Another bad night's sleep saw me opt out of the "Queen" stage ride I'd optimistically signed up for. It was going to be a hard ride and with only six hours sleep over the last two nights, I'm sure I would have regretted it.
I was devastated to make the call. I wondered whether I would regret it. But with Alpe d'Huez triathlon looming large after yesterday's climb, I thought I was doing the right thing.
The shorter ride was up col du Galibier - another of the Tour's notorious climbs - but without Telegraph and Croix de Fur. Alpe d'Huez ends both rides.
We took the bus to col du Lautaret to start. The forecast was for a 6 degree maximum on Galibier so I rugged up appropriately. The climb was gentle but relentless and the scenery quite stunning (although personally I find the lack of vegetation in Alpine regions a little bleak). I stopped several times to take photos.
Closer to the top and the wind really picked up. I was quite worried about being blown off the mountain! I heard a voice behind me saying something I didn't understand. A lovely Belgian man thankfully spoke English as well. He accompanied me for a while, positioning himself to shelter me from the wind as much as he could, talking to me the entire way to the monument to the founder of the Tour de France. Another photo opportunity - so he rode off, warning me to save something for the last k of the climb.
Rightly, too, as it turned out. It was the worst of the climb (opposite to Alpe d'Huez). At the top were two of our guides, who chatted to me while I piled on all the extra clothes I'd brought for the descent, and Dean also took a snap of me and Lance at the summit!
Back down to Lautaret, from where we wound back down the valley to Bourg d'Oisans, with some stunning scenery for company. The tunnels through the hills also a highlight.
My regret of the day happened now. A bus was leaving imminently back up the mountain to our accommodation and I was too weak to resist. The moment the bus reached the 21st switchback I had his sinking feeling in my heart. I knew I should be out there, riding. I'd planned to use the opportunity to take photos and soak up the atmosphere that was building on the slope.
Not to give in to this, when we got to the hotel I didn't go inside. I got on Lance and rode down to switchback 11 and rode back up from there. Past the Luxembourgians, through Dutch corner, chatting to the Aussies and getting a push form one of them. The photographers didn't freak me out this time, in fact I took a snap of them (they're part of the festivities too!).
I got to the top feeling well satisfied that I'd not given in, that I'd had another go.
By now the shopping area at the top of the climb was a hive of activity. Everyone was in party mode and as I was wearing some Aussie gear many of the pilgrims gave me a thumbs up, shouting "Cadel Evans!!!".
More encounters with Belgian men - when I wasn't on my bike they didn't hesitate to hug and kiss the Aussie girl - as Cadel was in actual fact Belgiums big chance at yellow as well, riding for their team Silence Lotto!
Soaking up the atmosphere of what is without a doubt the Holy Grail of the TDF was a wonderful finish to a day that had started in tears of disappointment.