My bicycle tour to the Tour de France 2007
I drove by car to the Swiss-French border to Martigny, where in front of the apartment the steep pass Forclaz Pass
( at 1526 m with 1050 m level difference ) covered with beautiful wine yards rose in the hight.
Around 8 a.m. I started my cycling tour with full equipment (tent,sleeping bag,food and 2 l mineral water ) and mixed feelings.
My luggage was so heavy I could hardly stand up on the bike. I usually climb passes not sitting on the saddle, at most at the very beginning of the ascending .
I promised myself to keep on sitting at this pass, because I thought on those days in advance when I will have to climb not 1050 m level difference but 2770 m.
Finally I just needed a short break - see photos - and I reached the hight of 1526 m.
The refreshing downhill ride followed afterwards.
The next pass was Col des Montes (1461 m). I had the chance to see Mont Blanc in bright sunshine first in my life.
After this pass I had a cheering up downhill ride with some short ascendings down to Chamonix, where I was accepted by bright sunshine and terrible heat, though the glacier seemed to be just across the road.
You would think that the several thousand m long glacier (Mer de Glace ) would cool the air down.
Again downhill ride:down to the valley only a few hundred m over see level.
This Viadukt I definetelly wanted to shoot a photo of. But I did not rekon that a police car with civil licence plate passing by.
First it was not clear for me, why they were shouting to me, for I was still busy with making a photo.
Then they put the blue flashing light on the car roof and shouted even more loudly.
I just arrived in the valley when the road was winding uphill again. There was a shocking heat.
So I stopped in a romantic shady curve near a bridge over a creek to eat and drink, to collect some energy.
I notices a liquid was dropping from my luggage over the rear wheel. It smelled terribly.What happended ? As reserves I brought 2 doses of non-alcoholic beer. I intended to drink them after overcomming the passes Galibier and Col D L Iseran as a reward.
They became a leak and my beer ran away. So many cloths got dirty. In the creek I washed them and hung them on the reeling of the bridge for drying. They did not get of cause dry, then I had to continue my ride soon.
Late afternoon I could get them more or less dry at the camp site .
I was slowly approaching the first ski resort in the French skiing history: Megeve on a long ascending.
Though I stopped in the shadow a few times, I arrived at early afternoon to the camping ( Praz sur Arly), which was recommended by my hosts in Switzerland as a cheap one.
Early next morning hot air balloons bid me farewell in Praz sur Arly.
I started my ride to Albertville early, for I thought because of the intermediate sprint of the Tour de France (PMU) the traffic will be diverted, for many fans will arrive.
In almost an hour I reached the town on a downhill distance of 40 km. It is a good average speed !
I made my lap of honour in the town of winter olympics 1992. I had my breakfast in the park. Afterwards I was looking for a proper place at the intermediate sprint on the main road, where I will be able to shoot my first photos of the TOUR.
Roughly four hours I had to wait in the sunshine, but after 2 hours the promotion vehicles of the fourty main sponsors followed each other during two hours to "throw " their presents.
Finally the place was not good any more, because the sun had turned being a backlight.
But my digital camera did not let either to shoot so frequently as the cyclists passed by.
After the sprint some cyclists one by one followed before the peleton. Then the chasers rolled by. The bulk of the peleton arrived the intermediate point, long and split up. Finally the army of the escort vehicles left us,too.
I quickly packed my things, because I still had to go many km to find the next camping site.
I first went in the Isere valley in the heat. Then the landscape of Maurienne was reached.
The camp site was already early afternoon full, so I could only believe on the good will of the owner.
Allegedly I was his first guest from Budapest, so he walked with me through the Camping des Grand Cols "camp site of the great passes" , to look for a place , which was found between the Spaniards and the Dutch family.
The camping was full of signs of the passes of this area, most of them were over 2000 m.
in background:Mont Bréguin
For I suspected hardly to have a chance to get a place in the camp site under the pass Galibier in the mass of the fans, I got up at 6 and at 7 I was climbing the ascending in direction of the great passes. The name Col de Telegraph or Col du Galibier set every cyclist' s heart flutter.
Well, they were now ahead of me. At the baker in St.Michel de Maurienne I filled up my stock, glanced last from the brigde of the river Arc to the mountains in direction of Col du Télegraphe.
Relatively fast I climbed up to the pass Col du Télegraphe 1586 m ,I then went downhill to Valoire (1430m) to the camping.
I performed my memorized French sentences at the reception. No effect was achieved this time. I repeated them.
Well, the lady answered now, she undertands me, but she cannot get how can I think there would be a single place available, for the last was booked and paid weeks ago.
To come down I entered a food store, bought orange juce and drank it at one go. I ate some sweetness while I talked the a German and a Swiss girl, who came also by bike to the Tour.
Version B came into use.
I cycled on, and reached soon the border of the small resort. I saw the police men turning the cars back to the valley vigorously.
The road blocking was ment luckily not for the cyclists, I was allowed to go on.
It was a slow ascending along a small river, from both sides overlooked by high mountains and the target far ahead : Col du Galibier.
I suddenly saw a small grassy place beside a lost depo. That became the site for my tent.
It was horribly hot, so I relaxed in the shadow, while trying to shoot some pictures from the funny marmots.
I managed only some flowers, because they could not run aways.
Water I fetched from the rushing down creek of the mountain opposite .
Now it was completely clear for me that I have to start next morning extremely early to be able getting a place at the mountain sprint .
At 6 a.m. I was already cycling at the first curve, where at a broader site tents lined the road uphill to the pass.
At the feet of the high peaks in a right bend a sign stock my eye "Coppi sempre present " "Coppi is always present. I would be moved, but then I looked automatically uphill. The steepest section of the 24 km long ascending rose threathening before me.
By then I broke my promise to climb sitting on the sadle,
I was struggling with the level meters standing up on the bicycle.
After that steep ascending I saw fans from Jena (East Germany).They were endlessly happy about the greeting "Es lebe die DDR !" Long live GDR .
I talked to them briefly, then they let me struggeling on while cheered me pretty much.
I soon glanced up to the probable pass top. However I had to go still half an hour to get there.
Many cyclist names were painted on the road surface among them Bodrogi. It was apparantly from last year, because he did not take part in the race this summer. Lastly I arrived at the pass top of Col du Galibier ( 2654 m) watched by high peaks .
After the compulsory photo was shot by a cyclist, I was looking for a place for my bicycle, because the top was already almost full. I should have been able at that moment to see the pass top seven hours later !
I laid my bike to a slope close to the finish line of the mountain sprint. Since I am small, I climbed up to a rock on the slope, from where I could shoot pictures over the mass of fans.
I had been sitting motionless for seven hours on that rock, because a loose rubble shift was all over.
Gradually the pass top became full of people: over me lots of locals also Spaniards and a female photografer from Italy,who let one of her expensive cameras fall. She slipped fast down, causing a small avalanche.
Then she stated victoriously :German qualitiy it is working !
She then climbed back swinging her camera. 20 m beside me Americans were, who underrated this ascending, stating that Tour of Georgia has also 22 % steep sections as well. Later I saw an enourmously long flag pole. On its top a small Romanian and further down a huge Hungarian flag were. There were fans obviously Hungarians from Transylvania (Romania)
Then the attack of the promotion vehicles slowed down, helicopters were flying louder and louder, closer and closer.
I now put the Hungarian flag beside me. Still it did not come in the TV transmission, because I was more than 20 m away from the mountain sprint.
In the end we could see them approaching the pass top, a column in the hair pin bend further down. The Tour arrived !
One of the German guys spoke French and from the radio broadcasting he informed us. The young Columbian climbing specialist Mauricio Soler was coming with three minutes advantage.
But in the next biggest group of chasers you will see Rassmussen,Contador,Sastre, Andreas Klöden,Moreau and some more favourites.
Later in the finish in Briancon I learned that Soler could not be cought up on the steep downhill part. The stage victory belonged to him, too. In the end of the Tour he also won the polka dot jersey as well (King of the Mountain). Until now /2010/ that was the best year of his carrier.
The chaser were comming closer. The picture of the finish of the mountain sprint .I managed to shoot photos of some cyclists: Astarloza (Euskatel), Kim_Kirchen_LUX , group of Andreas Klöden , Inglinszkij(KAZ),Sylvian Chavanel, further chasers and they were comming all the time.... also Spaniards f.e. Jose Luis Arrieta, then the bulk reached the mountain sprint.
What happend after all cyclists crossed the mountain top, was one of my greatest event in my life.
Several hundreds of hobby cyclist were at the same time hurtled downhill with a speed 55-60 some of them even over 70 km/h on the from the road traffic closed road before the fans lining the sharp bends of the road.
I took part in the downhill roll, though full packedI overtook many cyclist. Arrived in the valley I endevoured to join the small groups and kept with them 1-2 km .
That was almost a real race.
In the finish I inquired the victors, I got a promotion-ice cream. I ate it slowly, whilst watching the proud castle on the mountain opposite .
All good things come to an end and the road was again winding uphill on the long ascending to the pass Col de Montgenevre 1854 m ) towards the Italian border.
The home cycling Italians fast passed me by. My heavy luggage surely was not an excuse for.
I could not wait to see the camp site I found at home in the internet. But it did not come in sight. Finally a French local cyclist showed it to me. By then I became very tired. I noticed : no signs, no advertisment,no cashier, it was only a site for motorhomes.
I got only drinking water there. I pitched up my tent behind a small hill next to the site on a meadow.
In every directions you could see the columns of the ski lifts.
The offical part of my bicycle tour was behind me. The main goal was now to take care of myself to be able to get back to my car in Martigny dry and unhurt
But the highest pass were still before me :the pass Col d L Izeran with 2770 m.
Igot up again very early, then I expected a very hot day around noon.
I quickly roolled over the pass top on the border. I was already in Italy. I saw again Mont Blanc in the chilly morning.
I could only guess which one might be amoung the many peaks. Steep downhill ride with sharp hair pin bends, few traffic followed.
Close to the French border Fort Esile watched the road. It seemed to me that the French and the Italian were not always such good friends in the history.
In the first Italian small towns I made some picures. The pedestrian one of Cesana Torinese.
In Italy I feeled more like at home, I could at least ask some questions and trust the well known and even by me several times proved Italian hospitality.
Arrived in the valley I enjoyed the view of the motorway from a bird's view, and the other motorway on the slope.
But again teh next task to overcomelevel difference of 2270 m in the merciless summer heat.
On this ascending I was first time a winner, because I overtook a Dutch cyclist also with a huge luggage.
The border did not want to come in sight. I took little breaks, drank water from creeks , ate something, still no pass top to see. On Some spots level signs were, so I could follow my progresses.
Finally I arrived the border ! Certainly no house, no frontier soldier. A quick photo. While I was shoting the picture, I noticed though I reached the border, but not the pass top! Usually the pass top is the border, too.
Over the water reservoir I could see something winding. That could only be the road! That was the moment I lost my strenth of mind, for my strenth left me long before.
Afterwards I refreshed myself at every creek or spring , here I relaxed longer , ate some sweetness again.
As I came slower higher, the wind was getting up. Surrely not as a tail wind, but aa a headwind. It was probably windy earlier too, b ut I was more pretected further down in the wood. Finally I reached the lake Lac de Mont Cenis ( 1925 m) with its unrealisticaly wonderful blue water, overlooked by high peaks f.e. a .3610 m one .
I had to return to my strenth, because many cyclists came from the other side uphill.
That picture was shot by a cyclisz from Linz, Austria. A whole large group climebed up to the lake.
I had still a small pass Col de Mont Cenis (2083m) on the agenda today !
Certain I had to go downhill first, then I could climb uphill.
But after the steep descending I rolled fit looking in the camp of Lanslebourg . I thought I deserved today to go eating out in this nice resort and taste a glass of Stella Artois .
From this window I watched the easy traffic of the small resort.
Next day I continued my bicycle tour optimistic despite of the first level diffrence of 1925 m in sunshine.
I went by houses old fashaned ,sometimes greeted by other cyclists comming with luggage from the opposite direction..
After the last village in the valley mercilessly steep ascending came.
Motorbikers were talking with a French farmer , I stopped there not last because of the marvellous view. He watched some cows, but sooon revealed he had apartments in the valley in Hospice. That is his real existence. Though I met him later in a higher situated valley with more cows. This valley was watched over by threethousand m high peaks.
Col de L_Iseran 2770 m is the highest road pass, where I got in my life.
From the pass I had a wonderful wonderful view and respectable sight in every direction.F.e.the peak of Aiguille Pers .
The pass top,left a cyclist from Vienna arriving, who shot my portrait later. The picture of the side leading to the North.
The former profi cyclist from Vienna was in my age seemded to bas für mich als historisch anzuerkennende Foto wurde von einem ehemmaligen Radrennfahrer aus Wien.Er war in etwa meinem Alter, und schiene as lucky as me about overcomming the pass. He was escorted by his wife car.
Again a hellish downhill ride with hair pin bends. From the pass you could have a spectacular sight through the 1200 m level difference to Val D Izer with its water reservoir.
On the last part of the road to the famous resort the surface was freshly asphalted, my bicycle with the heavy luggage did not come into swining. There I reached my speed record of 78 km/h. Then I had to make an emergency brake, because I already was hurtling in Val D Izerbe.
In every French town I left my old French flyers at the cars wind screen, while I was looking at the hotels, restaurants and athe mountain peaks in the remote distance. I did the same here.
At the water reservoir I met British guy, who lived in Paris but rode his motor bike inhis favourite Alps .
He complained about the high prices in the area, but did not argue the beauty of the mountains.
The next downhill ride did not bring any surprise. A last glance back to Bourg St.Maurice in the valley, and I was already struggeling on the ascending to pass Col du Petit St.Bernard(2642m).
At early afternoon I arrived to the camping in La Rosier (auf ca. 1800 m). Later I went for a walk to ick up honey sweet berries . I also made some photos about agaricus / a kind of mushroom/ . I could go to sleep, because I performed a level difference of 2800 m in two ascendings.
The last day
I got up very early. Soon I was over the pass Col du Petit St.Bernard ( 2642m) . From the pass top I could see Mont Blanc again. Then downhill ride to Aosta. From there I had a level difference from 583 m up to 2469 m.
Young cyclists from Afrika went downhill and uphill during their training greeting the "old one " politely.
Before I passed through some settlements with French names in Italy : Pre St. Didier .
One more legendary mountain from the history of the great cycling tours : Courmayeur
Looking back to the St.Didier lying in the valley. A village in Italy again with a French name and a proud mansion.
The Dora valley before Aosta with the motorway. The target of today: Col du Grand St.Bernard .
I am already at 1264 m in Entroubles, closer and closer to the last pass.
I found shelter under the supporting pillars of the road over me from a small rain. I took the opportunity to eat some sweetness and to enjoy the view of the landscape. That way I had to go on.
I met a young guy from Czechia who was cycling from Innsbruck to Cote d Azur. He looked awfully fit despite of the distance and the high mountains he went through.
Already the day before I cought a small rain shower, after I found a drinking bottle of the cycling team Credit Agricole - it was may be used by Thor Hushod ? - while I was making a photo at an ascending.
The weather forcast predicted rain shower for today.
Though I suspected to see the pass top, the black clouds worried me. After the short rain I went on my bicycle tour.
I sruggled though the construction sites of the road. Suddenly in a fiery sun a cloud burst cought me unexpectedly. Until I toook my jacket out of the rear bag I became wet through the skin. There was no shelter in sight, but in 150m distance I saw an avalanche shelter. I pedaled there. I changed all my cloths quickly, because the temperature dropped a lot.Well, I was wating for my faith.
I had time enough to look where I came from. If I had had the power, I would have degraduted Sankt Bernard, patron of the hikers of the mountains. I would have done it without hesitating,because he could have been waiting with the shower 1,5-2 hours.
In the mean time it became very cool. After one and half hours waiting I decided to continue my bicyle tour to it end despite of some rain drops.
I did not know how far I was from the pass top of Col du Grand Saint Bernard (2469m). In a minute I realized only one turn was missing.
The compulsory photo came into existence with Dutch help. Hospice St.Rhemy on the pass top.
I looked down into the Swiss darkness. About 50 km were still to go to Martigny.
Then let me go !
Tough the road surface was wet, I overtook some cars in the sharp turns.
21 km were to go to Martigny, as the inevitable happened.
The rain started to pour. I turned the light on the bicycle on, because it was very dark and I gathered all my left strenth to pedal.
The car drivers unlike those of Budapest overtook me understandably in a large half circle, but I was anyway wet to my skin.
I found my car at the parking lot, however I noticed judged from the evidences that some one tried to take my fuel out.
A friendly neighbour / helper of the apartment, who either her daughter, did not speak any German or English,arranged my accommodation. I was happy, because the owners told me upon departure the apartments will be not available in a week.
My bicycle tour to the Tour de France ended luckely. I will remember this bicycle tour for the rest of my life.
Next day I was cought by a could burst on the motorway between Zürich and Lichtenstein. Many cars stopped in the breakdown lane. I was driving in the third (fastest) lane with 40 km/h. I saw nothing but two indistinct red lights of the previous car.
I did not intend to stop for a break, because I did not want to get stuck on the motor way. I heard bad news from the German broadcastings, particularly from South Bavaria,which was just some km away. Heavy rain falls, fludded cities even one casualty.
During driving I was guessing wether the cloud burst at Martigny yesterday was worse ?
In the moring I arrived at the Hungarian border. A small chaos because of the motorway vignette but sunshine and warm expected me