Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Stage 16 begins in Martigny and heads south in the high mountains of the Swiss Alps for 98.8 grueling miles to the small mountain town of Bourg-Saint-Maurice, next to the Italian border. Our day will take us into the Italian Alps and then back into France before we complete today’s Stage at the bottom of a very steep descent.

A difficult day with two huge mountains to climb; we saw an early break away by several; the first a group of two followed by a single rider and then a large group of seventeen after the first mountain. These groups merged into one at about 37 miles before the final mountain accent began and about 4 minutes in front of the Peloton at that time.

With just over 20 miles to go the Schleck brothers came out to play taking Contador and Wiggins along with Kloden away from the main Peloton. Suddenly Lance Armstrong came out of the Peloton and rapidly moved to the break away surprising everyone as he passed rider after rider! Suddenly there were 3 Astana riders in the main group who were quickly chasing down the lead group of four including Franco Pellizotti who took both summits to secure his King of the Mountain Jersey.

The group of leaders came back into France behind the lead group and began the dare devil descent to the finish line. A very exciting finish by the Spanish rider Mikel Astarloza winning his first Stage of the Tour de France! He broke from the lead pack just as the Peloton closed the time between the groups!

Several have asked how they figure the team points. The finish time of the first two riders of each team to cross the finish line are combined for the team points each day. So it is really is important to have two members of the same team in the first group to cross the finish line. This award is usually announced long after the podium is torn down and moving on to the next venue; thus my report is changed hours after the initial report if I find that the Team Leader has changed!

The leaders are:

#1: Alberto Contador

#2: Lance Armstrong + 1.37

#3: Bradley Wiggins + 1.46

#4: Andreas Kloden + 2.17

#5: Andy Schleck + 2.26

Our Jerseys were awarded today to:

Top Team Overall: Astana

Maillot Jaune: Alberto Contador

Maillot Vert: Thor Hushovd

Maillot a Pois Rouges: Franco Pellizotti

Maillot Blanc: Andy Schleck

Our 2004 Journal today continues five years earlier and southeast of today’s mountain stage……

Wednesday, July 21st, 2004 Alpe d’Huez Stage of 2004 Tour de France

Today is the day of the big race up the Alpe d’Huez. This morning’s newspaper has a twelve by eighteen photo of the switchbacks leading up the mountain that was taken yesterday. Every inch appears to be covered with a trailer or motor home or tent. So glad we went yesterday and not today. We had several American families here at the hotel last night that were going to attempt to get as close as possible to the start. There are buses starting from the center of Grenoble at 5:00 am this morning taking people up the mountain to the starting point of the race for five euros each. Private vehicles will not be allowed within seventeen miles after midnight last night. Then after the race they all have to wait in line to be brought back to Grenoble bus by bus….some may be lucky to get back before midnight!

Remember my saying that we’d gone yesterday morning and only gotten about four miles above the starting point of the race. The family from New York said they’d tried about 3 pm in the afternoon and they had been turned around about seven miles before we were. They were taking the bus this morning and then walking as far up the mountains as they could. The race doesn’t start until about 2 pm. We’re watching on television right now and the whole fifteen kilometers (nine miles) is wall-to-wall people. Lance will not start until 5:00 pm. It takes them less than forty-five minutes to ride the Stage. It’s a time trial so they go off individually in two-minute increments.

Our day started after breakfast this morning. We’d packed the five boxes that we purchased on Monday with things that we didn’t need any more, extra books and maps, etc. Some were heavy but each box was only about 3 inches thick and small…they were designed to store magazines. Found the Post Office in Grenoble. Stood in one line; and they sent us around to another line. No one, I mean NO ONE, spoke English in the place. The first gentleman finally gave us forms to fill out for each box. After doing that we got back into line and had a different clerk. She began to put the information into the machine and complete the information on the form. We decided to say that the boxes had clothes in them, she said gifts, we said yes. This was not a fun experience. We kept trying to tell her cheapest way. On the fourth box Jim said…look the tape that she is putting on says “Priorte”…the euro total was adding up rapidly. I started using my French book and asking questions. She said two weeks; we said a month is no problem! She finally got the drift. Cancelled the four that were finished and started on the fifth package and now she was putting “Economique” tape on the boxes. We had to redo four mailing labels. That’s an important French word to learn! “economique” Suffice it to say, it is not cheap to mail packages home. Think twice before you plan to lighten the load by mailing things home. It’s about $5.00 per pound to ship the economique way! Then to cap off this event, when she tried to put the cost on the credit card; nothing worked. After trying three different cards, we started searching our pockets for euros. We came up with just enough to pay the bill! Another reminder, sometimes your credit cards don’t always work so be prepared to have enough euros at all times. As we walked away from the post office; and towards the ATM machine, Jim said…this has been a “journal entry” for sure!

After the post office we headed to the toll way and a side trip to see an historic sight located west and a little south of Grenoble in the village of Hauterives. Soon we’d left the mountains behind and found ourselves back in the land of sunflowers. Jim said he’d read about this place for years but didn’t realize we were in the area until we looked up Grenoble in the Eyewitness Book for things to see in this area. It’s called the “le Palais ideal du Facteur Cheval”. Located north of Romans, it reminds us of three other sites for various reasons: In Los Angeles California we have the “Watt’s Towers”; in Barcelona, Spain there is the Gaudi’s Cathedral and in Death Valley California there is Scotty’s Castle.

Known as one of the greatest follies of France, an eccentric “palace” constructed entirely of stones, single-handedly by a local postman, Ferdinand Cheval. He collected rocks on his daily rounds and built his palace between 1879 and 1912; it became a National historical monument in 1969. It is visited by thousands of visitors from around the world every year.

We arrived during the lunch hour and waited for half an hour. During our wait we walked around the village. When we found a field of sunflowers, we climbed the fence and got into the field for some photographs. It was fun until the bees started buzzing us for disturbing them. The sunflower girls were over five feet in height; taller than I thought they’d be. When the site opened we were able to see the entire thing in about twenty minutes.

Then back on the road and Grenoble to watch the race on television. Lance set one of the fastest times ever and beat his closest competitor by two minutes, when places are usually measured by seconds. We were very proud of him. Talked to some people at the hotel who taken the bus early in the morning. They’d walked up the mountain about two miles and were delighted that they’d gone. They arrived back at the hotel about 9 pm due to the time to walk down the mountain and waiting for the return bus after the race. We were still happy with our decision to enjoy the day and then watch the race on television.

Jim is pouring us each a Pastis as I type. It’s nearly 4 pm. We have the window and door to the room open, as it’s about 93 degrees. Warm afternoon! The Pastis should warm the insides and equalize the temperature. We purchased a small bottle and enjoy a very small quantity each evening before bed. Jim swears that it helps him sleep through the night better.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Was great to understand how the team points are awarded. Also enjoyed, as usual your journal from 2004.