Stage 20: Modane Valfréjus – Alpe d’Huez
Stage 20: Modane Valfréjus – Alpe d’Huez
Saturday, 25th July 2015
Saturday, 25th July 2015

With the end in sight, stage 20, the penultimate stage, was all about the climb of Alpe D'Huez.

 

We stayed close to Bourg d'Oisans. The traffic didn't stop all night as people made a last minute dash to try and get a spot on the mountain.

 

Alpe D'Huez feels like an amazing twisting stadium as people line the road sides and peer down from above. Tents and camper vans look like they have been there for days (in truth, they may well have been).

 

By morning there was still a steady line of people making their way up the iconic 21 hairpin bends on bikes or foot.

Some of the more enthusiastic fans even give local riders a helping push and a toot of their air horn.

 

The variety of costumes had us stopping frequently to capture the quirky ones as well as handing out some Beardy stickers.

Then, just when we thought we had seen everything, we hit Dutch Corner and were welcomed with a Wout Poels fan club sticker slapped on the windscreen.

 

I got out to take some photos and straight away the beer rained down as everyone started jumping up and down to the music.

 

Getting the car through the inebriated crowd was kind of like a drive-through car wash as bodies bashed against the car, fists hammered on the roof and foaming beers poured down the windscreen.

 

The mirrors were pushed in and we had to lock the doors as hands grabbed at the handles.

 

Somehow we made it through unscathed, and with the car intact.

After the events of Dutch Corner the finish line felt a bit subdued.

 

The race caravan was passing through so everyone had to stand to the side. As soon as the last vehicle came past, there was a mad rush to get the best position. Luckily, there was a screen positioned perfectly so I could watch all the action.

 

The photographer in front of me had a white bib (as he was only shooting part of Tour), so I asked him if he could get low when the riders came through as I needed to shoot over his head. He wasn’t keen on this but, as pointed out by another photographer, I had blue (for the full Tour) – so he had to stand behind me. The system works! I now had prime position at the front of the bunch.

 

As Thibaut Pinot came over the line the pack descended on him, trying to get a close-up shot. The road was completely blocked and the commissaire’s car stopped right in front of me. I stood up as Nario Quintana came into sight. I could just get a shot over the top of the car, but the photographer behind me wasn’t so lucky.

Then as Chris Froome came over the line I ran to get a close-up as he gave his teammate Richie Porte a hug. The scrum was the worst I’ve seen as I desperately tried to get a shot. Cameras and lenses were being knocked out of people’s hands and then the terrible thud as a 300mm hit the ground.

 

What a way to finish a week in the Alps – now for our 700km transfer to Paris!

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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