Monday, July 18, 2011

Alpe d'Huez


The first, and probably last, beautiful day I have had in France. Forty seven degrees (9 C) at start, Brian Hutchins and I rolled downhill for about six miles to the base of the climb.

Bridge behind the chateau where we stayed

Brian worked with me in Washington, D.C. for a number of years but had taken a job with the International Postal Union, a United Nations agency, in Bern, Switzerland. I contacted Brian and asked if he would meet me for the climb and was very pleased when he did.

A View of the Alps

The climb is beautiful. There are 21 hairpin curves and each is marked with a sign. The lower section seemed steeper than the higher section. We passed many cyclists and got passed by many. Probably got passed by a few more than we passed. They cheat.

Near the top they were setting up barricades about 3km from the finish already. It was weird to ride through them. Although four days before the Tour comes by, every spot where one could stop and park a camper had already been claimed. 

No Space for more Campers

At a curve in the village of Huez, was a large contingent of Dutch fans. This was the famous Dutch Corner. They had one week's supply of beer and were already partying even though the race didn't come through until Friday. They had their music BLASTING and were having a great time.

Dutch Corner

<--UP       DOWN-->

Unlike the fans in the Pyrenees, very few fans on this Alp cheered as we went by. However, in contrast to even the Tourmalet, there may have been 100 times as many cyclists going up the Alp. If they cheered everybody they would soon lose their voices.

Brian Hutchins (L); Barry (R)

Although Brian and I rode together most of the way, once we got inside the barriers he tailed off and I reached the summit maybe 500 meters before he did. I'm not bragging or anything. For years Brian was one of the fastest players in our lunchtime Ultimate game on the Mall but the truth is I bike a lot more than he does. This was a more my element.

Barry - Inside the barriers

At the top I was able to wait for him and get a picture of him coming to the summit. Maybe I should have let him go first and take my picture.
Brian Hutchins at the summit
Once on the summit, we did a little shopping and went to lunch. Then came the fun descent back to the valley.

Col du Tourmalet (to the summit this year); Picture with the Devil; What the hell (I can say that), a second picture with the Devil; A TdF Route directional sign; Mont Ventoux; and now Alpe d'Huez. If I do nothing more in France, I will still be very happy.

Au revoir!
And later, a Special Commemorative License Plate

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