Day 13: Col de la Croix Fry
It’s another Tour de France Day! Today, the tenth stage of the race begins in Annecy, where it heads south and east around the lake before going up a small category 4 climb and passing through ThÃ…Ânes. Our plan is to bike the category 1 climb from ThÃ…Ânes to Croix Fry in the morning before they shut down the roads, and then watch the race pass over the Col.
As usual, the varsity team opted for a warmup ride over the Col du Marais, which starts to the south in Saint-FerrÃƒÂ©ol. But warmups are for wimps, so Matt and I put our pedals to the road at the base of the climb in ThÃ…Ânes. Just kidding. Those guys are just really good at cycling. We’ll be good with our 12.8 km (8 mile) ride from the bottom to the top.
The top of the Col has an elevation of 1,467 meters (about 4,813 feet) so that won’t be as large a factor as our previous rides. However, some of the gradients on certain portions of the route are pretty tough — some as high as 13 percent — which is why it has that catgory 1 designation. This Col has been used in the Tour de France a few other times, most recently in Stage 19 of the 2013 Tour.
Because the Tour was scheduled to pass thru in a few hours, the road was lined with extremely fun and supportive fans who cheered us on through the end. One couple we spoke to said we should come back and hang out at their chalet (next time!). Matt cycled up the entire time, while I honestly took more of a hike with my bike.
The view from the top was stunning. After grabbing a sandwich, we found a great spot on a hill to watch the Tour pass over the Col. As an added bonus, we found two “unused” chairs to chill in. Well, at first there were three chairs, and we assumed they must be reserved. But then we saw some random dude grab one of them, so we figured hey, let’s get in on that!
Turns out, that sponsor parade we experienced in Sarzeau and Lorient follows the entire stage, not just the start and finish. But we certainly didn’t want to give up our spot, or carry back too much junk, so we opted out of participating in the melee after we scored a pack of gummy bears and let the kids grab the rest. Fun fact: In the middle of the race, the parade cars drive much faster, and the thrown goodies become semi-dangerous, high-velocity projectiles.
From our vantage point, we could see the riders coming down the road, and since they were climbing a 7 percent grade, they weren’t going quite so fast. Of course, “fast” is the relative term here given that they were probably biking uphill as fast as I descend. Here’s a video of the first rider over the Col: Video
Once the race passed, the barriers were removed and people on foot, in cars, and on bikes flooded the streets, making the decent back to the car rather difficult. The group agreed to meet at the van at 4:30pm and we made it back with 10 minutes to spare. Once the rest of the group came through (after riding a bit more through the town), we loaded up and headed back to the chalet. There was a bit of traffic due to the race, but we managed to make it back in time for our evening routine and another fantastic dinner.
Tomorrow we’ll do another ride to watch the Tour. Or to be slightly more accurate, Matt will still be doing the cycling. Due to my difficulties biking in crowds and staying vertical when getting on and off the bike, I’ll happily take a break from biking and enjoy the day watching the tour with Eileen.