Last fall when I saw the potential American line-up for Tour de France riders, I decided 2009 would be the year to check off that item on the Life List (Bucket List, whatever you want to call it). I was able to convince a few of my Sunday riding buddies that they should see the Tour in 2009 too, and the planning wheels were set into motion.
While I wanted to see a part of the Tour, I also wanted to ride my bike in France. (What cycling fanatic
wouldn’t?) I was not interested in just being a spectator at the Tour and luckily my buddies felt the same. Our preference was to ride one or more of the classic climbs.
Julie Gildred at Ride Strong Bike Tours put together a custom design for us. In less than two weeks, I’ll be dropping you notes from France.
Here are the trip highlights:
Day 1: Arrival day and possible 25-30 mile ride in the afternoon, time permitting.
Day 2: Warm-up on a beautiful local's loop over the Col d'Ornon and La Morte (90 km/ 5,130 feet climbing)
This ride is ideal for the first day starting in the cool shade of the mountains and saving the easier
climb, the Col d’Ornon (14.4km at 3.9% average grade) for last. The descent drops us back down above Bourg with cross valley views of L’Alpe d’Huez. The first climb Col de la Morte is 14km at 6.5% average.
Day 3: Ride L'Alpe d'Huez (Life List item) and Col de Sarenne (86 km/5,200+ feet climbing). There's a short warm-up ride in the valley below before climbing the 13.8 km, 21 hairpin legend, L’Alpe d’Huez.
Day 4: July 22, Ride Col du Marais and Col de la Croix Fry to the Stage 17 Finish in Grand Bornand (85 km; 4089 feet climbing with options for more). Race fans can spend the morning climbing and descending through the pretty Swiss-like villages to La Grand Bornand for the Stage 20 finish festivities. Others can continue up the Col de la Columbiere to watch the pro peloton as they ascend the final col of the day. Any where you are is guaranteed to be a good spot. This is one of the climbs made famous by Floyd when he made his miraculous 'come back'!
Day 5: Ride the Col de la Forclaz (2,100 feet gain in 10.2 km) in the morning and descend to Lake Annecy to watch the Stage 18 TT around the lake.
Day 6: Ride Stage 20 without the crowds to near Mt. Ventoux (75 km with many options for more).
Day 7: Ride the Col de Notre-Dame des Abeilles and Mt Ventoux before the pros (80-140 km/ 6,000 - 8,000 feet climbing). This is a stage not to be missed. Strong riders will depart early to ride the stage
and see the finish on Mt. Ventoux. Slower riders have several 'short-cuts' to get to Bedoin and start the classic ascent of Mt. Ventoux. Riders can wait at the top and enjoy the party or descend before the pros and watch the action on TV.
Watching the Tour on TV, it seems surreal that I'll be there in just a few days. I can hardly wait.