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CLIF Blog

Jul. 18, 2013
Tour de France - Stage 18 Gap to Alpe d’Huez
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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There are plenty of celebrations going on for the 100th birthday of the Tour de France but none bigger than on Alpe d’Huez. Today I saw more bikers riding up a mountain than I’ve ever seen. Hat off to all those people because it’s a long, tough climb at 13.8 kilometers and an average grade of 8%.

Tour de France Stage 18

The biggest party on the mountain was at hairpin turn 7 where the Dutch throw a massive shindig whenever the Tour comes to the Alpe. There are 21 hairpins and Dutch Corner is famous for being the place to be.

Tour de France Stage 18

People drive their campers up there a week in advance to get a great spot. There were people camped all over the mountain, wherever they could squeeze in. I heard numbers like a million people on that climb and I’m not going to argue.

I spent the day watching the race come through Dutch Corner and it was the wildest party I’ve ever seen at a bike race -- or any other place. The Dutch had several DJ’s pumping out techno and pop hits and traditional songs that only they know.

Tour de France Stage 18

It was really one big sing-along and the atmosphere was boisterous. When the Dutch Belkin team riders came through they got the biggest applause of all. But they were also thrilled to see BMC’s Tejay van Garderen, who is of Dutch heritage, in the lead.

One thing I wont’ forget (among many) was the rowing routine. At a certain point on a particular song, all the orange-clad Dutch fans would sit down in a straight line parallel to the road like they were in a crew rowing boat -- and they’d row in sync to the music. I asked some Dutch fans to explain the rowing routine but nobody had a good answer. It was hilarious and fun and I’m positive that hairpin turn number 7 was the place to be on Alpe d’Huez. Dutch Corner lived up to its name and reputation and they best my award for best Tour celebration.
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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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