We drove to the top of the Hautacam in Har-V. It’s a beautiful drive with lovely views of the valleys below. Not quite as dramatic as the Alps perhaps but it’s a relentless 15 km climb and there’s only one way up and only one way down..
When you have those magic stickers on your wagon, as we do, you skirt the rest of the day’s course and then jump onto the Tour route for the final hill. This means you see a rider’s eye view of the insanity lining the road – and those beer tents, fires, miles of campers, daft signs and names painted on the road certainly add a flavor which must be missing at any other time of year.
When you reach the top they send you round the back to park high above the finishing line and suddenly you find yourself surrounded by the vehicles and the drivers and entertainers of the publicity caravan – the jolly folk who throw brightlly colored freebies and swag at the fans who line the road. This morning they were brash and smiling as they left from Pau and now here they are, high above the tree-line, sullen and weary, waiting for the road to clear so they can drive back to their hotels and get warm again.
The riders arrive an hour after we do and their faces speak volumes about their abilities in the mountains – some are almost relaxed, if breathless, and ready to talk while others are gaunt, concerned and silent.
Now it’s all done for the day there’s the long drive home and the wonderful news that tomorrow is a day off.