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July 17 - Drive to Arreau

Ride to Pla d'Adet and watch Tour de France Stage Finish










Today was an early day as we had about an hour or more to drive from Lourdes to where we planned to park to get to Pla D’Adet.  We found a great spot in one of the famous dirt areas off the French roads so we parked, got changed and started riding. Since we had left so early, we didn’t really get a good cup of coffee, so we stopped at a bar in the town square near the base of the Col D’Aspin and had a croissant and a cup of coffee before setting off on our 10K ride to Pla D’Adet. Traffic picked up significantly as we entered St Lary Soulan where we could see our destination on the top of the mountain


 The initial stages of the climb were very steep and they were crowed with Basques dressed in their customary orange and acting crazy as ever.  The picture Tom took from the road easily shows the daunting slopes.  These steep slopes were made more difficult with the extreme temperatures … It was hot.


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Normally I had been taking gels and water on the fly as I rode, but on this climb, I  stopped with Paul due to the heat and crowded conditions. Stopping was just safer. We continued riding and this time made it to about the 150m mark before the road was closed.  It was very crowded and Paul and I thought we may not be able to find Tom, but just as we were preparing to ride down the mountain a bit, we found Tom. He had staked out a primo spot at the 150m marker.  It was a great spot, but due to the location, it severely limited our access to water and a bathroom. We took care of the latter between two of the tour equipment trucks.



The scenery was fantastic, even in the high heat.  I’d like to say that the heat made the Basques act like they did, but those guys were crazy. Once again, it was clear that you could see almost anything at one of these events!

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It was kind of neat as we ran into the Leipheimers again. Levi didn’t fair as well today as he did last week at Courchevel. They had been following him every day and planned on finishing.


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We also had a good view of the Jumbotron and that was important as we’d learn once the coverage began. The first thing we learned was that there was a break away that included Big George Hincapie. We joked that maybe George would stay away and win the race!

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It was clear that Lance and Basso were marking each other and neither would catch the front two.

Little did we know how prophetic that discussion would be. When the helicopters finally came into view, the excitement built, more than on Courchevel and George was one of two remaining in the break.



When the race got to about the 200m mark, Big George attacked and by the time he reached our location, he had the race pretty much sewn up.


Lance and Basso came to the line together, pretty much wrapping up Lance’s 7th Tour win.


Floyd wasn’t far behind, although he was never in it after the last climb began.



It was way cool to be there for George Hincapie’s first Grand Tour win after being Lance’s right hand guy all these years.  We hadn’t seen Lance win, but I think seeing George win was even better.

Pla D'Adet Ride

Total Ascent Distance: 21.8 km (13.1 miles)

Distance Climbed: 3202 ft

Time: 1 Hours 45 Minutes (Ascent)

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The best part of the day though was after the race. As we were waiting for the road to open, George rode back down the mountain. As he passed, the Basques were booing and yelling obscenities at him. George had the perfect reaction, flipping them the double bird as he rode past!


After the race, as usual, we had to wait a long time for the race officials and tour riders to head down before they would let us ride down. Luckily, there seemed to be a break, so we were allowed to head down before everyone else had departed. I was pretty shaky all day thinking about the descent after my experience at Courchevel.  Once were were in clean air, I just decided to rocket down the mountain to stay a head of the regular traffic.  About half way down, the crowds thinned, but we also saw a very bad crash with a cyclist being attended to by medical staff. The lower part of the mountain was unbelievably clear and it was a fun ride. When we got to the bottom, street traffic was at a stand still waiting for the team busses to get going before traffic was allowed to proceed. We were able to get past the team busses, including Discovery. I gave them a thumbs up in the windows as we rode past. Once we were free of traffic, we started one of the most fun rides we had on the trip. We had been separated from Tom in the chaos at the base, so Paul and I went on our own. We rocked for that whole 10K back to the van sometimes in a line, other times feeling like we were in our own tour. All that hard work was worth it though as when we got back to van, we found Tom. We quickly got changed and headed for the highway, ahead of most of the traffic. Things started to bog down as we neared the highway tolls, so I located an alternate path with the GPS. Using that alternate, we beat the crowd onto the highway one exit closer to Lourdes and we were back in the hotel in nothing flat. All in all, an amazing day.