Travel to the Tour de France–Race Days

At last, Mary’s dream comes true–Las Chicas watch the Tour de France in person. Mary rents a bike and joins 15-year-old Louis for a ride to see stage 19 of Le Tour. Louis is the son of a friend; our friend’s family has lived in the region for generations. On the way, we pass a beautiful lake, created by a dam that Louis’ grandfather helped build.

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We stop by a cousin’s cabin on the way to the stage. It’s a shepherd’s cabin built of stone and wood, where the family spends the summer and takes care of 2,000 or so sheep.


Louis and cousins in front of cabin.


Lake and valley view from cabin.

The uncle moved the sheep to the far side of the valley, so they are  out of the way of the Tour de France stage, which passed right in front of the cabin the day before! Louis and Mary dodge other sheep on the road, but these wayward sheep belong to the neighbors.

We stop for short break, but stay for long lunch of pasta, chicken, ham, bread, salad, cheese, and pineapple upside down cake. All cooked with propane (no electricity here), and the refrigerator also runs on propane. Mary and Louis decline the pre-lunch kir (white wine and cassis) and the lunch wine.

Mary understands a word or two of French. One of the cousins and Louis helpfully interpret random phrases. Louis’ aunt says “If you drink this wine for 90 years, you will grow old.”


Another view from near the cabin: stream, hills, and peaks.

We bike another 15 minutes to watch one of the climbs of stage 19. The others walk and join us later.

We pause on this unpopulated hill to score the most swag from the publicity caravan that precedes the cyclists each day.


Intricate signaling system or simultaneous itchy necks?


Looking the other way toward a waterfall splitting the mountain, the road lined with campers.

After collecting assorted hats and candy from the publicity caravan of swerving cars and trucks, we move to the other side of the hill to wait with other fans.




Lots of Colombian fans here for Nairo Quintana and Roberto Uran Uran.


Louis and his extended family.

At last the racers arrive!  Mary recognizes Romain Bardet in the lead and a chasing Vincenzo Nibali, aka “Nibbles,” aka “The Shark.”  Nibali later won the stage. Mary takes blurry pictures of the chasers.


Find the helmeted cyclists going through the tunnel of fans.


Katusha team bottle hand-off and French fave: Tommy Voeckler.

On the next morning of Stage 20, Mary rides up Alpe d’Huez and takes one picture from the top:


From the Bourg d’Oisans website: The Alpe d’Huez ascent is 3,700 feet over 9 miles, with an average of 7.9 % slope.

The descent is crazy, gendarmes (police) tell me and other cyclists to walk with my bike which we do, until we pass them, then we coast. This continues through the most crowded sections, then finally I can ride down to town. It’s nerve-wracking weaving through the thousands of fans lining the route.

After a quick shower at the hotel, Mary joins Troy and Lisa to walk about two miles back to the mountain. On the way, we get a taste of things to come.  (Thanks to Troy for sharing some photos with us.)



Costumed fans, ready to be on TV.

We walk to Turn 20 of Alpe d’Huez; there are 21 turns, with number 21 being the bottom turn.


Road and fans zig zag up Alpe d’Huez.

Assorted fans at Turn 2o:





Colombians await Nairo Qunitana.

We see Colombian, British, French, Spanish, Italian, Belgian, Australian, Norwegian, and Dutch fans.


The Beefeater boys keep the crowd dancing with their boom box.


The publicity caravan comes by and throws things at us.

We eat Madeleines (cookies) :


We wear our climber polka dot, sprinter green, and Malliot Jaune hats:


and wear our new shirts:


Troy brought  the Lion of Flanders flag and French flag (not pictured) to wave:


More publicity antics:


Finally, we see the race!


Alexandre Geniez leads the stage at this moment. 

Pinot Hejdal

He’s chased by Thibaut Pinot (eventual stage winner, vive la France!) and Ryder Hesjedal.


Chris Froome’s skinny but powerful butt.


The rest of the peleton is just trying to finish the stage.


Adieu from Le Tour de France, Stage 20, Turn 20.

© 2015 by Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds. All rights reserved.

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