Journey to the Tour de France Part 5: Day 2 in the Mountains

In this eventful instalment, Andy and the gang head into the mountains for a second day, labouring up various mountains, speeding down them, as well as bumping into cycling royalty, losing some of his comrades and getting ‘asked to leave’ a VIP area. Read on to find out more.

Another Early Start

With a repeat of the church bells and rooster performance from yesterday, I’m once again up by half past six and the rest of the gang is ready to go by 8am, fuelled by porridge, rather than the local baked delicacies this morning, in an effort to take the day’s escapades a little more seriously.

This year, we decided to have a team top, designed by Mark and I with input from the management team, the badge was even designed to look like a bike, as well as incorporating the number 13.
Colours chosen to match most of our bikes (black), with a Union Jack flag on the arm.

The gang shows off their own team top for 2018

Today we were driving to a new mountain in the morning, so with all the cars loaded up by 9am and we were on our way. We parked up and began with a nice ‘easy’ 8km climb to warm the legs. Mark and I, as the weakest climbers in the group set off first, but unsurprisingly, the better climbers swept past us within a few minutes, but we made it to the top of the Col des Aravis nonetheless.

Now, I may not be the fastest climber, but I’m pretty speedy on the way back down, thanks to a combination of a fantastic bike – for which I have my partner Denise to thank – and extra, ahem, ‘ballast’ compared to most of my comrades. I managed to hit 42.3mph on the way back down and taking on the hairpins at higher speeds is great fun, making the effort of climbing worthwhile.

We headed up to Le Grand-Bornand to watch the finish of that day’s stages for both the ladies and the men, The plan had been to ride the stage in reverse ourselves once the pros had finished, but unfortunately we discovered that the road was still closed. So instead we had some lunch – we had our priorities straight, after all – and enjoyed an exceptionally dramatic finish to the ladies’ race.

Cycling Celebrities

With the roads still not open, we managed to spot some cycling celebs, including Lizzie Deignan (nee Armitstead) a former track cyclist and road race World Champion, as well as 2014 Commonwealth Road Race Champion. She’s taking a break from competing this year as she is pregnant, but we still managed to get a picture with her.

Lizzie Deignan stops for a photo
Lizzie Deignan stops for a photo

We also spotted Joanna Rowsell-Shand – one of the best female track cyclists in the country, multi World- and Olympic Champion, as well as the holder of a number of world records on the track. She seemed surprised to be recognised, but was happy to chat for a while. Finally, we had to get going, so we thanked Joanna and headed for the finish line.

Joanna Rowsall-Shand chats with Andy

Freebies

With various brands keen to make the most of the massive turn out at Le Tour each year, there were plenty of freebies to be had, so we loaded up on sweets, key rings, water bottles and various other goodies to promote themselves to the 13 million or so spectators that turn up to Le Tour each year.

After an hour of watching the race, it was time to stretch the legs, we went to find some refreshments and one of our party managed to get us into the VIP area, complete with conveniently placed bar.

Not long afterwards, we were outed as intruders and were kindly asked to leave once we’d finished our drinks. The group split up, with most going back to our spot on the mont in front of the biggest large screen TV, while another group went to look for a bar, where they stayed for the race.

Inside Team Sky

 

On board the Team Sky bus

Mark and myself headed over to the team buses to be ‘Tourists”. As they say, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. We knew the driver for Sky was an Italian called Claudio, so we asked him if we could take a picture inside the bus. The bus was full, with Sir Dave Brailsford inside and his team watching the race on the big screen.

But he did get George – Team Sky’s PR Manager – to see us, discuss our blog and was happy to help, we managed to a photo inside the bus from the back, as you can see above. He also told us to pop back in the morning and he would try and get some of the riders to say hi, which was very nice of him.

Thrilled with that result, we went back to watch the end of the stage, won by a Frenchman from QuickStep, Julian Alaphilippe. The yellow jersey (leader) was a couple of minutes back and the Sky Brits of Thomas and Froome a further minute back with the other GC (General Classification) contenders.

The jerseys:

  • Yellow is the race leader
  • Green is the points leader (normally the sprinters)
  • The white jersey is the young rider leader, normally under 23yrs
  • The polka dot jersey is the mountain points leader.

Heading Home

It was time to head back to the chalet, leaving the quicker group of us in the bar and determined to beat them back to the chalet (ignoring our head start, however). We dodged the crowds, support vehicles and police climbing the Col des Aravis in reverse. Once at the top, we made our way back, down the other side to the cars, beating the faster group us in the process. Needless to say, we were thrilled with this outcome and we made this joy obvious.

Despite the fact that many of our party managed to scatter themselves over what seemed to be most of south-eastern France, we eventually located everyone and saddled up in the car and we headed off to find a restaurant and treat ourselves after a long day’s riding.

Once we got back, we planned our third day (with back up plans just in case) and finally managed to hit the hay at 2:15 am, ready for another long day.

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