Today we completed the hat trick; 3 climbs in one stage. Brought to you by the fact that the route was a loop.
First up was the climb of Col du Chaussy, which was part of yesterday's descent after the climb of Lacets.
It started off fairly innocuously, just farmland and alpine houses as far as the eye could see. Until, at five kilometres from the top, we came around a corner and found an overshadowing rock ledge with a stunning view back down to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne below.
There were already 2 photographers scoping out the spot, but they were shooting from a different angle, so we parked up and I went to check it out.
The sun was casting a shadow on the road, but with any luck the overcast cloud would cover it at just the right time.
Naturally, one of the biggest problems with this type of photography is that you are at the mercy of the elements. It can make or break a shot. In some cases you can set up a shot before, while patiently waiting, the conditions change so much that it doesn't work anymore. In which case you are left scrambling to get a new angle just as the riders come through.
As I waited, pondering the above, and deliberating about which angle to shoot, more and more photographers arrived. Then, on top of that, photo-motos started pouring in (but most of them were, again, working the opposite angle).
Luckily, in the time since arriving, the shadow from the overhang above had moved across the road (and the clouds lifted), so the riders were now in the sun. Perfect!
En route to the second location we followed the riders down the descent. There were 2 sponsor vans in front of us and they were really hammering down the mountain. When we reached the base one of the vans looked like it was on fire because the brakes were smoking so much.
The next climb was the Col de la Croix de Fer by way of the Col du Glandon. We had driven down it yesterday but couldn’t stop because we wanted to get the Lacets de Montvernier shot.
Since we had scoped in on the way through we knew the best locations were at the switchbacks near the top.
There were so many people at the top. It seemed like the obvious place to camp out as the race passed through 3 times – so spectators got good value for money.
After the riders had passed we figured we still had time to make the final climb. Rushing, we arrived at La Toussuire just as the clouds started to set in and it looked like rain.
I climbed up on top of the cliff to get my shot – completely exposed to the elements. Luckily, the rain held off until just after the last of the riders had passed and then the skies opened.
I stumbled back to the car, protecting the gear, only to get stuck in the long line of traffic snaking slowly down the mountain. Luckily, some police bikes came past in the left lane, so we jumped in behind them.
We had to drive back up the Col du Glandon to get to our accommodation for the night. It took on a new menace in the overcast conditions and thick, heavy rain.
See beardy’s coverage of previous stages below.