Last month, after over a year of anticipation and planning, my husband Andy and I took my dream vacation: a trip to watch the Tour de France in the French Alps. Although France can be a great trip avec children, based on our itinerary, we decided this trip was one better to leave them at home in the lovely care of grandparents.
Days before the tour reached the town we were staying in, we rented road bikes and climbed the epic Tour de France route up the Alpe d’Huez with our friends, Jamie and Freddie. It was nine grueling miles and 21 hairpin turns to the top of the mountain.
After a brief respite at the top of the Alpe d’Huez, we continued on the 2013 tour route on a little known road to the Col de Serenne. With the incredible Alps surrounding us and quaint little mountain towns we passed through, it was a beautiful addition to the ride but added a tricky descent (read: if we go over the side of the road we are dead), another trek of uphill in the granny gear and then a scary 16K on a highway without a bike lane through the valley back into the town where we were staying.
The nice part about the scary highway stretch is that the drivers that were whizzing by us were paying attention and didn’t even honk or yell at us like what would surely have happened in the U.S. Needless to say, it was fantastic to be around so many cycling aficionados in the French Alps where cycling is just a part of the culture and way of life.
An important learning we all came away with was the incredible athletic ability of the cyclists in the Tour de France. As a cycling fan, I’m biased, but I’m convinced they are the most fit of any professional athletes. During Stage 18 of the 2013 Tour de France, not only did they ride the 35 miles that we spent four hours doing in less than an hour, but they started the stage with a ride from another city and then ascended the Alpe a second time, because once wasn’t hard enough. And they do stages like this day after day for three weeks straight.
So, we did it! We climbed the legendary Alpe d’Huez and then had a great time watching the pros do it twice during Stage 18 of the Tour de France a couple of days later.