I made it up my first round on the infamous Alpe D’huez today! And it was HARD. No doubt about it. And in true TDF style (see last blog post regarding TDF monster organizers) the stage continues going up after reaching Alpe d’Huez for another climb to the Col de Sarenne then descends in a circle back to the base of Alpe d’huez, before finally making the same 14 km jaunt up to the top for a summit finish. Which means I get to run to the top again tomorrow! But it is absolutely beautiful and worth each step.
We stayed with Marc and Christine and their daughter Laura last night and after a delicious home cooked meal and lively conversation, Alex and I conked out in their renovated farmhouse – one of my favorite places I’ve ever slept! It was a rustic french farmhouse on the outside and a bright cozy retreat on the inside – thank you Marc and Christine for being so sweet to us!
And this morning, Marc and his friend Alfonso clicked on their helmets and made the journey up the mountain with me on their bikes, flanking me on either side and cheering me on every time my head dropped. That was pretty special after my last blog post explaining my frustration when I see a pack of cyclists and no runners to commiserate with. Today, I had not one but two buddies to commiserate with :-)
The actual climb up Alpe d’huez is much different than all the other ones I’ve had so far. Every single switch back is labeled (there are 21 of them) and it is kind of crowded and even has photographers at a couple of the switchbacks. And at the top there is a ski resort and village – much more life than the solitary black “Col…” sign that I’ve grown accustomed to. But it is crazy beautiful and the view is open out onto the valley and neighboring monster mountains for pretty much the entire way.
Then, once you drop back towards the backside of the summit and head towards the Col Sarenne, the landscape changes immediately. Wide, sprawling mountains carpeted in the greenest grass and lupins and wildflowers and small streams hurtling down the chasms into one big river thousands of feet below. It becomes desolate and pastoral in a matter of minutes, so much so that I can’t even picture something as big as the TDF taking place on those very same roads. After pausing at the Col, the sky turned black and in ten minutes the rain was pouring down and lightning was crackling way too close for comfort. I sat in the car for 20 minutes to try and wait the storm out, but it stuck around so long that I had to ask Alex to drive right alongside me as I ran down the mountain with thunder booming overhead.
Finished the day with 28 miles and 5000 feet elevation gain, and i am b.e.a.t.
Photos from Alex coming soon.