Tina and I went to France on vacation for two weeks at the beginning of July 2005. We spent most of our time cycling in the French Alps, and watching the Tour de France. I’ll summarize the details of our trip here. You can see pictures from our trip by clicking here.
We arrive in Lyon and get used to the time change. We put our bikes together and ride around Lyon a little, but had to delay our ride until after a thunderstorm with lots of lightning passed.
We get picked up by the Tour group and head to Albertville. We have time for a quick ride when we get there. Tina isn’t feeling well due to an unknown stomach ailment but I manage to climb to the top of the Col du Tamié. I get back to the hotel in time to see Lance and the Discovery team wins the team-time trial.
- Distance: 21.23 miles
- Climbing: 2671 ft.
Tina and I ride up the Cormet de Roselend. (Climbs 4020 feet in 12 miles.) The Tour de France will ride this same climb in about a week. We ride it when it’s cold and a bit rainy. In fact, the top is so socked in that Tina decides to take the support van down. I decide to tough it out and ride down on my bike. I’m pretty cold and it starts raining hard on the descent but I manage to warm up in Beaufort a bit before continuing. It rains hard again coming into Albertville, but I’m not as cold as I was at the top and make it in okay.
- Distance: 49.08 miles
- Climbing: 5928 ft.
This is a transfer day from Alberville to Valloire. Our luggage goes in the van, but we ride our bikes. The main climb is the Col du Télégraphe at the end. (Climbs 2755 feet in 7 miles.) Tina rides with Steve Eglash, who was kind enough to ride with her for most of the trip, while I ride with another group in front. I reach the top of the Télégraphe first, but that’s not surprising since our group was in front all day.
- Distance: 58.85 miles
- Climbing: 5640 ft.
Another transfer day from Valloire to l’Alpe d’Huez via the Col du Galibier. (Climbs 4022 feet in 10.3 miles.) Tina is suffering a bit from saddle sores and lingering illness so she starts off before me. I dawdle in a group for a while until we hit the steep sections of the climb, at which point I go on ahead. It’s freezing at the top, with a temperature of around 35 degrees. I had passed Tina on the way up, but she’s not far behind and reaches the top with lots of cheering from the group. We descend the long road to Bourg d’Oisans and the bottom of the climb to l’Alpe d’Huez. (Climbs 3480 ft in 9 miles.) I get to the top in just over an hour and try to find the hotel, the location of which I have no clue. However I find it quick enough and go out to find Tina to make sure she doesn’t get lost.
- Distance: 50.72 miles
- Climbing: 8048 ft.
Nominally a rest day, but I decide to do the time trial up l’Alpe d’Huez. I was planning on doing La Marmotte, a race over the Col du Glandon, the Col de Télégraphe and Galibier and then finishing at the top of l’Alpe d’Huez, but that was too much riding for even me, so I just ride to the bottom and go back up as fast as I can. I pass lots of riders who are tired and just finishing La Marmotte, but that helps me keep my pace high all the way to the top. I finish with a good time of 64 minutes, but that’s a far cry from Lance’s time in the 2004 time trial of about 39 minutes.
- Distance: 18.53 miles
- Climbing: 3540 ft.
This is a transfer day from l’Alpe d’Huez to St. Jean-de-Maurienne via the Col du Glandon. (Climbs 3641 feet in 13 miles.) The Col de la Croix de Fer (Iron Cross) is about 2 km farther up from the Glandon, so we get two Cols for the price of one today. Tina is riding well today after her rest day, and meets some bike riders on touring bikes traveling around Europe. I forge on ahead though, and enjoy the fun descent (14 miles straight down. Yeah!) down to St. Etienne-de-Cuines before heading into St. Jean.
- Distance: 49.97 miles
- Climbing: 5528 ft.
Another transfer day from St. Jean-de-Maurienne back to Albertville via the Col de la Madeleine. (Climbs 5039 feet in 12.5 miles.) I ride with Tina today, although her saddle sores get the best of her but not before she makes it just short of the summit. She walks the rest of the way and we enjoy a lunch at the café at top while watching people drive up in campers and set up to wait for the Tour which comes through in couple days time. The descent is another screamer although I’m hampered somewhat by the heavy traffic on the road. Tina hitches a ride in the support van so she’s all showered and clean by the time I get to Albertville. Yay!
- Distance: 49.19
- Climbing: 5492 ft.
The Tour de France comes through Albertville today, climbing the Cormet de Roselend we did almost a week ago, then descending down to the climb up to Courcheval. Tina and I decide to go up the Cormet instead of to Courcheval, so we can get back to Albertville and see the race finish on TV. We get a nice picnic lunch at the local Géant supermarket and some paint for the road. Tina makes the mistake of giving me the paintbrush at some point, and I draw a couple of things that have our tour-group companions perplexed and probably the pro-riders too, if they had time to really ponder all the road art that they see. We get plenty of swag from the publicity caravan, including a couple of giant green hands, which were pretty hard to ride down the mountain with, as they stuck out of my backpack and caused some serious drag.
Tina and I ride the valley to the base of the Col de la Madeleine to watch the race go through there. We don’t go up too high and we find a great spot in a corner to watch the Tour go by. We enjoy another picnic lunch waiting for the race to arrive, and I get some great pictures of the publicity caravan and the race as it goes by.
Our tour group returns to Lyon and we all sadly parted company after enjoying an excellent bicycling vacation. Tina and I flew into Paris and enjoyed a few days there before returning to the Bay Area.