Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Part six, six, six!

After leaving Verbier I drove back towards France the way I came passing cyclo-tour group after group riding through the passes which made me super jealous. The weather was perfect and the terrain looked super fun. I had shit to do though, namely get to the Col de la Colombiere for stage 17.

If you can't ride it, I guess driving it isn't that bad. I can't remember if this is before or after my car got searched when I was crossing the border back in to France.

After a few wrong turns which ended up actually yielding a few positives, including a camping pad that I'd needed a couple weeks earlier, I finally got onto the Col and found a pretty great spot to camp and spend the next couple days.

My view looking out of the front of my tent until two German or Belgian or whatever the fuck they were jerks came through and put their tent in front of mine blocking half my view. Words were exchanged, but you can only get your point across so well when you're yelling at dudes who don't really speak your language and seeing how there were two of them, both bigger than myself, fighting wasn't really an option, and yes, at this point in the trip I almost would've fought anyone. They didn't show up until the second day though so for one night this was mine, all mine.

Got the tent set up and went for a hike half way up the trail across the road and came across this little guy. I was half scared shitless, half amazed. I didn't, and still don't know what kind of animal this is. It was getting dark so I decided to head back to the tent, make some dinner and pass out.

Woke up and still had another day to kill before the stage came through, so I decided to finish the hike I started the previous day. The view from about 2/3rds of the way up.

The trail to the ridge line is near the right border of the frame. The view from the top was amazing. To one side the Alps and to the other the valley below and Lake Geneva. There was some haze in the air this day so the pictures toward the lake aren't that great.

A 360 degree view from the col. Filmed this with my digital camera and for whatever reason eventhough I rotated it, blogger won't upload it properly. Turn your computer or head for full effect.

The hike back down was rough. It took longer than I expected to get to the top and I didn't bring enough food so I was a little shaky on the way down. Had to get a flick of the sign though.

Aloha Fixed sticker smack-dab in the middle. After I put the sticker up I headed to the little restaurant at the top of the climb to watch the end of stage 16 on TV and drink some orange soda. If you don't remember this was the stage that Jens Voigt took that horrible fall during, when it happened everyone watching had the craziest reaction. It was pretty gnarly.

This is what I woke up to the day of the stage. Wind and rain.

HQ. Salami, chocolate dipped rice cakes, box of orange juice and an assortment of other crap. I decided to wait the storm out inside the tent.

Things can get really boring. This is a study of the creases in the tent fabric.

Passed out for a while and woke up to semi-clear skies and an oven for a tent. The heat and the sunburn I got from the hike the previous day gave me a nice red hue.

Unzipped the tent and looked across the valley towards the road to see things had gotten a little more crowded from when I woke earlier in the day.

Bikes and bikes!

Walked a few kms downhill from the summit and found the perfect place to watch the race from. Check me out! I'm directly to the right of the graphic at 1'32" wearing what looks like all black and again at 3'49" on the left of the frame for a split second yelling at Lance. Pretty damn stoked.

After the the Schlecks, Contador, Kloden, Armstrong, Nibali and Wiggins, Pellizoti in full KOM kit and bike and Dave Zabriskie came through. This was the closest I had gotten to the riders all tour and by this point they looked pretty rough. Andy Schleck looked like he was 50 and Wiggins looked like a skeleton. It's crazy what these guys put themselves through.

After his awesome solo effort earlier in the stage Thor was in no mans land, behind the leaders but still ahead of the grupetto. This guy is an absolute beast.

Back of the first grupetto. Vai Allesandro!
Tony Martin leading another group. He's gonna be a good one.

Allez Kim! Cancellara on the far left and a bloodied Cervelo rider with Kim Kirchen.

This is why you don't even bother trying to drive or even really ride off a summit finish or crossing for probably, at least, 45 minutes to an hour afterwardds.

Aforementioned tent ruining my view. Fuckers! After the stage was over I decided to be lazy and camp another night before making it down to Lake Annecy for the ITT. I mean, come on, would you want to leave this?

Up early, try to leave nothing but flattened grass behind.

It was a little windy.

After almost having a nervous breakdown due the fact that I couldn't find the one key I had for the car, which had fallen out into the grass somewhere while I was packing, I was packed and ready to roll.

Off down the hill towards Annecy.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Parte Numero Cinco!!!

After those few nice rest days camping in Spain it was time to drive all the way across France in two days through torrential downpours to get to Verbier, Switzerland in time for the mountain top finsish of stage 15.

After staying the night at some shitty overpriced motel somewhere on the side of the autoroute just outside Lyon after the first day of driving I got up early and was gonna try to make it all the way to, and set up camp in Verbier by that night. After countless exits off the autoroute looking for an ATM along the way, which brought me about as close to completely losing it as I've ever been I finally made it to Switzerland. By the time I arrived it was starting to get dark, still raining super hard and the temperature was dipping down into the low 40's so I decided to check into a chalet that was literally just across the France-Switzerland border. The old dude at the front desk asked me if I wanted to see the room first and I said no. I was so tired I didn't even care and when I got up to my room I saw this gem. Matching floor and wall carpet. So awesome!

Woke up early the next day and drove the hour through the swiss alps to get to Verbier and found a perfect spot to park just about 2 km from the finish of the stage. Not a bad view for a few days.

Went for a walk around Verbier and came upon this road signage. Aw!!!

Jesus, that sign was no joke! These kids were running around singing a song about Tom Boonen. I wish I could remember how it went.

After my walk I decided to head back to the car and make some dinner on my new little camp stove. First warm dinner in a while. What's your kitchen view like?

Spent the rest of the night listening to the jazz and classical station on the radio in the car while looking out the back windshield across the valley at the mountain range. I'd have to say I was pretty content. This is what I look like after sleeping in the backseat of a car for probably the 12th time of the trip

A little panoramic video of the view. There was a fresh dusting of snow on the top of the mountains from the storm that came through a couple days earlier. Hung out for a while, had breakfast, got the kit on and headed down the hill to go for a little ride and head right back up the hill to check out what the big dudes would be handling the next day.

Probably one of the funnest climbs I've ever done. It was pretty difficult but the gradient didn't really change so once I found my rhythm and where my limit was it was great. Not too many people on the hill either because the stage still wasn't 'til the next day.

Early rise again the next day and headed back down the hill to do the climb again. It was really fun doing the ride the day of the stage. A ton of people riding and everyone along the side of the road seemed to be enjoying themselves. An old woman actually called me Andy Schleck on my way up the climb. Pretty funny. After my ride I got some food in me and headed up to the beer tent that was set up about 50 feet from my car to watch the early action of the stage while it headed my way. Since I don't drink anymore and I was taking up valuable bar real estate I felt compelled to spend some money and ended up drinking about 7 or 8 espressos while watching. These people were making money hand over fist. Not a bad gig, rent a couple a couple flat screen TV's, get a ton of beer, espresso and water and follow le Tour around making a ton of money.

We all know what happened that day. Alberto Contador blowing le Tour apart.

Cycling really is a family sport.

After the stage ended I decided to walk into town to check out what was going on. This mural/sculpture is on the roadside along the route . I think this is a reenactment of an accident during a Tour of Switzerland in which a cyclist ran over a goose and went down. Funny stuff.

I came upon the Lampre mechanics working on the team bikes outside the bus. I want a Wilier! Alessandro Ballan's world championship rig.

Serious stuff!

Foyer of a restaurant in town.

Spent the night in the car again and decided to load up on some groceries before heading out of town. On my way back into town the Lampre team passed me on their way down the hill for their rest day ride. I got to the grocery store and found myself grocery shopping next to the Lampre soigneurs. They were going nuts for Philadelphia cream cheese. After I finished up I decided to hang out on the side of the road and wait for the Lampre guys to head back up and caught Columbia heading out for their ride.

Lampre heading back up the hill.

Vai Allesandro! Dropped by his own team.

Got in the car and started heading towards the Col de la Colombiere for stage 17 and passed Columbia on their way back up the hill. Verbier was a pretty rad place and basically all that I saw of Switzerland was pretty amazing, too. Up next, the Col de la Colombiere. Hopefully the time in between posts won't be quite as long as it was this time.