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Location: TUCSON, Arizona, United States

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Tour Riding

My plan to file daily updates during my experience of riding and watching stages of the Tour de France was wrecked by connection problems. Fortunately my iPhone worked fine, so all was not lost. Anyway here are some of my recollections of the past three weeks. Riding the course and distance--170kms--of TdF Stage 21, which is produced as a race for amateurs the week before the peloton races it, was the major event of my first week. It was astonishing to roll (slowly) out of Montelimar that Monday with some 9500 other cyclists. The big thrill of the second week was climbing the 21 virages (switchbacks) of Alpe d'Huez. The view from virage 10 is at right; the climb is much more enjoyable than that up Mt Ventoux, chiefly owing to the breathtaking vistas at nearly every turn. A
couple of days earlier our group--some 30 riders touring with Velo Echappe'--rode the time trial course around Lac du Annecy in the pre-dawn darkness. We had to complete the 40km loop before the roads were closed for the race.

I scored what everyone agreed was the best shot of Lance some 200m into his time trial. An astonishing concentration of vehicles, equipment, and personnel is deployed every day to put on the Tour. This mammoth undertaking is rivaled only by the stupendous number of people who position themselves along each stage route hours, days, and even weeks before the peloton passes that spot. It takes a little over 30 seconds for the entire field to go by. Did I mention the RVs? Each stage is lined with them, parked fender-to-fender on every possible square meter of roadside. Even when you're there, though, you get the best view of the race on TV. Jane joined me in Paris for the finish stage, which we watched from the elevated level of the Tuileries. It was a good spot, mainly because a jumbotron was set up right across from us on the Place de la Concorde. Just like being at home, if you had bright sunshine and two million people in your house.