More Of The Same, But With Added Snow

It is still raining.
It is still bloody cold.
It is still foggy

This may sound familiar to those of you who read the post from yesterday, Wednesday. We had been hoping for better but upon venturing up from our new home in the underground car park we discovered that nothing had changed, it was still miserable. However, there was work to be done and so we suited up and headed out into the rain.

With qualifying tomorrow we decided that we really should have a look at the very top section, having not been up there yet. This was a bit of a mission to get to, we took the main lift, DMC, up two levels to DMC2 and then the Telecabine de Poutran lift down in the opposite direction to Oz. There was a short walk across the village to the Telecabine de l’Apette and then a long wait for the Telephecique Alpette Rousses, which was more like a monorail than a ski-lift, it even has a driver.

 The view looking north from the top of the qualifying track

We emerged from the gondola into a complete white-out. This was not due to the snow, although there was plenty of that about, but because of the dense fog, it was very much like the conditions down below, only even colder.

Half a dozen guys who clearly knew where they were going immediately took off down the mountainside. We followed straight away, partly because it was so cold and we were not keen to spend any longer on the summit than we really had to but mostly because we had no idea where we were and could not see any of the course markings through the fog, following someone seemed like the best idea.

Once clear of the peak the mist thinned enough for us to be able to see the landscape. Not the surrounding mountains, they were still hidden by the clouds and rain, but the area we were riding through. This was truly spectacular, it looked as though it was composed of one giant rock, eroded into a multitude of interesting shapes giving lots of choice for lines to ride. This was all covered in patches of snow of various sizes, from about the size of a pool table to the size of a football pitch. I generally use imperial measurements for things but being in France the metric system seems to be quite common, so to avoid any confusion I will be using the Standard Comparison System (the Elephant for weight, the Nelson’s Column for height, the Olympic-Size Swimming pool for volume, that kind of thing)

Two riders disappearing into the distance

An area of bare rock that size, devoid of any vegetation at all and with patches of snow dotted around gave an impression of riding through the set of a sci-fi film. It was a huge amount of fun, picking lines down through the levels of rock, trying to work out where the grip would be in the snow. We eventually emerged from this across some Baby’s Head sized rocks and onto a vehicle track. I’m not really sure what to call it, fireroad is obviously the wrong name, there is clearly no chance of a fire up there so little need of a firebreak

Rounding a corner I spotted two people standing by the side of the track and stopped to see if they were OK. We got talking as, like every Dutchman, they spoke perfect English. They said that they had heard on the grapevine that the start of qualifying had been changed due to the weather conditions, there would be no chance of getting the rescue helicopter up to the top and so qualifying would start just above DMC2 instead. This would be a real shame, the top section had been great fun to ride. I had loved every minute of it, so much in fact that when I reached Alpe d’Huez I immediately climbed back into the lift and headed for the top again. I knew it wouldn’t be used but there was no harm in having another go at it.

I was the only person up there the second time, and it was really a bleak and lonely place, with pretty much zero chance of being found before I froze to death if anything went wrong, but it didn’t so that was fine.

I went to check on the situation when I next got to the bottom and it was indeed confirmed that the qualifying would start on the fireroad above DMC2. Whether they would be able to start the race itself from the glacier on Pic Blanc would depend on the weather. It was not looking good.

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