on: Bardet Bardet Barwaddladineday eh Bardadada Barwaddladineday WOH day Bardet

ITV4 coverage of the tour this year, the bits between the racing, not the actual racing, has been brilliant. This is chiefly down to the winning combination of Imlach, Boardman and Boulting. I’ve even warmed to the silent assassin, Matt Rendell, with his perfect french and Hitchcockian undertone of menace.

Highlights included Jen Voigt’s extended homily, questing where reality begins and ends on the Tour; “Now that I have seen both sides, who are the monkeys actually, and who are the people watching and who are the real monkeys? I can’t answer that.” This epithete appeared in the rest day programme, which also featured some terrific footage of Thevenet and Merckx on Pra Loup and an extended interview with Thevenet. It captures the moment Merckx blows up and loses his lead. You can find it on the page below:

http://www.itv.com/tourdefrance/features

Second up is the genius montage which tied Romain Bardet to SL2 forever; it’s a track we’ve been humming in Traumfarrhad Towers for a while now. It’s as though legions of cycling tifosi up and down the land shared the same earworm, but didn’t realise until the sound editor laid it down. He’s probably been itching for a Bardet stage win all year, waiting and waiting, and then BOOM, it drops in his lap.

http://www.itv.com/tourdefrance/on-a-ragga-tip-ey-ba-day-its-a-bardet-day

It’s the best montage I’ve ever seen. Aside from musical mash-ups and vague puns, the Velon footage has been a genuine innovation this year. There is talk of getting to a point where camera footage is available live during the race. It would be quite something to be able to cut to a sprinter’s camera when he stamps on the pedals. The footage from this tour has some unusual angles, mechanic-cam is a favourite. The clip below seems to have someone groaning throughout which adds a bit of depth, as if a multi-rider smash up at 40mph wasn’t deep enough.

However, nothing comes near the action from Alpe D’Huez. As the riders head up through Dutch corner it resembles a scene from a Werner Herzog film, orange smoke drifting across a vision of an inferno; a baying and screaming mob dressed in outlandish attire. A genuinely unreal spectacle.

Col De Joux Plane

I started very early today, anxious to avoid the stifling midday heat of the Alps. It’s been getting up to around 30 degrees, and past experience of trying to ride Alpe D’Huez in about 36 degree heat told me this was to be avoided at all costs.

Cows. With bells on. Literally.

I headed for Samoens, located handily at the base of the Col De Joux Plane. Riding in the Alps is something all cyclists should do at least once. It’s an encompassing and fantastic experience. The height gain over some of the lengthier cols can create a strong sensation that you’re riding up onto the roof of the world. The relentless grind – especially if you don’t have anything smaller than a 25 on the back and a 39 on the front – is worthwile because you move further and further away from everything else below, it shrinks in size and stature whilst concurrently your upwards progress seems to almost tame the monstrous size of the mountains all around. The views are ample reward for the energy expended.

ascending the col de joux plane from samoens

i took my steel-framed road bike with me, via sleazyjet. It’s the first time i’ve flown with a bicycle and was completely paranoid about the experience. i bought half a hundredweight of pipe lagging from wickes and set about buttressing frame and bike bag with cardboard. it seemed to work. it’s pretty easy to fly with a bike, you just have to be prepared. I’ve always taken the train before, and doubtless will again, but it’s a relief to know that flying can be a viable option.

On the Joux Plane itself there was a disappointing lack of road art. I saw a few paltry offerings, but really nothing on the scale of Alpe D’Huez last year.

allez pip

The Joux Plane is not the longest Alpine col, i think it took around 45 minutes all told, i can’t be sure because my Garmin seems to have erased the data. Nevertheless, 45 minutes of riding uphill is quite a task. I then flew down the other side, popped into Morzine, realised that my longer ride plans were going awry because i’d miscalculated the ride time, then came back up the other side of the Joux Plane before dropping down into Samoens. With regard to ride time there is no point trying to use miles when riding in the Alps, everything takes much much longer. Once the road starts pointing upwards you have to settle for around a 10 mile an hour average speed, at best, which means a planned 45 mile route could take anything up to 5 hours. You have to base everything on time in the saddle. My friend Nick told me this a long time ago and it rung true today.

Whilst it’s not particularly long, it is quite steep and has several changes in gradient so it’s certainly a challenging ascent. There were several sections where I began to regret not putting a 27 on the back, just to have that slightly lighter gear. I was out of the saddle a bit more than I might have liked, but it wasn’t too much of an issue. I managed just shy of 10,000 feet of climbing on quite a short ride – not even 40 miles. The Col De Joux Plane is about 8 miles long. The cows with bells were a highlight. They were noisy.

Tomorrow I’m riding in the Jura Mountains. I can see them from the window of the flat. They are tantalisingly close and tempting.

Paris Nice: Col D’Eze

i spent most of yesterday afternoon trying to avoid spoilers, but failed spectacularly because i accessed the limitless power of the internet. anyway, if you haven’t seen it yet, Wiggins won with an awe-inspiring display of uphill time trialling, if that doesn’t sound too euphemistic. the interesting thing is that it’s a hill climb of sorts. they really should have more uphill time trials on the continent; they had one on alpe d’huez a few years back. it’s a world of short TT extensions, confusion over what to ride, and a weight limit of 6.8kg on the bikes. it’s hard to even imagine what’s going through the riders’ minds in the video below. the crowd is oppressive and overwhelming. armstrong has his cap on backwards like a true hillclimber. his speed is unreal.

On the Col D’Eze Wiggins was turning over the gear remorselessly. it’s a really astounding sight. He’s the first British winner since Tommy Simpson in 1967 and is staking a claim to being one of the greatest riders this island has ever produced.

When i first started getting into cycling i remember watching the tour and trying to see how Max Sciandri was doing, a half-italian, half british rider, or whether Robert Millar still had the legs (his powers were on the wane).  this year we’ve got one of the world’s pre-eminent stage racers, the world champion and a stack of gifted riders across several teams. it’s hard to believe just how much british cycling has changed, but if you want a point of comparison i recommend ‘wide eyed and legless’, by Jeff Connor. It describes the problems faced by the ANC Halfords team in the 1987 tour. it’s a fantastic book.