Tour de France 2018


Wednesday July 11, 2018 and Thursday July 12, 2018
El Granada to Geneva

During the fall of 2017 Kathy and I decided to see Alaska in August 2018.  This meant if I wanted to go to Europe in the summer of 2018, I'd need to do it earlier in July.  If I was going to be in Europe in July, I could try to see the Tour de France!  Unfortunately I came up with this plan in the fall of 2017 a few weeks after the 2018 Tour route was announced, so all the available hotel rooms near all the mountain top finishes were already sold out.  I was most interested in the mountain top finish on Stage 12 on Thursday July 19, 2018 on Alpe d'Huez, the overhyped and highly overrated mecca of cycling.  My first Alpine climb was Alpe d'Huex on Tuesday August 4, 2015 - I rearranged my Swiss trip and climbed it a week after watching the Tour de France finish its last mountain stage ...

In the fall of 2017 I reserved airfare in and out of Geneva.  Late in the fall an extremely overpriced and tiny AirBnB became available on Alpe d'Huez for the nights I needed, so I went ahead and booked it and invited the rest of the guys to come.  Kent wanted to come, but his ex wouldn't take the kids that week, so he came to Europe the week after I did and Kent missed the Tour.

I planned to stay near Guillestre, France for a few days and do some cycling, then see the Tour on Thursday, then perhaps do one more climb near Alpe d'Huez on Friday before heading home. I picked Guillestre to do Col d'Izoard, another legendary Tour de France climb.  I figured I'd be happy to get 3 climbs in over the course of a week considering the weather and general dificulty involved.  I figured at least one rest and/or rain day would be necessary.

Years ago when I first heard about friends at work spending their vacations cycling uphill in the mountains I thought they were crazy.  When I first tried it I was only doing it to prove to myself I could do it, and I still wasn't sure why I did it.  I've come to realize that cycling uphill gives you the perfect balance of making enough progress to see many miles of mountains, but also moving slowly enough to appreciate the scenery.  After climbing two of the highest paved roads in the Alps in 2017 - Col du Galibier and the Stelvio, I decided to see if I could tackle the top ten highest paved roads in the Alps.  I was inspired in part by Kent's quest to solo climb 4000m Alps, and also all the gorgeous pictures off the over 800 Alps Will has climbed on cycling-challenge.com.

I booked my car reservation in Grenoble when I booked my airfare, but I didn't try to rent a bike for the trip until late May 2018.  I was planning to rent a bike on Saturday July 14, but the bike shop let me know I'd need to be there on Friday since Saturday is la Fête nationale, French National Day, and everything will be closed.  I had made yet another rookie mistake.... I was lucky, however, and was able to change my flight out to Wednesday night instead of Thursday night with no change fees - one of the best perks of the American Advantage program.  Unfortunately the fine folks at the car rental company gouged me to pick up the rental car one day earlier - they called it a whole new reservation that cost me a couple hundred dollars more for a week than the old reservation.

Ray's family ended up on vacation in Barcelona and on a Disney cruise from Barcelona around the Mediterranean during the same time I would be in France.

Wednesday July 11, 2018 and Thursday July 12, 2018 - El Granada to Geneva
Friday July 13, 2018 - Geneva to Guillestre, France
Saturday July 14, 2018 - bike up Col Agnel to the Italian border 2744m / 9,003' from Chateau Queyras 1229m / 4,032' - 1515m vertical, 22km uphill - 6th highest paved road in the Alps - la Fête nationale
Sunday July 15, 2018 - bike up Cime de la Bonette 2802m / 9,193' from Jausiers 1195m / 3,921'- 1607m vertical, 23.8km uphill - 2nd highest paved road in the Alps - France wins the World Cup!
Monday July 16, 2018 - bike up Col d’Izoard 2360m / 7,743' from Eygliers 881m, then down to Briançon 1167m, train to Eygliers - 1479m vertical, 37.5km uphill, 21km downhill - 25th highest paved road in the Alps
Tuesday July 17, 2018 - bike up Colle del Nivolet, Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso, Italy 2612m / 8,664' from Locana, Italy 613m / 2,011' - 2028m vertical, 40km uphill - 9th highest paved road in the Alps
Wednesday July 18, 2018 - drive from Sauze d'Oulx, Italy to Alpe d'Huez, France
Thursday July 19, 2018 - watch Geraint Thomas win the 12th stage of the Tour de France at the finish line on Alpe d'Huez
Friday July 20, 2018 - bike up Col de l’Iseran 2770m / 9,088' from Bourg St Maurice 815m / 2,674' - 1968m vertical, 48km uphill - longest Col in France - 3rd highest paved road in the Alps
Saturday July 21, 2018 - Grenoble, France to Geneva
Sunday July 22, 2018 - Geneva to El Granada

Cycling totals for the trip
8597m vertical altitude gained 28,205' / 5.34 miles over 5 days
171.3km / 107 miles uphill, 155km downhill - north side of Col d'Izoard is shorter than south side.

Over 380 days over three trips between July 5, 2017 and Friday July 20, 2018 I biked up 6 of the 9 highest paved roads in the Alps, plus 2 other cols that are in the top 25 highest paved roads in the Alps... plus one more.....

14:58 Europe time 05:58 California time

PANO from the parking lot for Casse Deserte - scroll right

15:47 Europe time 06:47 California time
Friday July 13, 2018
Col d'Izuord - looking north

15:47 Europe time 06:47 California time

PANO of Col d'Izuord looking north - scroll right

15:49 Europe time 06:49 California time
Col d'Izuord - looking south

09:56 Europe time 00:56 California time

I made it!
Col Agnel looking north into France.
I had started so early I didn't see too many other cyclists on the way up, at least until I started to stop and take pictures every 10 minutes... then cyclists started to catch up to me.

09:56 Europe time 00:56 California time

Colle dell'Agnello - looking south to Italy.
Note the clouds hanging over Valle Varaita
There's a statue of the Virgin Mary and an Italian flag right next to my right elbow.
This view was amazing, it just about took my breath away.

I rode down to turn 1 on the Italian side to see what I could see, then decided to head down to the statue of the Virgin Mary.
I locked the bike to the guardrail and in 4 minutes I was at the statue.
(I carry a very thin lightweight cable and lock that would only serve as a minor deterant to any real thief, but I didn't expect a problem in Europe in the middle of nowhere.)

10:25 Europe time 01:25 California time
Turn 1 on Colle dell'Agnello, the Italian side

PANO - scroll right

09:58 Europe time 00:58 California time

10:56 Europe time 01:56 California time
Cime de la Bonette

10:41 Europe time 01:41 California time

PANO - scroll right
Cime de la Bonette, looking southeast to southwest.

11:10 Europe time 02:10 California time
This is not the way I came up, this is the other side.

11:10 Europe time 02:10 California time

11:07 Europe time 02:07 California time

PANO - scroll right

Cime de la Bonette from Col de la Bonette, looking east and south.
I heard a curious sound for quite a while before determining what it was - a fellow cyclist was trying to dry out his shirt and rubbing his hands to keep warm in the relative shelter of a roadside altar just out of sight to the left.

11:09 Europe time 02:09 California time

PANO - scroll right
View from Col de la Bonette, looking southwest to north

11:52 Europe time 02:52 California time

A few nice hairpins - looking north from about 2260m / 7,420'

11:53 Europe time 02:53 California time

PANO - scroll right

12:02 Europe time 03:02 California time

Overlooking Halte 2000 Chalet Bar Restaurant, which is actually around 1960m not 2000m

14:22 Europe time 05:22 California time

Looking north toward Guillestre, which is in the center of the picture.
Just past Guillestre is farmland, then a canyon formed by the Guil river.
You can see the cliff on the far side of the Guil river before it meets the Durance on the far left.
The valley headed northeast leads to Briancon.
The valley headed east leads to Col d'Izoard and Col Agnel

10:57 Europe time 19:57 California time
Looking south back the way I came

11:29 Europe time 20:29 California time
Under dreary skies I finally reached the Calle Desert.
I was extremely glad that I'd already taken pictures here in excellent sunlight a few days ago.
I'd wanted to see this for years, but I must admit it was a bit of a disappointment.
From TDF footage I assumed Calle Desert went on for miles and was enormous.
Having lived in the desert southwest, this was.... pretty tiny, all things considered.
It only went on for a couple of kilometers.
However the prior two days rides had greatly exceeded my very high expectations, this was pure gravy....

11:54 Europe time 20:54 California time
I made it!
Three cols in three days!
and I haven't been rained on today... yet....
I didn't linger long on the top, storms continued to form to the south.
I took a few more pictures then headed downhill on the north side.
This was the first time I've traversed a col.

11:56 Europe time 20:56 California time
Looking south back the way I came up... at storm clouds....

13:19 Europe time 22:19 California time
Colle del Nivolet

13:52 Europe time 22:52 California time
Lago Agnel and more hairpins winding their way up the mountain
It was now nearly 2pm and I still wasn't on top... and once I got to the top I was still going to be 40km away from my car!
I refrained from taking pics on the way up those final hairpins and finally got to the top!

14:26 Europe time 23:26 California time

I was spent... 40km uphill and over 2000m vertical, it had been a long day!

14:46 Europe time 23:46 California time

PANO - scroll right
Looking southwest to northwest
I took tons of pictures from this spot, even the pano doesn't begin to do this area justice.
If it was earlier in the day I would have stopped for lunch...
Since it was so late I just kept going.

14:49 Europe time 23:49 California time

Colle del Nivolet is 2612m according to the sign, 2641m according to wikipedia, or 2601m according to my gps

14:56 Europe time 23:56 California time

PANO - scroll right to see tourists feeding a fox that's in the middle of the road and the top of Colle del Nivolet
I took tons of pictures from this spot, even the pano doesn't begin to do this area justice.

15:09 Europe time 00:09 California time

Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso

15:11 Europe time 00:11 California time

PANO - scroll right
Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso was featured in the 2003 version of the movie The Italian Job.
I took tons of pictures from this spot, even the pano doesn't begin to do this area justice.
Lago di Serrù is the far lake, Lago Agnel is directly below.

15:12 Europe time 00:12 California time

15:12 Europe time 00:12 California time

13:19 Europe time 22:19 California time
The road up to Alpe d'Huez is hidden in the trees

14:11 Europe time 23:11 California time
Dutch corner

16:50 Europe time 01:50 California time
While the condo was a tiny ugly joke, the view was excellent.
I had a beer on my porch and relaxed for an hour or so before heading our to see Alpe d'Huez and the TDF preparations.

18:52 Europe time 03:52 California time

After wandering all over Alpe d'Huez and finding not much of anything all that interesting I got to the bottom of town.
People drink beer, watch the sun set, and applaud the cyclists who have just gotten to the top.
Unfortunately it was packed, I couldn't find anywhere to sit nonetheless eat.

13:33 Europe time 22:33 California time

I've been waiting for over 5 hours - I'm still grinning ear to ear!

17:42 Europe time 02:42 California time

17:42 Europe time 02:42 California time

17:42 Europe time 02:42 California time

Garaint Thomas wins, keeping his yellow jersey and beating his teammate Chris Froome!
He's also the first Briton to win on Alpe d'Huez and the first yellow jersey to win on Alpe d'Huez.
I had watched the shade form over the finish line over the last couple of hours and was disappointed at the quality of my pictures.
Between the shade and the fact that the cyclists were moving very quickly the pics suffered.
The video turned out much better....

17:46 Europe time 02:46 California time

Nairo Quintana

18:03 Europe time 03:03 California time

Geraint Thomas, stage winner and yellow jersey (GC / general classification) winner

18:05 Europe time 03:05 California time

Pierre Latour, best young rider winner

18:12 Europe time 03:12 California time

Steven Kruijswijk, most agressive rider - Kruijswijk broke free withi 73km to go, only to get beat in the final few kilometers

18:22 Europe time 03:22 California time

Julian Alaphilippe, king of the mountains

18:25 Europe time 03:25 California time

Peter Sagan, best sprinter

10:33 Europe time 19:33 California time

Tignes Dam on the Isère river, looking south / uphill

11:56 Europe time 20:56 California time

12:34 Europe time 21:34 California time

the town of Val d'Isère

12:51 Europe time 21:51 California time

Looking northeast, Lac du Chevril is in the distance

14:00 Europe time 23:00 California time
The top!
And its starting to sprinkle, and I'm 48km from my car!

19:22 Europe time 04:22 California time


Tour de France 2018


Wednesday July 11, 2018 and Thursday July 12, 2018
El Granada to Geneva