Stage 18 was the Annecy TT which circled the beautiful Lake Annecy. I slept in Annemasse and decided to drive over the Col de Romme & Columbierre on the way to Annecy. It was well worth it. It was really cool even if I was driving and not biking it. The markings of the race from yesterday were everywhere, names on the road, decorations everywhere, and of course people biking the legendary Columbierre.
Did I already say that I would have loved to be biking this, but my recent back/SI joint problems made that unrealistic. The drive was really spectacular nonetheless.
Col de Columbierre.
Oh and by the way the GPS takes some getting used to with the roundabouts. It will say something like "enter roundabout then take 2nd exit". It didn't give the street name, so if an exit had been added recently to the roundabout, it was real easy to take the wrong turn. This happened a few.... err several hundred times over the next few days LOL.
I made it to Annecy an hour or 2 before the race was scheduled to start. Found a port-a-john, pretty interesting, just a hole in the floor in the corner with a couple footprints on the floor to assist with "aim". Walked back & forth over several km's before and after the start/finish area. One thing of note was that I was on the inside of the circle, and after the race started it was impossible to get to the other side. I tried to get over near the start area, but it was basically impossible to get a good vantage point. You really need at least 2 people, so that one can always stay and save a prime spot. So most of my time was spent in the last half km or so before the finish. Since my picture taking skills aren't the greatest, and I really wanted to watch the race, most of my camera use consisted of short video clips. Just hold the camera out there while watching it at the same time.
Near the start line the crowds were big.
Got the devil to give a wave from inside the "pay" or celebrity area.
Spent some time talking with a couple French footballers. Was amazed at the support for Lance Armstrong, even little kids just yelling like mad for L.A. People speaking French, and waving American flags, interesting stuff. The TT obviously offered the most time actually watching the racers since they were spread over a few hours. It was pretty easy getting in and out of the Annecy area, and not bad as far as getting a reasonable spot to watch the race from.
After the race, I was off to Aix Les Bains, where I was spending the night. Got there while it was light still (sunset was around 10pm or so), Les Loges du Park. Nobody working behind the desk or in the lobby of the hotel, so I was just starting to wonder what I was supposed to do, then 4 beautiful young TDF podium girls walked in. This pour helpless American guy asked them if they spoke any English, and they proceeded to tell me that I needed to go to the hotel next door to check in to this hotel. Thats what I did, checked in, but much to my chagrin the 4 podium girls weren't waiting for me in my room when I got in! Not a bad little room, again nothing fancy, 2 tiny beds, and it did have a little kitchenette. Unfortunately it was late enough by this time, that none of the stores or shops were open any more. I devoured the bread, snackbars and other goodies I had, and hit the sack.