Last week FDJ riders Jérémy Roy, Thibaut Pinot and Alexandre Geniez went to Mont Ventoux and the Alps to check out the route of several crucial Tour de France stages.
Jérémy Roy kept a diary and you can read about the training camp below which covers the technical aspects such as bike choice for the Tour de France’s tricky mountain time trial, videos of the descents and Strava files but also more light-hearted elements such as fooling around with cyclotourists, a night spent sharing the same blanket as Thibaut Pinot, high altitude pizzas and more.
Friday 10 May
7h30 : Taxi
8h15 : Train to Paris, métro to the Gare de Lyon and the the high speed TGV train to Valence in the Rhone valley.
12h20 : Arrival in Valence station, collected by Thierry Bricaud, the FDJ DS. We wait for trainer Frédéric Grappe but he’s arriving in the centre of Valence and not the out of town TGV station. We detour to collect him and get a quick lunch in a café. Then off to Vaison-la-Romaine. Thibaut Pinot and Alexandre Geniez are already waiting for me along with a TV crew to film us all. I get changed in the parking lot and we’re off.
13h00 : We stop for a leak in Bédoin. A cycle tourist stops (it was surprising just how many there were) and starts chatting with us. He mistakes Thibaut Pinot for Arthur Vichot. We immediately play along and I pretend to be Thibaut whilst our team staff exchange glances that suggest guilty amusement.
13h30 : The cycle tourist reappears, this time he’s in his car to escort us. He will do the whole climb of Mont Ventoux 50 metres ahead of us. Nice, but I would have preferred to breathe the invigorating mountain air and take in the scenery.
15h30 : After the climb and the descent we get updates on the Giro and the Tour of Picardie via Twitter. Carnage.
16h30 : Second climb of Mont Ventoux. There’s a smell of heat as cars pass us on their way down.
18h00 : The top of Ventoux for the second time. On the way up I gave my jacket to Frédéric Grappe who was on his scooter. At the summit the topbox on the scooter is jammed shut… I’ve got no jacket for the descent so he gives me his. I’m lucky as the descent is very cold on the way down to Sault.
This 250km long Tour stage will be a real challenge. 3,500 vertical metres and I think we’ll nudge almost seven hours on the bike that day. The climb of Mont Ventoux is always unique because there’s no respite, and often the wind is strong after Chalet-Reynard. Just like three years ago when Juan Manuel Garate won, a day long breakaway could make it but it will be hard to set a high tempo after such a long ride. Whatever happens, whether ahead or behind the attackers, the overall contenders will fight on this stage which, all on the 14 July, the French national holiday, plus it’s on the eve of the rest day too.
19h30 : Finally we get to the hotel. 4.30 on the bike in total with 3,500 of climbing. The Luberon area is really scenic.
20h00 : Dinner
22h20 : A journalist appears. He’s doing a guide for the Tour de France and I give my thoughts on the route for each stage.
23h45 : The day comes to an end! A quick scan of the news and then sleep… in the same bed as Thibaut Pinot. A big duvet for two single beds pushed together…
Saturday 11 May
8h00 : Awake. I hang around a bit before breakfast because it’s only at 10.00am that we’re going to Gap in the Alps. Two hours in the car including an impromptu detour after a market day meant the road was blocked in a village.
12h00 : We jump on our bikes and we’re off to check the final of the stage to Gap with the Col de Manse.
13h40 : Now to Embrun to check the time trial stage that’s due in the final week of the Tour. We ride paced behind the scooter.
14h50 : 3-2-1 and we do the time trial. A battleground! The route seems made for climbers and acrobats. There are two real climbs and their descents: extremely difficult. Triathletes can confirm this as it’s the beginning of the route for Embrun Ironman. Overall, almost 1,000 vertical metres in just 31km, that’s equivalent to the climb of Alpe d’Huez. In addition the views from high above the Lac de Serre-Ponçon are magnificent. We do the course twice. Originally we’d planned to do it first with normal road bikes and then the second time with time trial bikes. But we only used the special bikes for the last 10km because it could be worthwhile to do the tough part on a normal bike with small tri-bar extensions and then switch to a TT bike for the descent and the flatter finish.
The First Descent on Video:
The Second Descent on Video:
16h30 : We return to Gap with a headwind. Thankfully we’ve got a scooter to shelter behind.
17h30 : We reach the hotel for a massage and follow the finish of the Giro and Tour de Picardie via Twitter. We’re staying in the same hotel as the Girondins de Bordeaux football club’s youth team who are in the Gambardella Cup semi-final being played nearby.
20h00 : Dinner
23h15 : Goodnight!
Sunday 12 May
7h30 : Wake-up
8h30 : Breakfast
9h30 : We leave for a 90 minute car journey towards the Col d’Ornon, below which we get on our bikes. Then we swoop down to Le-Bourg-d’Oisans before climbing Alpe d’Huez. We know that the Col de Sarenne beyond the 21 hairpins of the Alpe is closed because of snow. So once we get to the top where the road is blocked we turn around and take the road back to climb the Sarenne by the other side so that we can recce the famous descent. A shame since only a 200m section of road was blocked by the snow. I had a good rhythm climbing the Alpe but the road beyond to the Sarenne was difficult after I let my mind wonder a little. Happily Thierry Bricaud was waiting for us at the top with pizzas to fire us up as we were slipping into a hypoglycaemic daze!
The Sarenne is really picturesque. The descent is spectacular and technical in places, a real road cut into the mountain as the photo shows. I don’t know all the road works that are being done but think the place will be left intact. It’s a wild pass and I hope it stays this way. This stage will be the real symbol of the fiendish third week, with some 4,500 metres of climbing and this tough Col de Sarenne. But the next day it’s worse with 5,000 metres and the Croix-de-Fer, the Madeleine, the Croix-Fry… !
Descending the Sarenne
16h00 : After five hours on the bike we return to Le-Bourg-d’Oisans. The local hotels won’t rent us a room to so we can take a shower, unbelievable! Three hotels, three rejections. We resign ourselves to going to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne for a wash. The apple tart as a snack really did its thing.
18h30 : A hotel arrive and an express massage. Thibaut Pinot doesn’t want to miss the football match which should see Paris-St Germain win the French League.
20h00 : The hotel restaurant is closed on Sundays so we head out but get turned away as we’re a group of seven. There are only six customers inside… weird these people who don’t want to work. Maybe they want to watch the football too. Finally we strike gold with a restaurant with a giant screen to watch the game.
23h15 : In bed!
- Jérémy Roy won the combatitivy prize for the 2011 Tour de France and has a stage of Paris-Nice to his name. But there’s much more, he’s a valuable helper for the team and is making big improvements in his time trialling. He’s also one of the peloton’s brainiest figures and a qualified engineer like Marco Pinotti and Jean-Christophe Péraud.