A fantastic recollection of what we can now look back on as a surreal week in the Alps, getting amongst the very best of the world’s most spectacular bike race.
Tour de France Memories, By Stephen Carpenter
In July 2018, I travelled with Stuart O’Grady and Mummu Cycling to follow the Tour de France through the French Alps. Put simply, this was one of the best experiences I have ever had. The highlights are too many to list but there are some that stand out more than others.
On our very first day, having tested our bikes, we found ourselves having a private chat with Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen on the steps of our hotel about how the race would unfold through the mountains. And then Phil and Paul joined us again at dinner. What a privilege! And Jens Voigt came over just to say hello to Stuart and the rest of us. We truly felt we were inside the bubble of the Tour de France.
The level of access to the tour we enjoyed was beyond belief. We stood next to the Maillot Jaune (Greg van Avermaet) as he was interviewed before Stage 10, met Simon Gerrans and then watched Chris Froome get ready. We followed the pros up the Category 1 Col de la Croix Fry and celebrated with drinks at the summit. This was only Day 2 and we were giddy.
And of course we rode our bikes through the most glorious country side, up the steepest climbs and down with Stuart next to us all the way. We rode ahead of the peloton for 40kms from the start of stage 11 from Albertville and people called out from the side of the road ‘we were the luckiest people they knew’. And after stopping to watch the peloton speed past, crammed into a French bar to watch and cheer the end of a stage, sharing stories with Stuart, Darren and Emily as if we were seasoned pros. We sprinted the last 20kms into Valence as part of a 60km ride along the closed roads of Stage 13, with families picnicking by the road and cheering us on.
We went on to ascend Alpe d’Huez and Col du Galibier, personal achievements that will always stay with me. At the top of Alpe d’Huez, I remember the overwhelming emotion of being at the very heart of the cycling world, the sense of extraordinary anticipation building as we waited for the peloton to arrive. And when it did, the excitement and atmosphere was like no other I have experienced. And as the icing on the cake, we raced down Alpe d’Huez chased by Australian legend Baden Cooke. We told Stuart we would take it slowly…
Space does not permit more anecdotes. Suffice to say I find myself often day dreaming of my experiences from this truly wonderful trip. It was a privilege to meet and be hosted so generously by Stuart and his team, and to spend time “inside the bubble” of the greatest sporting event in the world. I cannot recommend it more highly.