A mountain stage
Jul 16, 2011
|Toby arrives to pick us up at 6am. We remake the beds and then load up the car and drive to the mountain.
The kids have a site just 50 metres from the summit. The girls return to the car for some more sleep and Toby stretches out on the grass outside. Their night had been one of interruptions. They found it hard to get used to the cowbells constantly ringing in the paddock above them and then there were the hoons driving up and down the mountain blasting their horns.
David and I go for a walk and a little bit of a climb. The scenery is just stunning and the day glorious.
When we get back we find a note that the kids are climbing the mountain behind us (1873 metres). The summit where we are is 1300 metres.
They return just in time for the ‘caravan’. Doesn’t matter how often you see this it is still so easy to get caught up in the game. We score so many freebees – from hats, clothes washing detergent, lollies, lense cleaners, fridge magnets, newspapers and comics (in French), clappers and flags.
Everyone cheering and dancing to attract the attention of the sponsors – one of our car windows is open and a couple of the sponsors actually target the window and throw the goodies inside.
As the time nears we stand, looking down on the road winding below until we finally see the breakaway of 24 riders. We watch them climb, make their way around the hairpin bend and then ride past us to the summit.
Seven minutes later come the peloton, followed by the usual stream of team cars. Cadel rides straight past the girls who give him an earful of Aussie barracking.
A really fun day.
We clean up our site. We are amazed at how clean France is and particularly at these events. There is simply no rubbish left behind by the public at all.
Now we set off for Andorra – we are finally leaving France.
We follow the route of today’s tour for a while before tackling the Col de Port, which has been used in previous tours. Once again the mountains don’t disappoint.
Just as we are about to drive the last 50kms we come to an abrupt stop – the tour had travelled through Tarascon on the way to the last mountain in the stage and obviously they are going to return this way after the finish.
We arrive just after 5pm and are told to park on the side of the highway. Quite a queue develops and we chat to our neighbours and wait patiently. There is a dribble of tour vehicles until around 6.15 when the ‘caravan’ travels through, probably heading towards tomorrows start – we tempt them with our Australian flags and receive a generous response. Have to do something to kill the time.
In the meantime the gendarmes are whizzing to and fro with sirens blasting.
Finally the tour buses begin to travel through and the rest of the support and official vehicles, and finally we are allowed to proceed at 8pm. Quite disgraceful when they have had a year to organise themselves – anywhere else we have been the traffic has cleared remarkably quickly.
We travel on the N20 over the mountains to Andorra (a tiny little country between France and Spain). We cross the border and from there it is just a continual chain of ski resorts tucked into the mountains until we reach Andorra le Vella – the capital. Everything is quite new, the highways very good although the roads are quite narrow and windy in the capital.
After 10pm when we finally book into our hotel and find a car park for the car. We find a great little restaurant still open and enjoy good food and drinks.