Stage 18: Gap – Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne
Stage 18: Gap – Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne
Thursday, 23rd July 2015
Thursday, 23rd July 2015

There are locations that come along that are so off the scale that you can't help but be mesmerised by the snaking switchbacks that are just begging to be ridden.

 

Lacets de Montvernier is one of those places. I had to go there even if it meant walking up the 3.8km climb and only doing a single location today.

 

Driving by the race route we passed over the Col du Glandon. It was heaving! I just had to get out there and capture the vibe.

Arriving at the base and looking up at the ‘laces’ of road we could see the countless photographers and spectators peering down from the rocky outcrops.

 

The street was jam packed with cars as they had closed the climb and said specifically it could only be accessed by accredited photographers on foot.

 

Fellow photographer Kristof Ramon wasn’t fazed and he had kitted up ready to ride up. Convincing me it was a good idea, I got my bike out ready to take on the climb with my fully loaded camera bag.

 

Throwing the leg over the bike after way too long felt great even if i was carrying all that excess baggage up with me (camera gear, not croissants). The good times were short lived, however, as I came face to face with my arch nemesis the JD (my nick name for Gendarmerie). ‘Absolutely no bikes on the climb’. I noticed Kristof’s bike locked to the fence and remembered to thank him of the advice when I had to get off mine. I rode back to the car and put my walking shoes on for the hike up.

The sun was fierce and the climb felt like it went forever. Then there was a rustling in the bushes and out popped a father and son. They looked happy with themselves avoiding the JD to get a prime position on the climb. But the smiles were short lived when a JD motorbike scout caught them red-handed. They were past halfway so he made them jog up the climb as he rode alongside, yelling at them in French. I felt sorry for them as I admired their adventurous spirit.

 

Making it to the top I was in a bit of a state as I’d only eaten a couple of nectarines for lunch. There were so many photographers filling every view point. There was little point packing in with them, getting the same shot as everybody else. I decided there was a better option further down where I could get something a little different. I started walking back down but was stopped almost immediately by a JD who said the road was closed. I replied with I just walked up from there and he replied ‘No one allowed on the climb’. The realisation that I had made a massive mistake hit me. Why didn’t I just stay down there instead of following the herd?

 

Determined to make up for my mistake I started bush-bashing desperately trying to get down around the ever watchful eye of the JD. After half an hour of struggling in the undergrowth, my arms full of thorns, my clothes dirty, sweaty and after almost stepping on a human poo, I found another outlook. There were a lot of branches in the way but if I lay on my stomach I could wriggle right to the edge. The updraft and the drop of a couple of hundred metres made my head spin – but at least I had this spot to myself.

 

I could see the riders in the distance and there was a single rider out in front. As he hit the climb the number of cars and motorbikes following made it look like a car park.

From my location I could focus in on the riders and try to block out the cars with the trees. I couldn’t help but think this wasn’t the ideal situation to photograph this amazing road and started dreaming of coming back.

 

Wanting to get a variety of shots, I kept an eye out for the yellow jersey. As soon as it came into view I ran back to the road and over the top of the climb where the road flattened out before the final descent to the finish.

 

I got some close up images of the yellow jersey group but in the process a photo-moto got a bit close and gave me a good smack with his rear view mirror. It was just my arm and luckily my camera was unharmed.

As the rest of the riders came through I alternated between about 4 spots and finally as the groupetto hit the climb I headed back to the overcrowded view point. It had cleared out enough that I could get in and get a shot.

 

Now for the long walk down to the car.

See beardy’s coverage of previous stages below.

Stage 19: Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne - La Toussuire - Les Sybelles
Stage 14: Rodez - Mende

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