Been There, Climbed That

I love watching the Tour de France on television. I get especially excited when le Tour visits some place I’ve been or climbs some mountain that I have struggled up. This year’s race is providing quite a few ‘been there’ moments.

It started in Nice, host of le grand depart and two stage finishes. Back in 2016 I spent two nights there, a week apart at the start and finish of a 44 5 tour through the southern Alps. On the last day of that tour, we did a memorable descent into the city on very busy roads, followed by about 9 miles along the Promenade Anglais with thousands of people on a beautiful late August afternoon. A wonderful finish to a great tour, followed by a delicious and festive farewell dinner of Socca (aka, Farinata), a flatbread made from chickpea flour and topped with a stew or sauce of your choice. Wine was consumed…

Through the Alps and to the Med: The Finish in Nice

Next up: Mont Aigoual. The Tour was going there for the first time, but I have climbed that mountain on three occasions and was planning a fourth this year. We climbed it from a different direction, but it was just as hard as the race route. The summit offers a tremendous view from the highest point in the Cevennes Mountains.

Helicopter Shot on Race Day
I’ve climbed up here 3 times! I can’t really believe it.

On to the Pyrenees. The first stage there took on the Col de Menthe, and the Col du Peyresourde. I’ve done them both, although the Mente was in the opposite direction. The next day the race crossed the Soudet and the Marie Blanque; I’ve done both, although the Marie Blanque was opposite the direction of the race. My side was much easier.

Stage 18: I’ve ridden them all, but not on the same day!

Next week the race goes to the Alps, climbing the Col de la Madeline. I’ve actually done this from both sides on separate trips, so whichever direction the race goes I’ve got it covered. Then on Stage 18, the ‘Queen Stage’ there are 4 big climbs: Cormet de Roselend, Col de Saisies, Col des Aravis and Montee du Plateau des Glieres. I’ve been on all of them. The Aravis twice, and both times it was raining. I attempted the Roselend twice, but I abandoned one 5 km for the top because of bad weather, bad legs and irritation at the rental bike I was forced to ride after Air France lost my Tarmac. And the Glieres is a real brute; very, very steep. The reward was a quite wonderful lunch on the other side before the sweeping descent to Annecy and the end of another memorable tour.

So many memories, so many miles. Every year le Tour goes someplace I’ve been, and I watch with a kind of joy realizing that I’ve been there and done that, at my much slower pace of course. This year the joy of watching has been replaced by nostalgia and regret. I’ve asked Gerry of 44 5, the tour company that made most of my adventures possible, to go into a church and light two prayer candles and send me a picture. The light of hope for a return to France in 2021.

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