Vive Le Tour de France!

Lourdes – Part 3

Well this was the day we all had been looking forward to, and anticipating for a VERY long time!  We were heading back into the Pyrenees Mountains to watch Le Tour come through…. live and in person! We were very excited to say the least!

After days of trying to figure out the BEST place (many maps and GPS devices were used to figure this out) to watch the tour go through from Pau to Bagneres du Luchon, we decided to head to Luz St. Sauveur, on the Col du Tourmalet climb.  The advice we were given from “our” local trampoline/ski instructor from the day before was that the road wouldn’t close down till about 11:00am so we would have plenty of time to get there before the race came through.

Mike and I were both a bit sceptical on whether the road would be open (this is THE Tour de France after all) but decided to go with the advice we were given by our local “guide” and make our way for around 9:30am. This would give us plenty of time to hopefully find parking, and scope our spot to watch from.

We made our way and were pretty surprised that it was relatively quiet.  I was expecting thousands upon thousands of people all crowding the streets just trying to get a glimpse of the riders…… however that was not the case.  We found parking easily and had a great morning (amazing yummy coffee and chocolate croissants were involved) waiting for Le Tour to come through.

About an hour before the riders come through, a huge caravan of sponsor cars came through playing crazy loud music. There were people yelling in French over loud speakers, go-go boys and go-go girls dancing and throwing prizes. Really it was more like junk than prizes, but the kiddies were having fun trying to gather up as many goodies as they could.

At around 11:00 am Mike went to buy a beer….you know…..its a novelty for us Canadians to be able to walk around in public with an alcoholic beverage in hand. I don’t drink beer….. but seriously, how awesome is it to have beer being sold and people just walking around drinking beer, instead of being corralled like sheep behind a “beer garden fence”.  Life is so civilized in France and I LOVE it!

The Tour day that we saw, turned out to be the hardest stage of the entire tour.  Four mountain climbs, and 201 seriously hard kilometers. When they came through Luz St. Sauveur it was the start of the second climb of the day. The peloton was broken into 2 groups…. the mountain climbers were in the front pack and all in the hunt for the polka dot jersey, and to be eventually crowned king of the mountains.  The second pack had Bradley Wiggins and all that were in the hunt to strip him of his coveted, leader of the race, yellow jersey!

It was honestly a blur of cyclists as they passed through Luz St Sauveur.  I would have thought that they would have really been struggling hard to get up the mountain but it looked like this part of the mountain was being handled quite easily by all the riders.  I was so excited by seeing all the riders I actually didn’t get the best shots (certainly not Graham Watson or Liz Kreutz worthy).  The riders passed through, the team cars followed, and then it was over.  It happened that fast.  We headed into the bowling alley/restaurant for coffee/beer and to watch the televised climb up the Col du Tourmalet.  The experience was beyond awesome.

This was Mikes 3rd Tour de France…. in a row…… that he has been in France, watching, live, and in person, and my first. (….so something is wrong with this picture…. no?).

Summer 2010 – after a cycling trip with the guys, Mike said something to the effect that “for being in France, you certainly don’t get a lot of coverage on the race…. its like it’s not even happening”. I thought for sure he was tricking me so I wouldn’t be super envious and know how fabulous it all was.

Summer 2011. Mike was in Paris (for work….hahaha) for the final stage of Le Tour and on the Champs Elysees watching live.  We were talking on the phone, him there, me watching it on TV here  in Vancouver.  Turns out it was him asking me what was going on.  He said he couldn’t see a thing since it was über crowded and there were about 12 rows of people in front of him. Again….. all I could think of was “STOP trying to make me feel better about not being THERE!”

Summer 2012. We spent the entire 22 days in France during Le Tour, and I hate to say it, but Mike is right……. being in France (Paris, Disneyland,Orleans,Carcassonne, Lourdes) during the Tour, we were hard pressed to find out anything about the race while we were there.  It was never on TV, not in the newspapers, not anywhere! Without internet we really would not have known what was happening! Seriously!

In Canada we seem to follow all the stages…. waking up early and catching every pedal stroke, every drop of sweat, every feed station, all while holding our breath. We watch the entire days ride just to see a sprint finish or watching the riders grind it out on the mountain stages. It makes for awesome sport,  awesome TV… and I LOVE it!

With that all said……. next year is the 100th anniversary of Le Tour…. it sure would be fun to be in a motor home, with a group of equally enthusiastic cycling friends, on the side of a mountain climb with a Canadian flag, body paint, costumes…. partying with all the rest of the crazed Le Tour fans. Mike are you listening??!?

After our morning of watching Le Tour we decided to head up another famous Le Tour climb…. Hautacam!  It was stunning and beautiful.  I was surprised how different the climb was from the Col du Tourmalet which really was not that far away.  Turns out they have a crazy luge track at the top of the mountain that we all just loved. The kiddies were in heaven! SO. MUCH. FUN.

Vive Le Tour de France!

Enjoy your Daily Dose

Xox

B.

Race Set up… flag check point

Mountain Tunnel

Cured meat in Luz St. Sauveur

Start of Le Tour in Pau

Hello little Le Tour Fan

more rides before the race comes through

Town centre

Lets Jump – I’m READY!

Brodie was cheering for Cadel Evans and team BMC

up to the minute race stats courtesy your friendly iPhone 4s

The Caravan Arrives

#1 Fans!

More race stats… unfolding as it happens!

Helicopters are near…… the race is near!

Drinking beer in the middle of the streets in the AM…. because you know what…..we can!

look both ways!

The Family…..

Group #1 looking for the polka dot jersey!

Mike…. the amazing human climbing tree!

Race leader Bradley Wiggins Spoiler alert…. he wins Le Tour 2012 AND the gold medal in London 2012!

Brodies team car

Watching from “our” bowling alley

Hello Brodie…. Le Tour de France is going on behind you!

Hautacam in all its glory

Our afternoon coffee stop at the top of a mountain!

Summer Luge track…. FUN!

So high…..

Brodie and Daddy

Syd was SO EXCITED!  This little lady likes danger!

More cows in the middle of the road!

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Good Thing He Brought The Visa

Lourdes

We arrived late in the day in Lourdes. We hit some city traffic, and then found our apartment hotel that was going to be our home for the next 7 days. We got all our luggage, (now, plus 1 bike), in the room before heading out for a quick scout around town, pick up some breakfast supplies (it was Saturday night and we now know what its like to be in a town, in France, on a Sunday…. everything is CLOSED!), and grab some dinner.  It turns out they REALLY like pizza in Lourdes.  Almost all the restaurants that were near us were Italian. Pizza and pasta….. the kiddies were in heaven!

Our apartment was situated perfectly in the city.  We were close to shops, restaurants, and much-needed laundry facilities! We were also super close to the highway entrance to the Pyrenees Mountains – this was great since it turned out to be our almost daily commute. As it turns out…. the tiny mountain towns in France are simply the BEST!

We woke up Friday morning to beautiful blue, cloudless skies.  We packed the bike and headed to the Pyrenees Mountains. We drove up the Col du Tourmalet – and at 5km to the summit we pulled over.  Putting on 2 pairs of socks, Mikes cycling shoes, and buckling up his helmet I set out on the rented bike.

Right away……on the bike, I knew I was headed for trouble…… I was not 100% sure on the clip out mechanism of Mikes bike shoes, I couldn’t get the bike to its lowest gear, all while starting out on a 8-10% grade…….well 20 meters into my 5km journey I toppled off the bike into a heap on the road.  Mike came running to my rescue, managed to get the bike in the lowest gear, then got me and my bruised ego, back cycling up the Col du Tourmalet all within a couple of minutes.

WOW, WOW, WOW……..

It was crazy to think that I was actually “cycling” up one of the most über famous mountain climbs in France.  I was actually cycling where Lance Armstrong spent a good part of his career (I LOVE Lance Armstrong…. its OK …… Mike knows). A climb I had seen countless times on TV –  and the ride up the mountain was nothing short of spectacular.  It was so unbelievably amazing, there are almost no words to describe it!

Mike took the kiddies to look at the cows and sheep that graze freely on the mountain while I cycled up.  About 1.5KM to go, they passed me in the car, cheering and waving their arms.  I felt so lucky to have such a great cheering squad encouraging me up the mountain.  They pulled over and continued with cheering and picture-taking.  The last switch back up the mountain is crazy.  It kicks into a 12% grade…..  I wasnt sure I would be able to do it when I watched a van turn and take the climb, but when 2 cyclists passed me and jumped out of their saddles…. I didn’t miss a beat and followed suit.  The last 200 meters there were cyclist making their way down the mountain and they were cheering us all on…. it was like my own “little” Tour de France.  I wish I had enough training behind me to do the entire 23KM climb, but so happy that I got to summit the Col du Tourmalet.

After my EPIC 5Km ride we came down the “back” side of the mountain (which Mike informs me is actually the front side of the mountain), and had lunch in the cutest little ski town.  We were quite literally surrounded by the Pyrenees mountains, and I definitely see a ski holiday there at some point! It would be breath-taking all white and covered in snow.

We then packed the bike in the car, programmed the tomtom and made our way to Pau to pick up mikes race pack for L’etape du Tour.  The drive through the mountains was beautiful, the kiddies slept, and we managed to find exactly where we needed to be in Pau…… parking spot and all.  The bike expo was awesome.  So many bikes (some 6000 euro and above) bike gear, nutrition, Le Tour clothing….. you could definitely get carried away and spend a fortune!

We had dinner in Pau, and got back to Lourdes around 9:00pm. Mike got his bike, nutrition, and clothing together for the big race.  Alarms were set as it would be an early morning for us with a 5:30am wake up and drive to Pau to drop Mike off for his big race. Its always hard to getting ready for a race.  Trying to figure out the right clothing to wear, and making sure it is perfect for the day…. well its just stressful. We woke up to cool temperatures and low socked in cloud. As we were driving to drop off Mike, we were passing all sorts of cyclists heading to the race.  Mike turned to me, and with concern in his voice says “Why is everyone dressed like its winter?”  Well there wasn’t much Mike could do at this point with regards to clothing, so we just had to all cross our fingers that the cloud wasn’t that bad and that it would burn off as the morning progressed.  We wished Mike well, said our goodbyes and the kiddies and I made our way back to Lourdes, as Mike headed for the start line.  We were to pick Mike up in  Bagneres de Luchon later in the afternoon after 201km ride.

The kiddies and I went back to the apartment, cleaned up, had lunch and ventured out in Lourdes.  The town we needed to get to pick up Mike was about 90 minutes away from Lourdes so by mid afternoon the kiddies needed a nap, so we packed in the car, programmed the tomtom, and we were off.  The kiddies napped on cue, I stopped at the roadside rest area for coffee and a small nap before heading back on our way.  We arrived in Bagneres de Luchon, and was trying to find parking when the phone rang.  It was Mike.  His race was over and wanted to know if we could pick him up, instead of hopping on the race bus…. it would probably save us 3 hours.

Our new destination was Tresbons….. about 40 minutes away from where we were.  I reprogrammed the tomtom and we were off.  Now, for me it was a super strange feeling to be driving `blind` and not really knowing where we were.  I`m definitly more of a visual human being, so this is where a huge foldable map comes in handy!  I followed the directions from Darth, and after about 30 minutes I started to question whether we were on the right path.  We exited the highway, paid our toll and we were on an amazingly beautiful rural road in the middle of farmers fields.  I made a right turn as directed and was thinking this can’t be right…… I thought I would drive another 10 minutes and then call Mike if I didn’t find him.  Well lo and behold after passing through countless little communities, there was Mike and his bike at the side of the road waiting for us. Gotta love modern technology….. and our $80.00 tomtom iPhone app….. AMAZING!

Mike had a rough day in the mountains.  The day was the exact opposite to what my ride had been.  It was pouring rain and super cold.  The clouds were socked in on the mountains and the cold from the descent off the first climb was almost too much to recover from. The second climb was the Col du Tourmalet, where, once he was at the summit, jumped off his bike, bought a jacket and gloves (good thing he brought the Visa), both of which were WAY over priced.  Mike said that being as cold as he was, at that point price didn’t matter, and  he would have paid any amount of money, just to get something warm on his body. He found some cardboard and stuffed that in his shirt for extra wind protection for the second descent.

I was sad that Mike didn’t have great conditions for his race and that he couldn’t finish, but he was happy with how well he climbed and I know if the conditions had been better we would have watched him cross the finish line!

Seeing all the cyclists throughout our week in the Pyrenees mountains was super inspiring….. and with the beauty I saw on my ride I know we will be back….. riding up all the famous climbs! Its one trip I cant wait to plan!

Enjoy your Daily Dose

Xox

B.

Driving through the Pyrenees

On the Col du Tourmalet

In Luz St. Sauveur

5 km to the summit

Hanging out with the grazing cows on the mountainside

1.5 km to the summit

Top of the Tourmalet

Someday we will climb them all!

Syd fell in love with horses

Surrounded by the Pyrenees

in Pau

Mikes Race – 201 km

Profile of race day

Brodie was cheering for Cadel Evans – team BMC.  He thought this was pretty cool!

Race day for Mike – you should see the mountains…. not clouds!