Realizing a dream-climbing the Tourmalet

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Jay H, Aug 1, 2003.

  1. Jay H

    Jay H Producer

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    Tourmalet picture


    Just got back from watching the centennial tour with Mario Bartel, and realizing a dream of mine. Getting a chance not only to ride in the Pyranees, but to ride the Tourmalet and Luz Ardiden in the same day. Both Hors Category climbs and possibly the most famous climb in the Pyranees with alot of history in the Tour. The Tourmalet is the mountain that Henri Desgrange sent a scout out to check out for inclution in the 1910 TdF when the mountains were first introduced to the tour. 17.1 kms at an average grade of 7.4% with Luz Ardiden (a ski resort) being 7.6% and 13.4kms.

    After about a 20mile tempo ride from our hotel in Lourdes, we hit Bagneres-de-Bigorre, the start of the day's stage and also the start of the Tourmalet, which literally translates to "bad detour" or "bad path". We hit the stage before the riders started so as to be able to bike the roads before the gendarmes close the roads. After a compusory picture at the base, the climb begins. There are signs labelling the length of the section and the average gradient as well as the height in meters and the total height of the col 2115m. The first kilometers are at a very easy 3/4% and there are already throngs of fans lining both sides of the road. Most just relaxing in the cool morning air. Many with RVs but more just fans walking up the mountain. After a short while, the slope picks up and you find yourself looking at 8-9.5% climbs.

    I find myself just pacing myself finding myself with my triple (52-42-30 rings with a 12-28 cogs in the rear) somewhere in the middle cog in the granny, not knowing what's ahead, I decide to take it slow at the base. I happen to be the only cyclist with a small rack on the back to carry rain/cool weather gear. Pass lots of Basque fans and lots of Americans, as well as other tour groups and people on mountain bikes. Clouds start to roll in once I hit the tunnels, but when I get past, I find myself above the clouds and the sky just opens up to scattered sunshine and warmth again. Eventually after the tunnels are done, you round a corner and hit La Mongie, a town up on the hillside with literally thousands of fans all just milling around. No stopping now, I keep on peddaling through, basically pacing myself with another cyclist headed up. Passing everybody on their lower geared mountain bikes. Not feeling that bad and still very aerobic, but going at about 7-9mph, just imaging how fast the pros are with a 53-39 and a 12-25 chainring are doing after doing the Col de Aspin which I did on a previous day. Just after La Mongie, the headwind picks up!!! I am literally trying to keep from going backwards, this wind will drag you down all the way to the summit.

    Finally hit the summit a little over an hour from the start, packed with more cyclists and gendarmes. Check out the little bar at the col and take a bunch of pictures before seeing other members of our group and heading down the other side.

    More amazing of the ascent is the descent. Unbelievable fast and just goes on FOREVER!!!!!!!! Imagine 12-13 mile descent where you are literally hard on the brakes and still going 45-50mph coasting.... Damm well hope not to get a puncture here! At the bottom of the hill, it's not over yet as it's still downhill to Luz St. Saveur, the town at the base of Luz Ardiden.

    Our group regroups in Luz, meet up with other cyclists who skipped the Tourmalet to ride to the finish at Luz Ardiden.

    Doing Luz was tougher, not as a mountain but mentally tougher after going over the Tourmalet. Started to really feel my legs halfway up and found myself in the lowest gear I brought. However, still was passing most people and occasionally standing on the switchbacks. Hit the 4km flag to the summit, and wonder if I have the energy to make it, but somehow a second wind brews and I dig deep to finish the climb.... Whew.. my small group hit the 500m line when the cops tell us to go off so we go over the baricades and up the hill to a good viewpoint where we can see the race and the big videoscreen. Eventually the fog and wind and clouds roll in and I put on the raincoat I brought for warmth and mill around. See Frankie Andreau and also the OLN guys, check out all the Basque fans and the setup up there. See Lance's crash with Mayo and the whole crowd lets out a collective AHHHHHHHH.... Get great shots of everybody as they go under the 500m flag and just have a time of a lifetime. Get to say hello to Erik Zabel, Richard Virenque, Oscar Freire, Stuart O'Grady, Paolo Bettine, as the ride to their team car from the finish... Unfortunately, I learn that Tyler rode down the mountain and not to the team car. [​IMG]

    What a stage, both personally and for Lance.

    Jay
     
  2. brentl

    brentl Cinematographer

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    The desription was cool, I just wish you had some better pictures[​IMG]

    Brent
     
  3. Mario Bartel

    Mario Bartel Stunt Coordinator

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    I still have paint on my wheels from all the fresh signs painted on the road by fans on Luz Ardiden; somehow, I don't mind [​IMG]

    I didn't do the Tourmalet, as I was still feeling a little fatigued from our first big ride a couple of days earlier, in 110 degree heat, but Ardiden was a lot of fun, and it will be the climb everyone remembers from this year's Tour. As Jay says, it's hard to imagine how the pros accomplish some of these grades at 20-25 kmh while we're grinding our way up just happy to maintain 7-9 kmh. Pro bike racers truly are super-human!

    Mindful of the variable weather, and without a rain jacket, I actually rode back down after I summited and watched the Tour come through Luz St. Saveur, where Chavanel seemed to have a comfortable lead heading onto the early slopes of Ardiden; I had no idea what transpired farther up the mountain until I returned to our hotel and kicked on the nightly news! It's kindof ironic that you actually see less of the Tour de France when you're there than if you'd stayed home to watch OLN. But the real thrill is riding the same pavement and soaking up the atmosphere of all those crazy cycling fans. Oh yeah, and trying to snag some free schwag from the passing caravane [​IMG]
     
  4. Jay H

    Jay H Producer

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    Brent, I have some great pictures from Luz Ardiden, in fact, Lance going through the 500m flag is now my wallpaper but they're huge (1.5MB in size) and would need to be resized and shrunk for me to put it on the web somewhere.

    I've got about 200 more photos from the 2 weeks on my PC.

    Jay
     
  5. brentl

    brentl Cinematographer

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    Let see someaction pictures, and maybe some sceneryMountains or girls).

    REsize ... when you get time, if you want!

    Brent
     
  6. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    Great stuff Jay. I’m really envious of you and Mario, though I think that I’d no longer be able to make the climb.

    Like to learn more of your experiences.
     
  7. Andrej Dolenc

    Andrej Dolenc Stunt Coordinator

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    Great report, I'll echo the sentiment - make with the pics!

    Andrej
     
  8. Jay H

    Jay H Producer

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    Hi Lew, I think I just about had the right outlook on the climbs in the Pyranees. 7.5% isn't a severe angle, I was able to spin quite fine in a 30-23/25 gearing, both the Tourmalet and Luz Ardiden are similar climbs although the Tourmalet is more winding as it is about 4kms longer. Luz Ardiden is basically switchbacked and more direct. Knowing the course, now, I probably could of attacked the Tourmalet a little harder but there was one section on Luz where I looked up to see where the road headed and started to doubt the legs. Maybe that is why the mountain tops are usually surrounded in fog! [​IMG]

    Other climbs I did not do is supposedly harder, such as the Hautacam which doesn't have the altitude, its somewhere in the 1700meter range, but it is steeper than both the Tourmalet and Luz Ardiden. What must be an amazing climb is L'Angliru in the Vuelta a Espana! 11.5% average with sections as high as 17.5%!!!!! I know the sections that hit 9 to 9.5% seemed like a wall when you hit them. The racers that do this for 3 weeks are all superhuman. Sprinters like Erik Zabel do not get to rest on the mountain stages and even Mario Cipollini can outclimb 95% of the average cyclists out there.

    We saw the Devil! In fact, the devil was out for one of our rides, chearing us on! I kind of wish I stopped and get a picture as he is another thing I always think about when seeing the Tour.

    We would see alot of people going up the mountains, alot of them in mountain bikes, a bunch of them in tandems. There was even a guy in our group with a Bike Friday although I do not recall if he did the climbs or not. Fans would even come out and push ordinary riders up the hill. The secret was probably to wear an orange jersey and write something in Spanish to the effect of "Push me!" [​IMG]

    Going down the mountain after the stage finish was even crazier than going up, but fortunately, it isn't as random as it appears. The drivers drive predictably and the pedestrians would keep to the sides. All the cyclists would be riding in the opposing lane of traffic but since nobody was allowed up, we had the room to ourselves.

    Jay
     
  9. Michael Caicedo

    Michael Caicedo Second Unit

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    Congratulations on riding up Tore-my-legs, Jay. [​IMG] Was this an organized tour you were part of, or just a bunch of cycling fans that got together to go see and ride the tour?
     
  10. Jay H

    Jay H Producer

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    The day before, we did the Col de Aspirin (Aspin) [​IMG]

    Both Mario and I were part of a tour, www.bikestyletours.com. They are Australian based and we paid in Aussie dollars so depending on how good or bad the exchange rate is, you could do better if timed right. However, the tour was alot cheaper than some other tour groups but the pampering wasn't as much as some. Suited me fine, I like to be a little independent anyway and with about 120 people on the tour, there was always alot of different options to do and people to go with.

    On a Home Theatre note, we did come across some Home Audio stores around and there was a Bang & Olufson store on the Champs Elysees...

    Jay
     
  11. Mario Bartel

    Mario Bartel Stunt Coordinator

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    I've now posted a gallery of pics from our tour to the Tour.
     
  12. brentl

    brentl Cinematographer

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    That is a fantastic album!!!

    Quite the trip!!
    Brent
     
  13. David_Moechnig

    David_Moechnig Stunt Coordinator

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    Jay,
    I'd be willing to send you a couple of bucks to burn any pictures to a CD and mail it to me. I'd love to have a good mountage of large size Tour photos for a screensaver. Let me know if you would be interested.

    David Moechnig
     
  14. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    Mario thanks for the pictures. I am so envious of you and Jay. A great trip indeed.

    How did the French seem to react to Lance’s win? As you know, Phil and Paul were saying that they were much more accepting this year and I don’t doubt that they were delivering their perspective. But I expect that was more from a journalistic slant.

    I expect that the two of you got a bit more from direct from the fans. Care to share any of their thoughts?
     
  15. Jay H

    Jay H Producer

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    Lance, has a home in the northern part of Spain and does spend alot of time riding there. He's also gotten very good in speaking French, I've seen interviews on Eurosport with him talking French and he seems fairly fluent. I think the French have pretty much accepted him. The French take cycling very seriously, many people bike and they know how tough it is so I think they can appreciate a cyclist like Lance, more so than the average American. Plus, all this talk about the French hating Americans is just that, talk. My opinion for my feeble 2 weeks in France is that they do a fine job of differentiating politics with people. Many people had US flags the final day and in the mountains, I didn't see any hassle about that.

    I did see alot of slogans and press regarding Jose Bove. I had no idea who he was but researched him a bit when I returned, apparently he's the appointed leader in the anti-hormone anti-DNA modifications for beef and stuff. Kind of incorporated into their anti-McDonalds thing. McDonalds is semi-equivalent to saying anti-USA which perhaps a part of where that notion of the anti-USA feeling we get over here of the French. The rest is not appropriate to this forum.

    What actually was harsh was not Lance, but Tyler and not really because he is American. The Telekom director was quoted during the final week of the tour that Tyler's fractured collarbone was a media ploy and was fake!!! Now that is disrespect!

    David: some month I will have my photos online and from there I will post a link to it here or in a new thread (it will take awhile!!!). You can check out the ones you like and I will gladly email them to you or if it's alot, send you a CD.. not a problem. I think alot of my photos is not about the tour but of sightseeing and stuff. When I'm biking, I tend not to take alot of photos but I've got some good photos of the finish at Luz Ardiden and some photos of stage 13.

    Jay
     

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