Journey to the Tour de France Part 7: Day 4 in the Mountains

In Andy’s latest Tour de France blog, he tackles an alpine river, the Col de madeleine and watches the professionals take on the fearsome Alpe d’Huez. Will there be as much drama today as there was yesterday? Read on to find out.

The Race

After a late night and the previous day full of, sun and pain, today started on a more sombre note, with three of our number having to leave. After saying our goodbyes, we had planned to go and watch stage 12 live – the fearsome Alpe d’Huez – but after the issues with crowds and road closures, we decided to watch it on telly and ride locally, up the Col de la Madeleine.

This was the pros’ third consecutive day in the mountains, and they had a huge challenge ahead, with the final climb up the famous Alpe d’Huez. It’s 1,850m above sea level, and includes a 13.8km climb at an average of 8.1%. On this stage, it’s preceded with the Col de la Madeleine (which we were to conquer today) which is 25.5km at an average of 6.2% and height of 2000m and the Col de la Croix de Fer, which is 29km at 5.2% average, climbing to 2000m. This is a total of 65km of climbing in just one day.

Naturally, apart from the glory, the winners of stages and of the race need some extra incentives to go through all this pain. So what do the winners get? Well, prize money, of course.

There are 176 riders in the peloton and each day includes a number of objectives, depending on each rider’s temperament, qualities and targets. This most collective of individual sports ensures that most of the riders have a tactical part to play in most of the stages.

Some have their eyes on certain jerseys, Yellow, Green, White and Polka Dot, while some go all out to win stages.

  • Winner’s Yellow Jersey = 500,000 euros
  • The white jersey = 20,000 euros
  • The Polka Dot Jersey = 25,000 euros
  • The Green Jersey = 25,000 euros

There’s also a prize for each stage victories, of which there are 21 each year. The 2018 edition features nine flat stages, five hilly stages, five mountain stages and two time trials, with two rest days. Meanwhile, on most days there is a ‘Most Combative Rider’ award and the winner will wear a red number with the most complete race rider known as ‘Super-Combatif’ receiving 20,000 euros as the end of the race.

Our Ride

We arrived on the Col de la Madeleine and rode the 8km up the mountain and picked a great spot from which to watch the riders. This also helped with catching all the freebies thrown from the Caravan, which arrived two hours before the riders. We managed to grab a good stash as there was no competition from other spectators.

After that, we headed down to a little village called Pussy, found a lovely bar that gave us the best service, a chilled beer and iced water with a light snack. As you can see below, the view from the table was truly amazing with snow in the distance on the mountains.

We went back to the base of our mountain and decided to climb to the top and watch the end of that day’s stage, finishing at the summit of Alpe d’huez It was another great days for Team Sky and the Brits, as the stage won again by Thomas, keeping the yellow jersey, with Froome still in second overall.

A Refreshing Swim

We headed back down to our base and decided to go swimming in the river as I had the night before and within seconds six men were ready, towel in hand. Craig drove us down, as we reached the bottom of the valley, Dave asked what temperature we thought it would be. For some strange reason he thought we were going to a sports centre pool, the shock he got as parked up and all changed into our swim shorts and Jack in his boxer shorts.

Needless to say, we were in for a shock as, just as yesterday, this water had come straight from the melting snow at the top of the mountain, making it rather fresher than we’re used to in the UK. One by one we all jumped in from the top of a waterfall and we did a group jump too.

We then headed back to the chalet for a delicious dinner, with plenty of the local vin rouge. Afterwards, it was time to watch the Tour highlights with a set up through Mark’s laptop. As it got later, one by one we headed off to bed, leaving just a couple to plan tomorrow’s adventures

So far this week, I haven’t done really long rides but I have clocked up 199 miles, climbed 22,992ft and spent 16 hours in the saddle. Bring on tomorrow!

Come back tomorrow for the next update, or follow the links below to read all the other instalments.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6