Stage 12 – Col d Tourmalet
I will never complain about hot weather again. Never. The hottest weather in the world beats rain and cold hands down when you are Bottle Boy. I found that out today.
The Col d Tourmalet stage is the “Queen Stage” of the Tour. It finishes at the top of the Col d Tourmalet, one of cycling’s most famous climbs. We drove up and parked on the backside of the mountain, about 8 k from the finish. The front side of the mountain had been closed to traffic for 4 days, that’s how busy it was. The mountain was totally socked in with fog and storms regularly came through, totally soaking the parking lot.
Just as we went to sleep a group of Spaniards parked right next to us and started playing their car horn like a musical instrument for half an hour or so. No bueno.
I prayed for better weather the next day but my prayers weren’t answered. In fact, it was even colder and wetter than the day before. Lei decided it wasn’t worth the risk of getting sick to go out, so I was left to finish the last stage on my own. Lei has been a great help for the past week, but now it was time to fight the mountain on my own.
We used some good old American Ingenuity to tape Bottle Boy with plastic bags so that he wouldn’t get too wet or soggy. You can see some photos of it here. I then packed up and headed to my date with destiny.
4 kilometers from the top there was a police officer stopping everyone with bikes. Only foot traffic would be permitted up further. The Tourmalet was really throwing everything it had at me! I trudged up the climb towing Bottle Boy, constantly hearing all the comments about “must be your mother in law in there” or “is that a dead body” for the one millionth time. The nice thing is that I could pretend I didn’t understand whatever language was being spoken to me, even if it was English. That way at least I didn’t have to explain what the costume was. In case you didn’t notice by now, I wasn’t in the best of moods.
On my way up I passed by the production booth of the ASO, the organizers of the Tour de France. These are the folks that take down videos of me from Youtube and are probably pretty pissed that I have turned the national pride of France into one big Clean Bottle commercial. I had to chuckle as I walked right by them with Bottle Boy. I could just picture the scene inside the room when they see me run by in costume every day. There is some French guy with greasy hair, a thin mustache and constantly smoking a cigarette and pacing back and forth as the Tour plays in several monitors around him. Then Bottle Boy runs with the riders and Frenchie sees it and shakes his fist and screams “Ack, Le Bottle Boy! I will get you!” That image in my mind is what kept me going. Nothing beats pissing off the French J
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse I got to the top and saw the crowd. The road was extremely narrow and they were only letting people pass on one side of the shoulder. Both sides were fenced off and the side of the road abutted a huge wall, so there was only about a two foot wide walking path to summit the road. This was also prime viewing space, so people were lined up.
I walked about a kilometer in this narrow space before it finally opened up. I couldn’t believe I made it through, it was almost the last straw for me. Here are some photos of how tight it was.
I made my way down the mountain and ran into some friends, Glen and Franz, I had met at an earlier stage. They are following almost the whole Tour and they have serious Bottle Boy potential. I’d be more than happy to fund someone’s Tour trip next year as long as they ran with Bottle Boy. They were both in great moods despite the fact that it was dumping on all of us. Their disposition cheered me up a bit. We talked about how crazy cycling fans are. Franz and Glen had been on the mountain for 8 hours, and we were still 4 hours away from seeing the race go by. Imagine telling a football fan to wait in a cramped space for 12 hours, with no bathroom and no beer and in the rain, just to see about 1 minute of the Superbowl. That’s basically what 100,000s of fans do every day at the Tour.
We hung out for a few hours and then I made my way down the hill a bit more where it was more mellow. I donned the costume and walked around a bit and came across a pack of rowdy Spanish fans who had obviously been drinking cervezas all day. They took one look at me, started chanting something and then before I knew what was going on they hoisted me on their shoulders and started throwing me high in the air. Now my Tour experience was complete. I wish I had a photo of that, it really was incredible and I just had to laugh at my whole experience. What a way to end it.
The riders came by and I ran like hell as Schleck and Contador passed. It was my last run and I wasn’t stopping until my legs gave out.
I made my way back up and then back down the mountain and finally got back to the car at around 8:30. Lei and I need to be in Amsterdam the next day around noon, and it’s a 14 hour drive so we hopped in the car and went for it. I guess that is the Time Trial in my own personal Tour de France. Stay tuned to hear about how the drive went .
Thanks for reading!