Le Tour ... part deux!

Trip Start Mar 05, 2008
Trip End Jan 11, 2009

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Flag of France  ,
Monday, July 28, 2008

After Bordeaux we continued down the West Coast. Bayonne was really pretty. There were heaps of old buildings and we even saw a medieval festival - complete with minstrals and suits of armour!

We hit Biarritz but couldn't find anywhere to camp (it's massively popular in summer), so we drove through to a place called Bidat (are you seeing a pattern here?!) It was actually Bastille Day, so we walked to the main square and watched their celebrations. It was certainly no Skyworks - but they did have a man carrying their fireworks, and most of the time he often looked like the one that was on fire!!!!

We spent most of the next day in Biarritz. Checked out the beach, the view and the casino (weren't really dressed to go inside though) - even saw a few Tour cars enjoying their rest day. Then we headed off towards our next destination to see Stage 11.

We stopped at Pau to do some photo transferring (the big camera doesn't attach to the laptop) & went into a hotel to ask directions. It turned out to be the hotel where the Quickstep team were staying, but don't think we saw anyone famous. Drove as far as Aspet & found a nice municipal campground.

Next morning headed towards the Col de Portal (the BIG climb) which took about 2 hours. By the time we reached the turnoff, the road was already closed, so we had to leg it up (me by feet, Ian on the bike) a 4km mountain road with gradients up to 18 degrees!!!!

We watched the riders go by with what seemed like thousands of people - some who had been there for two days to make sure they got a spot - then we had the trip back down. Ian flew down (whilst avoiding people of course) & I ended up running about 3 of the 4 kms! Guess the knees are holding up ok then.

When we got away, we headed for Carcassone (where Ian was hoping to visit a massive Medieval castle) and found ourselves a campsite. It was great to hear that Cadel was still in Yellow!

We got up and had a cooked breaky on the camp stoves, then headed to Chateau de Carcassone. It was a massive fortified city really (like the ones you see in the musketeer movies!), with some 52 defensive towers. We had a good couple of hours looking around and walking up on the Chateau walls before heading to a (very) small town called Montpaisir to set up and watch Stage 12.

We had a ball. Made friends with some French ladies across the road by giving them loads of our free goodies ... and they let me use their toilet. (Are you seeing a pattern here?!)

Highlight of the day was scoring Cadel's water bottle during the stage.

Lowlight, was definitely spending over three hours looking for camping near Nimes so that we could watch the finish of Stage 13!

We found ourselves a spot by the 350m mark, but also with a view of the big screen tv. We got to see the last 80 odd kms on the screen, then watched the bunch sprint past, before watching the finish again on the tv. Robbie McEwen just got out sprinted by Mark Cavendish (the English guy). We pushed our way up to try & see the presentations, but it was just impossible! I managed to climb up (and hang off of!) a huge scaffold & got to see them presenting the polka dot jersey, but that was about it.

Next morning, we went & saw some of the sign ins at the start of Stage 14, but we totally mis-timed everything, and left it too late to get out to anywhere on the course, so we decided to head straight out to the mountain climb section of Stage 15.

We camped overnight by the side of the road (to get a good spot), just before a town called Molines - en - Queyras (about 30 minutes from the Italian border). Ian went off for a ride up the Col d'Agnel (the big climb of the stage), and I didn't think he was ever coming back!!!

It poured down with rain whilst he was gone & all he had on was a t-shirt and shorts. The caravan came & went, and he still wasn't back ... I figured that the police wouldn't let him come back because the riders were due.

All of a sudden, there he was ... totally saturated & with a little stash of goodies - including a Caisse d'Epargne shirt!!!! I will have to send him off more often!

We had a really good view of the riders as they came through, and we left as soon as we could to head for the Alpe d'Huez (the main climb of Stage 17), but we found out later that Simon Gerrans won the stage (go Aussies!)
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