then what I did was my favourite climb up the Pas de la Confession which was a 1hr 50min ride with 2,946ft of climbing.  We then spent the rest of the day packing.

In total, I did 35,991ft of climbing

Saturday 5 August – going home.  Very sad to leave such a lovely little town & after such a great fortnight.