Our guide book itinerary for today reads "Race Day Craziness - All Day". A pretty accurate description of how the day turned out, actually...
With noone keen to ride the six of us took the opportunity to take the cable car to Pic du Blanc, at Andy's suggestion. The views are quite indescribable from 3330ft, looking down on Alpe d'Huez and further down to Bourg d'Oisans. To the north the view is across to the top of Mont Blanc, and to the East across to L'Aguilles D'Arves and - this was so exciting to me - Italy!!!
I also got my first touch of snow at Pic du Blanc - I was excited to stand in snow and make a snowball!
We returned to Alpe d'Huez for a bite to eat, and to decide on a plan for the afternoon ahead. Andy, Miri and I headed through the centre of town to find a spot on the closing slopes of the climb. I was overwhelmed to catch my first glimpse of Switchback 1 on race day, graced with a massive FREE TIBET sign on the side of the hill - of course for Cadel.
Andy was getting SMS updates so we knew what was going on in the race. Our heart sank when the news of Sastre's breakaway came through. Although, he was in a group with the Schlecks - after all with Frank in Yellow they were his main rivals right...? Right?
(Those damn Schlecks! We had seen them everywhere that morning - on flags, jerseys, banners... even random toddlers... and joked that they must be eying off a career in real estate after cycling.)
Our view perched on the side of the hill at Alpe d'Huez was such that we could see the groups winding their way up the hill. First, the lone figure of Carlos Sastre, pedalling like a man possessed, determined to claim the stage win, and perhaps the yellow jersey, at the top of this legendary climb.
We were excited to witness Cadel leading his group around the last switchback of the climb, although what would happen between here and the finish line, well, this group wasn't going to catch Carlos Sastre. He was to finish Stage 17 as not only the stage winner, but as the wearer of the leader's yellow jersey.
While disappointed, we like Cadel were not beaten yet. There were more opportunities ahead, especially the time trial, and we would be there to see him fight another day.