Pista Bikes Tour de Alpes 2013
Celebrating the challenge and beauty of the French Alps 
with the backdrop of the 100th Tour de France

 Pre Tour Planning - Tour Day minus 2
We tested the food at the Chalet and have spent the day scouting the planned routes of some of our new stages. We have found one to be a spectacular, rugged valley where we gradually climb along a ridge to stop at a rushing stream - It will be a gem!
An other - spectacular but not safe enough with some new holes in the road while in a tunnel - we will reject this ride and find a better one.

Pre Tour Planning  - Tour Day - minus 1

We've scouted some moe ride options and found some good lunch locations. Nothing like eating lunch at 2000 meters altitude. Drove up to Alpe d'Huez and made a lunch booking for the Tour de France stage day. It will be good to have a place to sit and eat with over a million spectators predicted for the day.    
Day 1 – Friday 12 July
The view from our Chalet in Vaujany 

The pick up at Grenoble train station went smoothly, the guys were at the station on time and had travelled well.
We drove up to the Village and our chalet and settled in to a welcome snack, but they were keen to ride so - the bikes were built and we rode off to Alimont, then Borg d'Oisins had a look around and rode back. An easy 44 km to get the legs turning and shake off the travel. One silly guy continued up the road past our chalet to the Col d' Sabot. 


Today’s ride: 44 kms / 55 

Allison put on a great meal tonight and just enough wine and port were consumed to ensure a good night's sleep.


 The riding begins

Near the top of the Col d' sabot

  The view back down the Col d' Sabot,

 Yes I came up the switchbacks on the right! 

Day 2 – Saturday 13 July

The plan was a relatively easy ride, but with a couple of short, sharp climbs, proved quite tough as a first climbing day.

There were 2 stretches at 12%-13% that were a test.
The ride to La Berade passes through some lovely, historic small villages.

Enjoyed lunch in the garden at Plan du Lac, then rode home to the chalet for pre-dinner drinks. 

Being the eve of France's National Day, there were fireworks in the village and suddenly about 800 locals came out,
Watched an exceptional display against the Mountain and waterfall backdrop and then bopped along to the Regae Band who spoke in French and sang in English
 Day 3 – Sunday 14 July

This was a BIG Day!
Early breakfast and loading the mini-bus didnt help as we were held up on the Glandon by a bike race.

We drove to the base of the Col du Telegraph and with a 5 meter warm up, started the 12 Km climb. 

That done we continued up a further 18 KM to the top of the Col de Galibier. 

After some photos and celebration, it was another 8 km to the top of the Col de Lautaret.
 The real fun started with a fast decent of 45 Km that flew us all the way back to Bourg d"Oisans. A quick shower later and we were eating on the Left Bank to celebrate Bastile Day with all the other cycling fanatics   

Today’s ride: 
92kms with 2150 Meters of Climbing 


 Day 4 – Monday 15 July

Today we tackled the mythical climb – Alpe d’Huez with a few hundred others.
The mix of riders and bikes was fascinating but it made the ride no less challenging. 

Everyone got up in good time, we celebrated at the top with a few pics and then took the scenic "back way" down, along a cliff face through Vilard Recluse followed by a very fast descent into Alimont for lunch. 

There was an additional ride for those with excess energy that included riding along some gravel paths, jumping a few streams and a climb back to Vaujany.

 Well earned lunch at the Dutch Chalet, some liquids included




 Alpe d' Huez !

 Last 200 meters of Alpe d'Huez - Sam sprinting for glory!

The view into the valley below
 Day 5 – Tuesday 16 July

We rode the decent into Alimont and continued towards Bourg d'Oisans and but turned off just before Bourg to our climb. 

Col d'Ornon was meant to be our easier day but you can't climb a Col without some effort. 

We were happy to complete the climb have some fun on the descent. 
Lunch in Bourg, good to be in the centre of the building Tour excitement. 


 The climb on Col d' Ornon 

 Day 6 – Wednesday 17 July

Again, we started the day with the descent from our Chalet in Vaujany.

We are immediately on the road that climbed the col de Glandon. The road is full of riders, some tour groups, we chat and find them from all parts of the world. 

The Glandon is a long climb with the hardest parts early. As the weather is turning, we make no delay and continue up the Col de Coix de Fer.

We celebrate our conquest with a coffee and lunch carried up by Sherpa John in his back pack and then descend in the rain, which fortunately clears for an exhilarating, high speed descent.   

Strangely, 2 of us have surplus energy and do the Vaujany + 1 km climb. The rest of the day is spent at Charlotte's Bar watching Froome snatch the time trial from Contador  


Day 7 – Thursday 18 July

TdF stage: Gap – Alpe d’Huez

After many notices from the local authorities about road closures, we decided to have our usual big breakfast and take the Telecabine system to get to Alpe dHuez. They had a special TDF ticket that got us up and over and around and down. 
We found ourselves well above the clouds.
It meant taking the large unit of about 160 people and then 3 trips with 8 to a cabin. It all went very smoothly and took about an hour each way.
We immersed ourselves in le Fever le Tour, visited shops, stands, looked at crazy people, many of them Ausies, watched the Caravan come through throwing gifts. 
We watched the riders come through the main street once after their first pass up the climb.
Then we went to the finish line watching them come towards us on the giant screen, the crowds going beserk as a Frenchman took the lead in the last moments and then seeing them all ride accross the line in front of us! 
The atmosphere was great and then off to the Telecabine to miss the rush.

Estimates for the crowd on Alpe d'Huez for the day were over a million people, yet we moved there and back seamlessly 


 Eventual winners of the stage in the lead on
 the first climb of Alpe d' Huez
 Day 8 – Friday 19 July

TdF stage: Bourg d’Oisans – Le Grand Bornand

Our final day of riding and a fantastic finale. 

We rode into Bourg d’Oisans earlly to avoid the road closures 

The crowds were thick as we watched and admired the tour buses lined up for miles.
We watched some riders warm up on rollers near the busses some of us watch the long sign in process. The music was pumping and eventually the stars came out to sign in.
The race moved off and we rode to Alimont for a pasta buffet at our Dutch Chalet (sister arrangement with our other chalet) We did our final climb to Vaujany and packed our bikes before dinner.

   Climbs completed for our tour

  Col de Sabot
  Col de Lautaret
  la Berade
  Col de Telegraph
  Col de Galibier
  Alpe d Huez
  Col d Ornon
  Col de Glandon
  Croix de Fer

  If all the climbs were completed, there were 10,000 meters of      elevation to be gained. 



 Contador signs in

   Froome waits his turn

  Froome signs in

 The stars are at the start

  The Tour comes to an end.
 We have ridden and conquered greater challenges than we imagined
 We have eaten an embarassing amount of great french food.
 We have got to know each other and ourseves, a little better.

 Here's to next year!

 Day 9 – Saturday 20 July
Day 1 Tour de Random

The Official Pista Bikes tour finishes and Graham drove the guys back to Grenoble. I helped load the van and after a poignant moment, we hugged and went our separate ways.

This was the start of my ride with an Ortlieb Handle-bar bag - 3 kg ( the only one gentle on carbon bars ) and a backpack with about 5 kg.
The road was familiar at first Alimont, Bourge then the signs to Briancon but then I was climbing.......This was the Col de Lautere ...that was fun, then the descent on the other side.

Arriving at Briancon, I came to a round-about with signs showing one direction was to Col d Izoard, the other Italy. What a releif they were different. I rode on into the countryside and there was a small climb, but with every turn it kept going up.

2 hours later I had climbed Montgenevre and rolled 3 km into Italy, checked into ski lodge in Claviere for a well deserved Chiante
Ride distance 102 km, climb about 2530 m     


 Tour de Random 
Day 2 – Sunday 21 July
Clavier - Turin

After the tough day yesterday, I was glad for lots of flat and descending. I have had bad experiences in Europe trying to find a hotel on a Sunday so I tapped out 100 km early, which took me to Turin / Torino settled in and tracked down Luca, the designer of the Pista Bikes Logo. 

I met his lovely family and then we did dinner, a few drinks, then a few more drinks. Luca took me to an International bar and we drank our way through a few countries. I assume I made it back to the hotel because there was an angry bike staring at me in the morning. 

I got up and we left. 

Distance 116 KM             climb 621 mt



Tour de Random
Day 3 – Monday 22 July
Turin - Gallarate

The road was mostly flat again, but the headwind didn't help.

I followed a river to Novara where the Tourist Information office was closed.

The sympathetic police suggested a route and I pushed on to Gallarate to get to striking range of my target - legendary Passo del Stelvio.

Distance 150 km Climb 204 mt 
perhaps MapMyRide will work it out when I get back, my Bryton GPS is not talking to me. 

Warm night on the piazza and the locals relax
 with drinks and happy conversations


 Tour de Random
Day 4 – Tuesday 22 July

Gallatre - Sondria

Gallarate - Varesse This was an incredibly scenic day. First Target Como, at the tourist info office I was told the best way to procede was ride along the right bank of the lake to Bellagio, then take a ferry back to the mainland and continue along a valley. They were right, the hardest part of the ride was all the stops for photos. 

At Bellagio, the hoards of tourists prevented me from seeing anything of the city but the quick pizza slice and gelati got me onto the ferry and then did as I was told and followed to signs to Varena. 

As is often the case, I did a little extra kick for 20 bonus KMs and rode into the small town of Sondria for a room.

Distance 141,  Climbing  1304 mts

The river in Sondria



 Market along castle wall at Varese

  Lake Como

 Ferry from Belagio (George Clooney was out)


Stelvio looms ahead !

Tour de Random
Day 5 – Wednesday 23 July

Sondria - Trafoi

This was the day ! 

I took the same road I had been on yesterday - a blue route - not those scary green Autostrade - but somehow it became a blue Autostrade? 

I first twigged when the truck horns sounded less friendly, the oncoming trucks flashed their lights and I saw a driver shaking his finger at me. 

The tunnels had got longer too. one at 2.7 km, then one at 1.4 km each time I come to a tunnel I go through the same ritual, pull over, turn on my 2 tail lights, helmet light, headlight, cross myself and ride like mad!

I got off the blue road and onto a much smaller road, paid for by a 4km climb at 11%. In all I climbed  800 meters to get to Bormio.

Had some lunch with 3 young Belgian Riders who discussed the right sock height, then started the climb.

Stelvio is hard. 

In time you get to the top of all climbs, this took some time and determination but're there, and the pain means nothing.

The descent on the other side was more spectacular (frightening) than I needed, so I went down about 800 meters and stayed in another ski village. 

Distance 110 km,  Climb 2,870m - big day!





 water stop on the way to Bormio

 This is fun ?

 Not much more to go.

 Made it !


 The descent onto the "Austrian Side" looks a bit steep

 Tour de Random
Day 6 – Thursday 24 July

Trafoi to Nassareith 

I still had the balance of the descent to do. Now that I'm on  the Austrian side - though technically still in Italy, the descent is known as Stiffser Joch. 

After the steep stuff that just hurt your hands from braking and avoiding insane blowflies (motor bikes) there was a pleasant shallow cruise at 40kph to Prato, where I turned left to Mals. 

The surprise climb of the day was the Reschen Pass. It was unlike any I had done. It was like the valley went up and over the mountain and I followed wide fields all the way up. 

Even though it was shallow about 5-6 %, it probably went for 20 Kms. At about 1200m there was a long lake and lots of tourist riders to accompany me.

After the pass there was a bike path and I knew I was in Austria - the sign helped.

Ride distance 140 km climb 1053 m 



 Bike Path as I'm accustomed to in Austria.

more bike path....




 Hardly seems like a climb.

 On the lake


The path is this way.

Tour de Random
Day 7 – Friday 25 July

Nassereith - Landsberg

Woke up early to beat the traffic and ride the Fernpass. The guy in the tourist info office had told me not to take the road, traffic too aggressive, the path should be ok....

Worst bike path I have ever seen or dreamed of.

Descended to Garmish, enjoyed the market and the town and rode on to Landsberg and enjoyed some typical Bavarian food.

Planned my way back to Paris to catch my flight.

 Ride distance 135, Climb 806 mts


  My Tour de Random comes to a close. On the last day it is a 50 km  ride to Augsburg to catch a train to Paris.

 In the 7 Days, I travelled 870 Km amd climbed 9,400 meters. 

 Communed with nature, met some interesting people, saw sights that will stay with me for years to come and got a bit of exercise. 


 Looks easy but its steep - 13%

 no longer funny, this surface is not designed
 for a road bike with racing wheels


 relieved to be on top of this one and back on the road

 Many painted buildings in Garnish

My lasting image of cycling in Europe

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