July 18, 2011 1 Comment
Day two here in France began with a walking tour of Grenoble, as our Europeds Tour group wasn’t meeting up until the afternoon. As it turns out, Grenoble can be an incredibly pleasant place when it’s not raining and you’re not pulling bike cases 1.5km to your hotel! Nestled in an Alpine valley, Grenoble is filled with lovely cafes, quaint streets, and this peripherique (cable car) that went to an overlooking mountainside.
But soon enough it was time to head back to the train station to meet our tour group (luckily we discovered that Grenoble has a highly efficient tram system that ran right by our hotel, so we didn’t have to drag our bags this time). We loaded up our gear and headed up to Alpe d’Huez with Charly, one of the guides.Once on the road, we finally saw our first sign for the Tour de France (OK, it was a warning about road closures, but we knew we were getting close!):
Just about the moment we arrived on top of Alpe d’Huez, we tore open our bike cases and set to work getting our bikes ready to ride! It may have been late in the afternoon, but when you get a chance to ride Alpe d’Huez, you go for it! Here we are at the bottom of the climb, in matching Performance Ultra jerseys and shorts, with Chris on his Scattante Team bike and David on his Devinci Leo bike.
So what can we say about the climb up Alpe d’Huez? Well, it’s pretty darn hard and unrelenting, but it’s definitely climbable. You just find your rhythm and count off the 21 hairpins as you go up – the pitch of the road varies a bit, but really it’s a fairly constant (if steep) grade. But don’t get us wrong, we were still maxing out our bike’s gearing range! Of course we felt a little less impressive when we passed this guy on the climb… towing his child in a trailer!
The payoff for all of your hard climbing work was the view – checking out the hairpin bends from above, after pedaling your way up, was a totally rewarding experience. Plus there were already tons of folks camped out on the side of the road cheering you on – especially a Dutch contingent who even brought their own DJ (we hammered out a little sprint as we passed this crowd, just to give them something to cheer about)!
Finally, after a little over an hour, we crested the summit of Alpe d’Huez – although it turns out that this isn’t really the top of the climb for the Tour riders, which is really about 3km further up the mountain! But it does give you some sense of the crowds of folks already filling up this legendary climb, in anticipation of the big day!
Here we are after our little jaunt up Alpe d’Huez, with a pretty amazing vista in the background. All in all, not a bad way to spend an afternoon. Tomorrow rain is in the forecast, but we’ve got our fingers crossed that we’ll get to share another epic ride in the Alps with you!