This is part two of my TdF 2015 travelblog.
You can read part one here.
An immensely enjoyable Alpe D’Huez stage concluded with a home win for Thibaut Pinot and a sufficient buffer for Chris Froome to take yellow in to Paris, despite the valiant efforts of Nairo Quintana. My dad and I spent the 30 minutes after Pinot and the top riders had crossed the line cheering on the scattered remnants of the peloton, as they too crossed the line, stopped their garmins and tried to get off the mountain as quickly as they could.
From first to last they had earned their dinner and a decent kip that night.
Our journey back down the ski lifts went without a hitch, but the roads back to Grenoble were choked up with tour traffic. There would be no quick getaway for us! I spotted team trucks and buses of every hue on the three hour odyssey back to Grenoble. Some of them performed alarming manoeuvres to skip traffic. Yes Garmin & Movistar, I am looking at you! Time for another(!) burger in town and off to bed.
Sunday morning meant a wander down to the station to catch the TGV up to the capital. While hanging about, waiting on the train, I spotted Jens Voigt in the hall and tried to grab a ‘selfie’ with him. Unfortunately I could not get the camera on my phone to work, despite Jens’ best attempts to instruct me. Perhaps he should have said ‘shut up camera and do what I tell you’!
*If you don’t have the selfie it never happened!*
After this epic fail I grabbed l’equipe, pastries and coffees and boarded the train. It really is a civilized way to travel up. More so when a group a Mexican cycling tifosi start talking to you about the tour, football, life and beer.
The TGV eased in to Gare de Lyon and we made our way to our chosen hotel for the final night of our French sojourn. Our intention was to head down to the route near the Champs Elysee to see the women’s one day race La Course, followed by the denouement of the men’s race. However a combination of grim Parisian weather and tiredness deterred us from leaving our hotel room until much later than planned, sadly missing the women light up an otherwise grey afternoon.
We eventually got ourselves down to the Rue de Rivoli to join in the fun. Cool, grey and wet weather is not ideal for watching a bike race, so we spent a while in a beer tent, near Norwegian corner, for a bit of shelter. We were also able to follow the race as it ambled its way in to town. After warming up it was time to head out to the roadside, where things were drying out a bit, but still not exactly summery. We positioned ourselves close to the flamme rouge and had a great view as the peloton thundered past us 10 times. It was easy to pick out names both big and small, although spotting Froome was never going to be difficult.
As the laps counted down the tension ratcheted up. The have-a-go heroes tried to jump away, while the sprinters teams swarmed to the front to control things. The guys at the back simply tried to hang on and keep out of danger, not always successfully!
Trek and Astana riders hit the deck
Christophe Riblon of Ag2R is not amused
All three riders who went down in front of us managed to get back on the go, after some remonstrating and gesturing, naturally. Just as well, as the very next lap was the last lap. Or maybe not.
We had lost count of how many were left and did not realise the race was over until the flamme was pulled down and others around us started to head away. This was a very odd feeling. I asked a couple of gendarmes on the course if they knew who had won, but they had no idea. The Norwegians back in the tent also had no clue, but seemed to know their man Kristoff had finished third. (They also seemed a bit more p!shed than on our previous visit.) You can see the final stage summary here.
We shuffled home via a Vietnamese restaurant and made an early night of it and spent our final day doing some sightseeing at the Sacre Couer and looking for Quasimodo down at Notre Dame.
So that was that.
The end of le tour and our tour
I can’t help but feel the final stage was somewhat of a letdown, but given the glorious weather and fantastic racing the day before, maybe that was always going to be the case. And that day on the Alpe will live with me for a long time to come.
Vive le tour!