dst. (km) Today 39.3 Trip total 3159.8 Odometer 85.2
We left Vaujany around 10:00 to ride up to l’Alpe d’Huez. Some chose the route via Bourg d’Oisans and the main climb, the rest of us headed up to Villard Reculas and then around the side of the mountain to Huez. The unfenced vertiginous drop off the side of the road was too much for some, Richard flat out refused to ride on the right hand side and sidled along the wrong side of the road, hugging the rock walls. Crowds along the roads from Huez onwards made the ride slow to a crawl.
A quick coffee at Huez, a thorough telling off for wheeling my bike through the bar’s courtyard, and it was time to head up the mountain to hairpin #5 and join the other Aussies that had accumulated on the mountain. Some of them had travelled here together, our group had met them in the pub last night! Others just dropped in when they saw the flags or were told that this was where we were — like the guy from Kiama, on the lookout for his wife, somewhere climbing up below us, or the couple that used to live just down the road from me in Richmond! I recognised their bikes before I spotted them, the “Blücher” name caught my eye and I looked up, wondering who here would have a bike from Mascot cycles!
A kombi van, beer, aussie flags and suntans - stereotypical and loads of fun. The atmosphere on the mountain was incredible. The Italian contingent on our left came and offered food, the Americans across the road offered entertainment and continual race updates from their radios. More entertainment than they had intended…
A reporter from Adelaide came and took some group photos for the Herald Sun and other papers. As we were posing, one of the American girls on the other side of the road tried to surreptitiously get changed, unfortunately straight in front of twenty onlookers. Loud cheers rang out as she panicked, got her head stuck in her shirt and danced around topless frantically trying to cover herself.
The whole spectacle of the caravan of sponsors vehicles giving out junk and bored models waving and smiling seemed to get everyone even more worked up. One model looked so bored that I blew her a kiss, at last there was a human reaction as she smiled and blew kisses back to us.
What an atmosphere!
The riders themselves were a blur, even on the hill. Armstrong, then Roux, then the others. So crowded and so fast that I really had no idea at the time who was who. I had even less of an idea of the photos that I’d taken. I’ve either got a photo of Stuart O’Grady by himself, or the back of the head of the guy who jumped in front of me just as I was taking the shot. Now I understand how every few years a fan manages to hit a rider while desperately trying to take a photo through an instamatic view-finder.
The riders hurtle past, I can’t believe it is on the same mountain that I was crawling up last Friday. Lance Armstrong in the lead, gone past so quickly that I didn’t even recognize him, a couple on his tail. A little later the polka-dot jersey — Patrice Halgand as I later found out. Stuart O’Grady was easy to spot, by himself and in the yellow, but unfortunately way off the back of the pack.
It was 6 pm as we left, crawling through the crowds back to Villard Reculas, me hooting the horn the whole a way — a Dutch guy following us offered to buy it when we got stuck.
On the descent I remembered the day’s many beers and tried to take it easy, but the adrenalin wasn’t helping. It all finally hit on the climb from the lake up to Vaujany, a long slow slog, I didn’t reach the hotel until 7 pm, just as it started to rain.
Vaujany(45.15,6.0833333), Villard Reculas, Huez