Le Tour de France
Climbing makes you a better cyclist #FACTS. In the mountains, your pedal stroke becomes smoother, rounder, and your core stabilises. Descending becomes 'that boring bit' between climbing.
I found my climbing legs on a recent trip to Mallorca scaling the Col del Reis (Sa Calobra). I have watched the Tour de France most of my life but had never ridden In the Alps (sacrilege I know), they make the Col del Reis look like... a molehill.
In the spirit of Alludens, and retro sporting elegance, I have disconnected from ride data #NoGarminNoRules #wahooligone. I have decided to be in the moment and enjoy the suffering, to look at the road (or wheel) ahead, not numbers on a screen. All you really need is a watch to time your ride, or get home on time (and add a touch of style). In the words of Brian Holm: "power meters is for blind dogs without a clue" - thanks again for your words of wisdom, Brian.
I only started using data/Strava a few years ago (I'm old school), reverting back to 'feel' I'm reminded of why I love cycling. I listen to what my body is telling me rather than a gadget, It's liberating, I recommend everyone try it for a week and let me know how you get on; what did you learn about yourself? What were the pros and cons? Comment below or on my Instagram post. I'm not against data as I will still use it on the Wattbike, but on the road I prefer clean bars.
Alludens invited me to join them on a trip to the Tour de France, to ride in the mountains and watch the race from the roadside. As an ambassador for a brand that draws so much inspiration from the Tour and its history, I had to go experience it, fully.
To really appreciate what the pro riders are going through, you have to put yourself in their shoes. One of the things I love most about the Tour of Flanders (I know I never shut up about this race), Is that I have ridden the Parcours, so when I watch the pros battle out the Flemish bergs I know exactly how tough it is, what they're going through and what's coming next, this insight makes watching the race even more exciting.
I thought I could imagine what the Tour de France would be like to race, I was so wrong.
Rolling toward the foot of a mountain makes you feel so insignificant, the scale of them is immense, they are otherworldly, god-like creatures, ancient, immortal.
To race full tilt up the Alps, repeatedly, takes guts to even attempt, let alone set out to win.
Day 1 Stage 10 - July 17th.
Freddie (Founder of Alludens) collected me from Geneva Airport and we rode up the Col de Romme and the Col de la Colombière to watch the race. Julian Alaphilippe (Quick Step) was the first to arrive, he had a huge gap over the other riders and took his first stage win (along with the dotty jersey) in style, a 30km solo attack over two mountains. "ANIMAL-IPPE!"
I was amazed to see Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) shortly behind Alaphilippe (and a few others), he was racing the Grimpeurs, doing the yellow jersey proud. As a wannabe Flandrien, GVA is a huge hero of mine, I was cheering at the top of my lungs "GO GREG GO". Another hero, Geraint Thomas, moves into yellow... HELL YEA!
Day 2 Stage 11 - July 18th.
Last night we collected Manuel AKA 'the human SATNAV' (due to his knowledge of the area), he'd started the trip with Freddie a few days earlier but picked another spot to watch and photograph stage 10, we rode over to the Cormet de Roselend and found a spot on the descend into Bourg-Saint-Maurice. Geraint Thomas (in yellow) went on to win the stage, overtaking breakaway rider Mikel Nieve in the last few hundred meters. Chris Froome moved into second overall, interesting and exciting times for Team Sky...
Day 3 Stage 12 - July 19th.
We stayed at Les Deux Alpes, so it was a nice sweeping descend to Alpe d'Huez. The atmosphere was electric, hundreds of fans lined the roadside cheering as we climbed to the summit, It must be a huge morale boost for the pros, providing its not abuse - I don't have time for that shit.
After climbing d'Huez we descended back down to hairpin two, where we met Sune (Activation Manager at Pas Normal Studios), who’d been camping on the roadside in his van for several days to secure the best spot. Sune's PNS gazebo, bench, water, and kindness provided a 'refuges' for many a fan. 'Herbert on tour' was parked next door, a legendary follower of the TDF, here's a portrait of him that I shot with my Yashica Mat (thanks for capturing me, capturing Herbert, Manuel).
Geraint Thomas became the first British (and Welsh) winner at Alpe d’Huez and the first rider to win d’Huez in the yellow jersey. He outsprinted Dumoulin, Bardet, Froomie, and ex-teammate Mikel Landa to extend his overall lead.
The day was rounded off perfectly with a climb back up to Les Deux Alpes on a beautiful road through forestry and villages, recommended by Sune. The god of carbs answered my prayers with a huge bowl of Salmon Tagliatelle at La Porte d'à Côté - I highly recommend, the food and staff were top notch.
Freddie had met one of our Patrons of the Peloton, Vincenzo Nibali - on the rest day in Annecy, to gift him a beautiful Graphite x Perforated Leather Alludens watch. We were completely gutted to hear about his crash on d'Huez. Once you establish a connection with a professional rider, you care more about the human, not just the racer. We hope to see the Shark of Messina back on two wheels soon.
Home - July 20th.
I'm back on my home roads with my local clubmates, the second I hit the front of the chain, I can feel my pedal stroke has improved and I'm stronger. It’s not just about endurance and power, you become a better cyclist by experiencing different disciplines, riding styles and hitting the refresh button once in a while.
Thanks, Alludens, for an amazing experience.
Photography by Manuel Buck and myself.