Tour de France countdown: summit crowds

Join the crowd.

The buzz at the top of a Tour de France climb in the Pyrenees and Alps is a thrill not to be missed. The buildup of anticipation, the waiting, the radio race reports on a portable radio, the wine and cheese, the characters and costumes — it’s all exciting.

Just to be a part of the Tour audience is some kind of roadside honor. You’re a witness to cycling history and long after you’re gone there will be books and stories written about that tour, that stage, those events.

And you were there on the mountain to see it all. To me it’s a bit like strolling the streets of Paris. You have a walk-on role in one of the great cultural theater stages in the world. Same goes for being on Tourmalet, Alp d’Huez and Ventoux. In some small way, you have entered into the action.

In fact, the experience of driving through those crowds for the final two or three kilometers alternates between exhilaration and fear as people pound on your car, throw water and beer at the windshield, and scream their excitement. It’s a parting of the human wave and even after you’ve done it a few times it’s stressful.

We can’t wait to join the crowds this year on the great mountains of Le Tour. As part of our Cycle Sport magazine assignment, we’re covering the double ascent of Alpe d’Huez from the infamous and crazy Dutch Corner. We’ll camp out the night before and watch the whole experience unfold.

Vive Le Tour, vive les gens du montagne.

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