Wow. Not even Frank Schleck had as a good a day yesterday as I did. It was one of the most amazing, fun, awe-inspiring and wonderful days I have ever had! Roberto decided to ride from the hotel in Vars, down a beautiful and break-neck col into Jausiers. We rendezvoused at the finish line area where Versus has their mobile studio. Beth and I stuck around long enough to watch the guys tape their first segment and to bum press passes off of Phil Liggett. Once we had passes (or keys to the kingdom as Roberto calls them) we started exploring.
We made friends with our waiter who along with his wife rode on horseback across Europe for three years! We befriended our neighbors Henri and Thierry who joined us at our table and entertained us for hours. The staff brought a giant TV outside so we could all watch the tour and we all sat around it like it was a campfire.
When the riders were about 50kms out Beth and I made our way to the finish line. The actual finish line! Thanks to the keys to the kingdom, we stood on the line and I was jubilant! I’m pretty sure Beth was embarrassed by my display, in all our years of friendship she may have somehow been spared seeing me completely lose myself in euphoric screams and jumps for joy. It was like being at the Super Bowl, Wimbledon, Santa's Workshop and Disney World all at once. My favorite rider, George Hincapie, had a good stage and I got to see the blur that was him cross the line in 5th.
The TV team stages themselves at the finish each day so last evening we drove to L’Alpe-d’Huez. The road took us past glaciers and granite-faced mountains, through Le Grave and finally wound all the way up L’Alpe. I didn’t have a chance to take photos from the road, which was a shame because not only was the scenery stunning, the spectators were fantastic! Hundreds, probably thousands of people are camped along every turn of the final climb. As we wound our way up and up, each corner became more congested with tents, RVs and piss-drunk spectators. One guy had a mobile dance club set up complete with DJ tables and disco balls. People were in costume or in nothing, they tapped the car and screamed allez allez! They all had that crazed fan glean in their eyes that I had at the finish line. This is a town of cycling lunatics at least for today.
I was treated to dinner with a tour group from South Africa as well as with Phil and Paul who were my chauffeurs from Jausiers to L’Alpe-d’Huez, commentating everything along the way, they even commentated the gas pump when we stopped to fill up. Finally, in the wee hours they delivered me to the hotel and to Beth and Roberto at the end of what really may have been my favorite day ever.