After giving the ladies their time to change, we men took over the bus and changed out of our kits. Huddling under a couple trees afterwards, we were given our wristbands for the Izoard. I know of the Col d’Izoard, so I was confused at the start what they meant. Was the Izoard an area that they just named the mountain after?
In turning over my wrist band, the geek in me was engaged. Looked to be a NFC/RFID sensor; the ASO meant real business here. Wonder just what we would be doing that required something this sophisticated.
And so, wrist bands distributed, we all walked off into Gap. I had decided to get some real time finish line experience, and since the Izoard didn’t open until 2:30, I had an hour to spend. I’m guessing most people went and got lunch, which I probably should have done, but instead I walked up the non-reserved side of the finish.
Now, if I were French, I probably would have gone and looked for a patisserie or a boulangerie, grabbed some food and something to drink, and sat there for the next 4 hours. I cannot over empathise that this is how the French prepare for watching the Tour. Arrive early, and make an entire day out of it. With a view like that, it seemed pretty easy to get; you just had to arrive early and be patient. But since I wasn’t French, and I had paid for the tour to get VIP access, I kept walking.
I walked past the grandstands, and at about the 100meter to go mark, I saw the Izoard. It’s a VIP stand named after the climb (there’s also the Tourmalet, and the TDF Club). So that’s where I’d be for a while. A good view of the finish line, and from what I’ve been told, refreshments and finger foods.
I stood around to watch the craziness of the non-caravan. Since it wasn’t supposed to get to the finish line for another 3 hours, there were a bunch of folks entertaining the crowd, and handing out freebies.
I then went to go look for a way to get to the Izoard. Ran into Gary and Greg as they were also doing what I was; enjoying being part of the crowd.
We walked back towards the roundabout after the finish line, and got directions for how to get there… A dernier de la maison, et avant le derriere. So we eventually figured we had to go around this one house, and found someone that was checking wristbands…
In which we found ourselves in Tech Geek paradise. We were in the Technical area, i.e. the place where all the broadcasts happen. We weren’t sure if we were supposed to be in the TZ, but I learned the basic rule: if you walk around looking like you’re supposed to be there, no one will bother you.
This crane is not a video crane. It’s an antenna crane that’s capable of raising up to 50m in the air. It receives all the beams from the remote video cameras, drops them down to the central video feed vehicle, which then distributes them to all the other trucks:
In more mountainy stages, one of the helecopters will go up high to relay the signals, and cover the road with its ultra-zoom camera. I thought this was really cool to understand just how they deal with the terrain issues.
Here’s the little booth that Daniel Mangeas sits in to announce the arrival:
Eventually we found the gate we were supposed to go through, but had to wait a few minutes until they’d let us in. Here’s where the wristband really came into use. The check in consisted of using an NFC reader to validate that the wristband was authentic. Once the Symbol handheld device beeped affirmitive, we were let through.
So the Izoard was a trailer that had two levels. The first level was fully enclosed with AC and a couple hosts that would fix you what ever libations you wanted that they had on hand. Just not Champagne; that was for the finish. So for the most part I drank Citron Syrup in Water. Had an ice cream cone, and some crackers. Indeed there was only finger foods; no real sustinence.
While we were waiting, we were approached by one of the hostesses, named Valentine (see Becky, someone named their daughter Valentine), who was looking to provide a tour of the Technical Zone, and if we could get enough people who spoke english, she’d do it in her poor (hardly!) English. I told her I’d help translate as best I could, with my poor (Very!) French.
I was quite disappointed with the Caravan; they weren’t giving anything out. I guess once inside the last few km, they stop throwing out goodies, because that’s what the pre-caravan folks are there for. I thought that sucked though, since there were only a few of the caravan members represented by the finish line people.
We waited and waited for the Peleton to arrive. Eventually Rui Costa rode in as the breakaway winner.
Followed quickly by Riblon and crew, then Tom Dumoulin, and then Phillipe Gilbert.
Then it was Champagne time.
There was a bit of a gap back to the GC group, but it was Purito leading the group out:
By this point in time, most of the finishers that had nothing to do with the podium or ceremonies were headed back down the course to get to their team busses.
And previous stage winner Matteo Trentin enjoying a euro-Coke.
We couldn’t stay very long, as we had to get out of town quickly to get to Alpe d’Huez. Since the majority of France’s roads are dual lane roads, going fast in a vehicle is not a feature.
On our way from the Izoard, I spotted the media motorcycles:
Even the Team Sky bus waits for the train.
We got on the bus and got out of town.
Now it was time for some depressing news. Because of the impending weather issues, and some logistical issues, we were not going to ride up the Col de Lauteret and the Col de Galibier, but were going to move our ride up Alpe d’Huez to tomorrow. Oh, I was pissed. I stewed on the bus for the entire trip to Bourg d’Ouisans. I had really wanted to ride Galibier, and Alpe d’Huez on race day, and these were getting removed from me. Pissed pissed pissed pissed pissed.
Though it was really difficult to stay upset with the scenery:
I mean I paid to ride up mountains, and was sold a trip that included either the Col d’Ornion, or Lauteret and Galibier, and a ride up Alpe d’Huez on race day.
Then, we turned right, and the intimidation began. We were riding up to Alpe d’Huez on the climb. It was just insane how high the bus climbed in such a short time. I was on the left side of the bus, so it wasn’t until we got around switchback 20 that I could see back down the mountain, and holy crap we had climbed so much by just two switchbacks! And there were 19 more!
I started getting butterflies it was so mind bogglingly steep.
Eventually we got to the turnoff, which was right where the barriers started, and then took the back road up to our hotel.
The ride up the mountain, plus the amount of people already camping on the side blunted how I was feeling, but I still let Will and Jourdan know that I wasn’t all that happy about missing the Galibier and not riding up the Alpe on the day of the race.
And even though we were far from Ventoux, it’s wines followed us: