Thursday, 21 July 2011

Three Days in The Alps

The three key days in the French Alps were always going to be significant in determining the GC this year and it seemed that after the shake up on the stage from Gap to Pinerolo that Cadel was in great shape to take out this year's tour. Principally because he has a strong time trial and for Andy Schelck to beat Cadel he would need to create a buffer of at least 2 to 3 minutes before the Grenoble TT on Saturday. It seemed that all Cadel had to do was cover the moves, rather than attack, it was up to Schleck to attack to create the buffer. And attack he did, with 60 km to go on the Izoard. Andy Schleck was clearly the best on the road today as he was able to hold his lead over Evans into the headwind in the climb up to Lautaret and then on the tough ride up Galibier.
It will be interesting to see how much fuel Schleck and Evans burned today and who is able to put in the big day on tomorrow's very tough Stage 19. First it's Telegraph then a real tough climb up Galibier again and then the finale on Alpe d'Huez. How good will this day be, lets hope they can all perform again to make it a TT with suspense. We'll be up on Aple d'Huez watching the showdown.

Contador has had a lot of trouble backing up after the Giro, or maybe his meat supplies have been below par this year? Voeckler has been riding out of his skin and despite being right on the rivet today he's still in yellow, just hoping its all above board and that he hasn't been in touch with Contador's butcher...., there are a few people over here making a few comments about his amazing effort to be able to defend the yellow throughout the mountain stages.

So Evans can't afford to lose any more time to Schelck, and in fact he really needs to take a few more seconds back to be safe. The Schlecks will no doubt attack again tomorrow and we can expect Stuie, Monfort, Cancellara and Co to continue the great team effort they've put in so far.

Bikestyle Activities.
Alpe d'Huez, Col du Lautaret and Col du Galibier.
Since arriving in the Alps from Mont Ventoux three days ago we've enjoyed some fantastic riding. It was very wet and cold when we arrived in Claviere on Tuesday and the forecast was looking shabby. We headed off to ride Alpe d'Huez on Wednesday in the rain but by the time we got off the bus at Bourg d'Oisans it was starting to clear but still looked dodgy. It was a quick rip up Alpe d'Huez and then the group had the choice to either ride the 40 km up to Lautaret or take the bus to Lautaret and then ride up to 2600 metres on the ascent of a snowy and freezing cold Galibier. I rode with the group over to Lautaret, which although not a steep climb it is all up hill for the 40 km, at an average 5-6%. Its a very picturesque trip as the photos below testify.

The view from Alpe d'Huez at turn 9, there are 21 corners in total and all are numbered on the route.

The glacier above La Grave, midway to Col du Lautaret.

This is a typical shot of many of the river valleys in the Alps at the moment, this is on the way to Lautaret.

Looking up to Galibier from Lautaret. The vans were already parked ready for the next two days of racing.

And for the animal shot of the day.........I found these old fellas just hanging around at the pub on Lautaret, where we had lunch to watch the final 30 km of the race to Pinerolo.

Claviere, Bardonecchia, Cesena, Sestriere Loop.
Today the aim was to complete a 100 km loop from our hotel in Claviere along some beautiful quiet river valleys and over a few Cols and to finish on the fabulous 12 km climb up to Sestriere. All this to be completed in time for us to get back to the hotel and watch the live coverage of today's decisive stage to Galibier. The river valley roads were very quiet and picturesque and some of the climbs more than a little challenging, particularly after the big climbing program we've put in over the last 10 days. The descents were a blast,... after all the only reason we climb these monsters is to go down as fast as you can safely ride. The traffic was light and the roads dry so we were really able to enjoy some fast descents.

Eric and the boys getting the warm gear on ready for the initial descent from Claviere to La Vachette, near Briancon.

Our hotel in Claviere. Food and accommodation is excellent and the village has some great cafes, restaurants and bars.

The spectacular view from about half way down the descent, with the Briancon Citadelle on the hill in the middle distance to the left. The Citadelle was a strategic alpine defensive site and construction was commissioned by Louis IV in 1668.

The Boonies,.... alpine style. This little chapel was on the Italian border on the narrow climb up to a col above Bardonecchia.

Cesena is a very pretty little town at the base of the 12 km Sestriere climb. It hosted the Bob, Luge and Skeleton during the 2006 Winter Olympics.

Approaching Sestriere, about 1.5 km to go.

The view downhill from the same 1.5 km to go point.

The view over some of the chalets as you come into Sestriere. I took this shot to show the massively thick rough slate tiles they have on the roofs in this part of the world. For those with an interest in this stuff blow the picture up and check them out. Add a metre or so of snow on top in winter and there is some serious engineering required to hold these roof structures up!

And of course there was the obligatory photo at the town's Olympic sign.

And for today's animal Issota, our friendly St Bernard in the pub next door where our tour guide group meets each afternoon to plan the next day's activities.


  1. Aw, very cute St Bernard and guess he is a working dog in winter..
    I really love the spectacular scenery there, Pete ... amazing viewing again the last few nights.
    Sounds like you have had some great rides. I just hope tonight Frank does not try it on as Andy did last night, or more likely I guess they may get up to the old one two, Stuie is a real tactician as well as great work horse. Also Frank did not use much effort up compared to Cadel at the front, Frank had a much easier ride esp once Contador popped off the back. Take care, Shaz,x

  2. Hi Pete, what a wonderful summing up ... thank you so much. Tonight is going to be so stressful ... and as it is Friday we intend to set our alarm to watch it. My main concern is that Andy and Frank sure looked and sounded a lot fresher than Cadel at the end of this last stage. It really doesn't seem fair to me that they have two chances ... helping each other all the way! The way Frank just sat at the back of that group all that time and then just rode past Cadel at the end ... what a psychological mind game! It is time for the whole BMC team to take control of this ride tonight and help cadel all the way to the end of the stage, easier said than done! Good luck BMC and Cadel.

    Enjoy your tour Pete and thanks for all the great shots and descriptions of what's what, love it all. See you soon. D&G

  3. Hi Pete sorry I missed your call, the photos are amazing, especially, the ALps. How can it be that after nearly three weeks of racing it now comes down to a time trial ... Cadel just has amazing composure even after the mechanical problems he had last night...I was stressed just watching the drama unfold. Guess, you have had a late night, as no Blog update this morning. You have done a great job keeping everyone up to date on your adventure. Enjoy the last few days, hi to Steve, love Pen xx