A bit of an annual pilgrimage for this branch of cyclesguff but this year proved more sacrifice laden than usual. We left in the middle of the first week and electronically disconnected had to rely on snippets from Dutch and Belgian cycle magazine programmes then all disconnected in Germany. All these travails served to offer the chance to see the Tour in the mountains. We chose Col de Lauteret at the junction with Col du Galibier. Camping at the bottom of L'Alpe was the ideal opportunity, despite the rain in the night, for a pre-breakfast ascent. It was busy already at around 7am Tuesday, 19 July and Dutch corner smelled of pee and a few lost souls wandered on the road. It got damper as the ascent went on and was raining at the top. The descent was freezing and made for a chittering recovery. And the rain just wouldn't stop.
A recce of the Col de Lauteret proved distressing, the unseasonal weather all over France had taken it's toll. The temperature was 3 degrees and there was snow on the Galibier. Brrr! A brief excursion to Briancon brought fleeting sunshine but on our return it was apparent that the cloud had not left our valley all day. One tent had already given up the ghost so we opted for a cuddly if slightly disturbed night. There is only so much you can pack on a long trip and we simply did not have the right equipment. The decision to leave was made with a heavy heart but needs must. We made a run west to sanctuary and an earlier than planed visit to family near Poitiers. The Galibier stage proved to be an all time classic but we were not destined to enjoy first hand. Just see and hear Phil and Paul tell us about it on TV. And make mention of the cruel weather.
All was not lost. There is a TGV connection to Paris that covers the 400km or so in under 2 hours. So it was that the Tour and cyclesguff were to be seen on the Champs Elysees yesterday 24 July. It was dazzlingly fast but a good position at the sprint point gave two views in quick succession and a chance to see Cavendish take a place at the sprint point prior to his record breaking 3 in a row wins. Needless to say the finish is the preserve of the corporate and the wealthy but there was a big screen in some 750m away and from where I was standing and even at that distance I could see Cav's grin lighting up Paris. A well deserved jersey and only the second British rider to win one overall. Cadel spoke in French and the Shlecks were gracious in defeat and could celebrate there own record of getting brothers on the podium. All this for a chance to see about two minutes of the spectacle, granted we saw this 17 times. A lot of effort but the thrill remains undiminished.