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CLIF Blog

Jul. 6, 2013
Road, No Road - Stage 8 at the Tour de France
Blame an attractive high school French teacher and early exposure to the films of Francois Truffaut for Matt Walsh's francophile tendencies. Then later came bike racing and watching the grandest race of all, the Tour de France. So as a freelance writer, there’s pretty much no place he’d rather be than in France on the race routes of Le Tour. It’s always an adventure that goes full-gas.

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day 8 3

The adventure is being on the road but today the road ended before I expected.

I drove the Hors Course itinerary -- which means you basically jump on the freeway to get to the finish and you’re never on the smaller, more beautiful roads that the riders race on. However, I wanted to make sure I got to stage eight’s summit finish of Ax 3 Domaines and the roads close fast.

What I didn’t expect was that about five or so kilometers from the top, the race organizers would push all the cars off to park. No summit, no chance to see the riders come in or even hike a kilometer of two down the road from the summit to see the agony up close and in progress.

I parked my car in a maze of convoluted streets that snaked uphill in Ax Les Thermes and got out of the car wondering about the next step. Two guys with media credentials were standing next to me and so I asked if there were any summit options. Well of course! You just have to take the gondola. Ax is a ski town and the Tour organizers had the gondola to ferry people up to the top. Better yet, I was parked beside the gondola entry. This is what’s known as good tour karma.

gondola

So up we went in the gondola, which took us over the two kilometer-to-go banner and dropped me right at the finish. That’s the Tour in a nutshell -- highs and lows, ups and downs, compressed into an intense and crazy three weeks. There are many gifts given in the Tour but the nature of the beast is problem solving on the fly and a tight grip on logistics and your own gut instincts about what should happen next at any given moment. That’s what makes the Tour a thrilling and challenging ride.

I was at the top of the mountain. I got myself a spot in the press room and watched the final 50 kilometers and I have to say it was an amazing stage with attack after attack after attack. Everybody wanted a piece of Team Sky.

day 8 2

But in the end, Sky and Chris Froome proved to be the dominant force. For me, the excitement was watching the riders straggle in, exhausted, dripping sweat, faces drained, bodies emptied. Television -- even in HD -- doesn’t capture the physical sacrifice.

What you also don't see is the swarm of media people the nano-second after the riders cross the line. I don’t think there’s anything like it in any other professional sport. Imagine two heavy weight boxers pummeling each other for 15 rounds and then when the bell sounds to end the bout, 500 people rush into the ring. I saw a soigneur from one team knock over a RadioShack rider in the melee. It was super lucky the rider wasn’t injured.

The roads in the Tour de France are often dangerous. Even the road past the finish line.
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Category:
Team Clif Bar, Tour
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We like getting our heart rates up, taking a big breath of fresh air, savoring delicious food. But we also love telling stories and here's where we type 'em up. (BTW, it works both ways; leave a comment—please and thank you.)

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