Roadside Reload: Alpe d’Huez 2015
Roadside Tour’15 Reload: The 2018 Tour de France makes its return to l’Alpe d’Huez on Thursday’s stage 12. So, we revisit the mythical climb and its twisting ascent with Ed Hood and his side-kick Callum MacGregor – and the craziness of the Alpe’s Dutch Corner back in 2015.
You can read Ed Hood’s 2018 Tour de France preview HERE.
The guy next to me has just showered me in beer, the fresh mountain air is stale with the smell of sweat, garlic breath, alcohol, burning clutches, flares and exhaust fumes; the noise is ear splitting; there are elbows in my ribs, people crush my toes – the team cars try to take them off altogether.
Dutch Corner, L’Alpe d’Huez, 2015 Tour de France, Stage 20. You have to love it.
The last we saw on the TV the Dutch guy had set up in a tent, F des J’s Alexandre Geniez was clear, solo with three minutes plus on a group which Garmin’s Ramunas Navarduskas had been driving for his Capo, Big Ryder Hesjedal who’s on a real good day.
Also in there are Pinot, Plaza, Anacona, Serpa. . .
The ‘Bigs’ are behind – Quintana and Valverde examined Froome on the Croix Fer but Christopher passed the test.
We watched the last 50K into the climb on the TV in the tent. The Dutch guy who’s tent it was saw me jotting down notes; “Hey! This is your job! You must put two Euros in the jar, eh?”
I duly put my two Euros in the jar and continue watching, ’til the caravan passes when I venture back into the mayhem to take some more pictures.
Huge coffee capsules cruise up through a living sea of orange – surreal.
I spot that among all of the profanity sits the memorial to the local community’s ‘glorious dead’ of the 1914-18 war – my adrenaline flow slows for a moment as I thinks about the mud of Flanders – so far away from this mountain idyll.
We go back to the TV – Geniez is in Bourg-D’Oissans at the foot of L’Alpe and still looking good despite the fact that he’s been away all day; initially in a break of four then ‘en seule.’
But the hill is nine miles long; we reckon he’ll need at least five minutes to pull it off – he has less than four. . .
We go back out to the Matmos, there’s a lull, it knows the race is close, last trips are made to the beer tent, nerves are raw and last minute cigarettes are lit. . .
Pinot! With virtually no warning, I grab a shot of his derriere – Ryder is with him.
Rolland is there but he must be tired today after his huge effort of yesterday – all he has to show for which is the red number of most aggressive rider.
Quintana – can he finish the job, today? We’ll soon know.
Froome’s men are dead on their tubulars but still ride their hearts out for him – if only he looked sweeter on a bicycle.
We grab the shots we can through the insanity around us; there’ll be no double stage win for Vincenzo and no double Grand Tour win for Alberto.
Someone let’s of a flare, there’s smoke everywhere, a moto cop takes a direct hit of beer straight in his visor – this is the craziest I’ve ever seen it.
Riders are getting balked by crazed fans and running up the back of team cars who are similarly delayed by ‘crazies.’
A Katusha passes, I think it’s Caruso, he taps his helmet in a ‘this is loco’ gesture.
They continue to stream up, tired, gaunt men – except Adam Hansen who’s sporting a glass of champers; Lieuwe Westra who’s drinking beer and one of the Jumbo guys who’s filming proceedings on a GoPro – madness.
Voeckler; Tommy is no longer the hero – he gets the ‘thumbs down’ and boo’s from the gallery.
But then the French fans erupt – Pinot wins!
Still tired riders come until finally the break down truck passes and it’s over. Pinot wins, Quintana attacks and closes to just over a minute on Froome – a brilliant finale. Such drama that I almost forgot about the rest of the stage. . .
. . .The kilometer marker at the bottom says ’23’ – welcome to le Col de la Croix de Fer, the wee Nissan isn’t enjoying this, second gear is as high as Callum can coax her.
We’re on the road early, it’s a special day – L’Alpe d’Huez.
I’ve loved that hill ever since John and I drove down in the Escort cabrio in ’92 and watched in awe as Andy Hampsten did his Moses impersonation, the Red Sea of screaming fans – us included – parting to allow him to pass, upwards and into cycling mythology.
We came back to see Conti win and Pantani; fabulous memories. In recent years I’ve seen Sastre, Rolland and Riblon win here and it’s always special.
AND we have a wee exclusive for you before the race even starts – our pal, Oleg out training, with team car in attendance. PEZ has the pics you just don’t get anywhere else.
The girls in the bakers on the Croix Fer like my name, two syllables; Edd-mond!
“You must take my picture, like a model!” Mon, plaisir!
Breakfast was just the job; all we need now is L’Equipe.
‘POUR L’HONNEUR’ says the headline with a wonderful image of Vincenzo reborn; yesterday was the first time the GC really ‘sparked’ – we’re hoping for part two today from Sen. Quintana.
The Croix Fer is brutal, there’ll be guys crack on this one for sure – but the views are stunning.
The peaks thrust up through fluffy clouds above alpine meadows, pine woods and chocolate box perfect villages – just a shame the boys have to ride this savage ribbon of tar.
And the surface is none too clever, either – and hey, isn’t that Asterix The Gaul’s amigo up there?
At the sommet Cool And The Gang blasts; ‘Get Down On It’ as the flags flutter in the cool breeze.
The descent is super fast then gets a bit more technical past the Glandon road end – we’re now descending what was the ascent of the Glandon on Stage 18. It’s a long, long way down and a chance to get back on.
The valley floor, pan flat. Bourg D’Oissans – and, BANG! Up it goes – L’Alpe. Hairpin One – dedicated to Fausto Coppi and, erm – Lance. . .
We miss 20 due to taking a ‘crazy pic’ – 19 and 18 are Hennie Kuiper; 17 is Agostinho and Sastre; 16 is Zoetemelk and Rolland; 15 is Winnen and Riblon; 14 is Breu; 13 is Winnen; 12 is Herrera; 11 is Hinault; 10 is Echave; 9 is Rooks; 8 is covered in banners – and 7, yes, it’s. . .
Dutch Corner – Madness!
Parking is stressful, but eventually we tuck the little Nissan in and survey the scene. They sing ‘Bauke Mollema’ to the tune of Boney M’s ‘Brown Girl in the Ring,’ they dance, they drink, they let off orange flares. . .
It’s insanity. I’ve been telling Callum about Dutch Corner for days now; I think he thought I was exaggerating – but I did see his jaw drop. Beautiful madness – just like always.
A beer for BMC’s Manuel Quinziato
It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he’s covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,100 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself – many years and kilograms ago – and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.