Twice up Alpe d’Huez, it always seemed like a pipe dream without any pass-able descent available, but with a little patching up to the Col de Sarenne, it looks like it worked!
I’ve spent a bit of time on l’Alpe when the Tour’s been about, it a magical place, it’s got something special, everybody that goes there to watch a bike race becomes part of a huge street party that goes on for days (& nights). As with all mountains the race goes past, if you’re looking through your camera, it’s gone forever, shouting & screaming is usually the best bet (not too close now Borat). But wouldn’t it be nice to take a photo & have time to scream & shout, it happened this year, with two passes of the bunch within a short space of time. The closest we’ve got to multiple passes would be the TT on 2004, we got to see plenty of riders, but it lacks the feeling of infectious madness, with riders fighting mano-a-mano millimetres from your PMU hand.
I’ve also descended the Col de Sarenne, it was bumpy, covered in gravel, had some speed bumps, it didn’t help that I was on a borrowed bike, I remember thinking that there was no way they could do anything but a mountain top finish at Alpe d’Huez, this crazy road was nothing like the standard required. I drove it in a car too, even that was a little scary, with steep drop offs & little space to pass is another vehicle was coming the other way. With the traffic jam of bikes riding up Alpe d’Huez before & after the road is shut, the Col de Sarenne was virtually void of bikes.
I was waiting with eagerness to see what kind of state it was in, what they had done with it to bring it up to standard?
I only got to see the ITV4 highlights, but they put a reporter on the descent, it kind of looked the same, but the rutted & gravelled corners had been resurfaced, bumps removed & a little resurfacing on the worst bits. It was ride-able, but the pro’s looked less than adventurous, it didn’t turn into the chaos that it was built up to provide, it still needs some work.
The double climb provided huge drama, a crack in the yellow jersey, the sunken eyes of a past champion & a changing of the guard. It was a historic day, the rain held off & it resulted in a French winner, it really couldn’t have gone any better for the organisers.
Without doubt we are going to see a similar stage again, there’s going to be significant investment in that dodgy road, it’s a trick not to miss for the resort. They pay to host the tour, but with the fee comes some additional benefits, cementing the ski resort as a year round economy, winter for skiing, summer for biking. An additional good quality access road, is another huge benefit, this year was a tester & we can expect some investment & a decent road surface next time we visit.For ASO, they give the public what they want, they get the crowds out to sample their publicity caravan. Who wouldn’t want to show off their products to a guaranteed live audience of hundreds of thousands, who will then wear anything you give them to a worldwide audience of billions.
The Tour really is a one-off, there’s nothing quite like it, and there’s nothing quite like the Tour on Alpe d’Huez.