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Ski guiding in Meribel France with British ski instructors
Ski guiding in Meribel France with British ski instructors
Ski guiding in Meribel France with British ski instructors
Ski guiding in Meribel France with British ski instructors

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The Day The Tour de France Came To Méribel

Posted on
September 25, 2020

Hi everybody, and welcome back to another post. Since March of this year, and even months later after its postponement - even during the build-up to it - there was a huge question mark over whether the 2020 Tour de France would take place. Would you believe, over the history of the race, it has only ever been the two World Wars that stopped it from going ahead. Cycling fans all over the world; the sport itself; and the French nation were all desperate for it to run. Even once it did start, on a stormy day in Nice, there was no guarantee the three-week race would go all the way to the finish in Paris. Would a winner still be announced, if it had to be cut short? Thankfully that question did not have to be answered. In the end, the show not only started, but finished just a few days ago, on a high!

Harriet and I arrived in Méribel just a few days before the official end of the summer season, the week that the summer ski lifts closed. We were astonished at how busy it was with the number of visitors; I had never seen it like this at the end of August before. This was confirmed after we spoke to some locals, who confirmed that it felt like it was indeed busier. I'm really pleased for the resort and the local businesses - especially after the winter season was cut short earlier this year. A week later, after the end of that main summer season, the resort and the mountain were both almost empty of visitors. Not sure why this surprised me (don't they know the Tour de France is on its way and will be here on September 16th?!), but of course the ever-changing travel guidance, had a considerable effect. I needn't have worried when a couple of evenings before Méribel's stage, there was an almighty racket outside the apartment building with lorry loads of barriers arriving, alongside a gang of face-masked lads creating the course.

Sure enough the crowds started to return, and there was a lovely buzz about the place leading up to race day. The weather forecast was encouraging, so Harriet and I decided to head up the mountain and have our first ever Tour de France experience. We could've stayed in town, or even on our balcony to watch the race, but the mountains were calling. There were several options of how to head up, either hike, head over to Méribel Village where the Golf chairlift was running, or pop to Chaudanne and jump on the Saulire Express bubble to mid-station. We choose the Saulire Express option, a couple of hours before the peloton were expected to arrive.

To kill some time we had our picnic, and then starting searching for the position where we wanted to spectate. This depended on a number of things. We were keen to be away from the 'parting of the sea (ie crowds of people) thing' that we had seen on TV at some of the previous stages. I also wanted to find somewhere reasonably steep to add drama to the spectacle and the photos. And finally where the light was optimal for photographs: the sun was coming and going so I opted for 'back-light'.

I was following the stage on my iPhone to help predict when they would arrive, and also to learn who was where in the peloton. Then when we saw the riders had started climbing up from the valley, and heard the helicopters, it all became very exciting! The noise of the helicopters really added to the experience especially when they got closer and noisier. Here are just a few of the many photos that I took, in chronological order.

The first rider up was Richard Carapaz.
Followed by the leading 'General Classification' group including Sepp Kuss, Roglic, Pogacar, Superman Lopez and Richie Porte.
Rog, wearing the yellow leaders jersey before losing it in a dramatic fashion on the penultimate day of the race.
Britain's Adam Yates
Mikel Landa, check out the facial expression.
Tom Dumoulin, who finished in second place overall in the 2018 Tour de France.
Benoit Cosnefroy wearing the 'King of the Mountains' Polka Dot jersey, or as the French call it, le maillot a pois (the pea jersey)!
My new Dutch mate giving me a smile, Robert Gesink, how cool is that?
Juju (Julian Alaphillipe), last year's Tour de France French sensation.
Ireland's National Champion, Sam Bennett wearing the Green jersey, looking horrified at how far up the Col de la Loze finish appears.
Sam went on to win the final stage in a sprint finish in Paris on Sunday.
Does anyone recognise the start of the Altiport green piste between the two wooden structures?
Harriet on the left wearing her own 'pea jersey', a free handout from one of the sponsors. (For the record, I politely declined this shapeless t-shirt)

It was such an amazing experience, way more thrilling than I thought it was going to be. I am a huge fan of road cycling and recognised many of the riders in person. And witnessing the suffering of the riders was unavoidable, let's not forget they had started over a hundred miles away in Grenoble and had already climbed the Col de la Madeleine. We were positioned three kilometres from the finish up at Col de la Loze (altitude 2,304 metres), so it was no surprise they all looked knackered! The following day Méribel was hosting the start of the next stage as well, up at the Altiport. A few minutes after the start time, the riders came flying past our balcony at breakneck speed, goodness knows how they made the corner without crashing at the Tourist Office!

It was all a great success, and the resort had put on an amazing event for the fans. Some people have been saying that the Col de la Loze will be a regular stage finish in the Tour for years to come. Possibly, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if it were to return again soon, especially because this type of terrain with very steep gradients is becoming more popular at the Grand Tours. For those of you who weren't able to make it to Méribel to watch the Tour this year, I'm sure the opportunity will arise again.

I'll write again in a couple of weeks' time, giving you an update (and photos of course) on the upgrades to the ski area that have been taking place this summer. In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy and stay fabulous. Martin.

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With our skills- based system of learning, we give you the tools to safely negotiate any demands the mountains make on you, helping you to increase your comfort zone and ski in a wider range of conditions. Whether you are a nervous novice, a blue piste cruiser or an all mountain adventurer, we tailor your ski lessons to create a perfect fit. The question is, which one are you?

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