This morning we all met early for breakfast. I tell you, we are not getting much sleep these days! At 7:30, we put our bikes in a trailer which was attached to a big tour bus, and climbed in the bus to go watch the Chamrousse hill-climb time trial which started in Grenoble.
Unfortunately, it had been raining the night before and was still raining. We packed our raingear and extra clothing for walking around just to prepare for any eventuality.
By the time we arrived in Grenoble, it was still raining. About half of the group decided to ride in the rain anyway. But not me. I was happy to go watch all the hullabaloo at the start of the TT.
After dropping the brave half of the group off, the rest of us went to a bike store along the way back to the city center. Before the trip, Marcia had told us about a great bike shop in Grenoble, Routens, that we just happened to pass on the way up to the drop-off point. Of course Dick and Marilyn were interested to check out the stock in another bike store. Most of the group was also excited about seeing what they had to offer. So our bus driver pulled the bus over to the side of the road and waited for us while we bought out the store.
It was a great store. Almost everyone bought something. Jerseys, shorts, bike parts, etc. They had to drag us out of there... I got another cycling "outfit," and Phil bought several jerseys and shorts and some socks and a new cycle computer to replace the one that got busted on the way over.
The bus took us to a point about a mile from the course (and very near another bike shop!), and dropped us off for the day. It was still raining... We were still attired in our cycling clothing, but I slipped on some tights over my shorts to stay warm.
We walked to the start of the course, where we were able to see the riders warming up, the team buses, and lots of people watching. The riders were scheduled to start at noon, going off initially at 1-minute intervals, and then at 2-minute intervals as they got to the top riders. (Riders start in reverse time of their overall place in the race.)
We walked around, soaking up the race scene. It was incredibly exciting to see all the top riders we've been reading about. Occasionally one would come out to warm up and would stop and sign autographs. We even caught one of the riders answering the call (against a tree) prior to his start!
Of course we had plenty of time to look around. The TdF had official souvenir stands, so of course we had to get some! I got an umbrella (appropriate for the day), which I later forgot somewhere. Maybe I'll get another in Paris...
Several times during the day, kids came up to Phil and asked him (in French) whether he was in the race, because he was decked out in cycling garb.
As the top riders were scheduled to start, we moved further down the course to watch, away from the start. We wanted to make sure we had time to get to a TV to see the riders finish. With the winning times expected to be just over an hour, we didn't have much time to get to a TV given that we were on foot.
We saw all the top riders go by, and cheered for all of them in their native language. "Dai! Dai! Dai! Va veloce!" "Allez, allez, allez!" "Venga! Venga! Venga!" "Go, go, go!!!!"
The last rider passed, and we rushed back to the bike store near the bus and watched the finish of the race. Lance won again! He was making up time against the riders in the breakaway from a couple of days ago, and making up time against his big rival, Jan Ullrich.
We hopped back in the bus and drove back to the drop-off point. The bus driver had to talk his way around the gendarmes who were blocking the road. The road we had to go up was the road all the tour vehicles and the caravan had to descend down.
We drove to the drop-off point and waited for the rest of the group to descend from the top of the climb because of the traffic, and because part of the way at the top had to be walked. But finally we were all together again, and we took off for the hotel where an excellent dinner awaited us.
The owner of Hotel Million is a chef, and the meals here are excellent. We will return here briefly at the end of the trip, and hopefully will get a chance to experience his cooking again.
We packed up our stuff after dinner, in anticipation of leaving the next day. Because we were returning before going to Paris, we were able to leave lots of stuff at the hotel (like the souvenirs), rather than lugging it along with us. We each packed up a bunch of stuff to leave at the hotel. Our remaining bags were somehow still quite full though!
Again, we went to sleep quite late. I hope things will get less hectic soon!