July 20th 2017 – Col d’Izoard (Tour de France) – Wa Wa Barguil wins the stage while Va Va Froome wraps up his fourth Tour de France

Today’s photo shows the Simon Yates ad Chris Froome leading the peloton during Stage 18 of the Tour de France. The photo was taken about 3 km from the stage finish at the top of the Col d’Izoard. Romain Bardet and Rigoberto Uran are hidden behind Froome but you can make out Louis Mentjies and just behind him Dan Martin. Dan looked very tired when he went past me and it was no surprise when he finished 17 seconds behind both Froome and Bardet at the top of the climb. The stage was won by Warren Barguil, who was the second rider to pass me about 20 seconds behind Darwin Atapuma at the 3 km to go banner. Warren, whose nickname is WaWa, caught up with Darwin between the Casse Deserte and the finish before dropping him and winning the stage by 20 seconds. It was an exciting end to what had been a very cagey stage as Froome and Team Sky chased down any attacks by the other GC contenders. Froome looked comfortable as he passed under the 3 km and finished with the same time as Bardet to effectively wrap up his fourth Tour de France title.

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Total distance cycled Thursday July 20th up Col d’Izoard and back down – 55 km (includes 1,500 m of climbing). As I only had a backpack with me, the trip is not included in the total distance travelled by Travoy on this year’s tour.

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Road up to the Col d’Izoard was closed due to the women’s La Course race. I had planned to leave Aiguilles about 7 and go to the start of the stage in Briancon. but there was heavy rain all morning in Aiguilles so I waited until 9 for the rain to stop. By now it was too late to go to the start in Briancon so I decided to just go to the finish at the Col d’Izoard and watch the race on the big screen. But I forgot all about the women’s race which meant that the road up to the Col d’Izoard was closed for 2 hours between 10 – 12. I was not the only one caught out as hundreds of cyclists were being stopped by the police.

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Lizzie Deignan in the British National champion’s jersey in the middle of the women’s peloton. The La Course peloton were going an incredible speed when they went past. They were chasing New Zealander Linda Villumson, who had broken away earlier on the climb and who had about a 15 second lead. She eventually was caught and finished 5 minutes behind the winner of the race, Dutchwoman Annemiek van Vleuten. Lizzie Deignan was second, 43 seconds behind Annemiek, who dropped everybody when she attacked with 5 km to go. A year ago, Van Vleuten suffered horrific injuries when she crashed during the Rio Olympics so it was great to see her back on a bike and in great form. Annemiek put her race later up on Strava and her time for the last 5 km was actually faster than most of the male cyclist’s in the Tour de France. Incredibly, only Warren Barguil and Romain Bardet had faster times on Strava for the last 5 km up to the Col d’Izoard than Van Vleuten.

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Road being re-opened by the police. Half an hour after all the women cyclist’s had gone past, the police started allowing small groups of cyclists to climb the road. It was now about 12.30 and with the cavalcade due around 3 it meant I only had 2 hours or so to get to the top.

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Graffiti on the climb of the Col d’Izoard. Allez Thomas is for Thomas Voeckler, Vamos Alberto is for Alberto Contador and WaWa is Warren Barguil’s nickname.

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Cyclists were being asked to dismount at every village. Due to the crowds of spectators on the Col d’Izoard, the police were insisting that all the cyclists dismount in every village. There are 4 or 5 villages on the road up to the Col d’Izoard so I spent almost as much time on foot as cycling on the climb.

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Best sign of the day. This sign in Swahili and English really stood out amongst the thousands of banners and flags on the climb. Beside the flag on the road, someone had wrote Bidon S.V.P or Bidon, s’il vous plait or Bidon, please. Whether they ended up getting Froome’s bidon, I have no idea.

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Hundreds of campervans parked up at the side of the road. Some of these campervans may have been here a week just to get the best spot to see the Tour de France go by.

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Crowd at the 7 km to go sign. In hindsight, this was the best place to see the race. You could see down the valley for about 5 km or so. But I was hoping to get to the top so kept going.

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Italian corner on the climb up to the Col d’Izoard. The Izoard is only 50 km from Italy via the Col Agnel and there was a lot of support and messages for Fabio Aru. The campervan on the right has a Sardinian flag, the island that Fabio is from.

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View looking down the valley from the 7 km to go banner. The view was incredible and if you had a set of binoculars, you could easily identify the riders from 3 or more kms away.

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Group of Englishmen dressed up as Beefeaters. This group were having a whale of a time high fiving any cyclist who went past and dancing away to music on their loudspeaker system.

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Lots of French graffiti at the 5 km to go banner.

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Overhead banner 4 km from the finish. At the 4km to go baner, a policewoman was stopping all the cyclists because the cavalcade was due to start. It wasn’t even 2 o’clock but I had no option but to dismount.

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Lots of support for Romain Bardet about 3.5 km from the finish. Just around the corner from this photo, the barriers started and no cyclists were being allowed up the road. I managed to make my way to near the 3 km banner by going around the back of the campervans and decided to watch the race there as it was now too late to get to the finish.

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Start of the cavalcade. The cavalcade started just after 3 and went on for about half an hour. There seemed to be more vehicles than ever before and as I was in a spot with not too many spectators, I managed to get a pile of stuff including about a dozen madeleine buns from the St. Michel convoy.

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Darwin Atapuma was the first cyclist to go past. Around 5, you could hear the sound of the helicopters filming the race and shortly afterwards, the first cyclists appeared.

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Atapuma was followed 20 seconds later by Warren Barguil. Barguil looked more comfortable than Atapuma and it was no surprise that he later caught the Columbian about 1.5 km from the finish line.

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The peloton with Yates in the white jersey and Froome in the yellow jersey. About a minute after Atapuma, the peloton came into view being led by Simon Yates and Chris Froome. There was a photographer motorbike in front of the peloton and the TV motorbike was behind them.

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Grupetto going under the 3 km to go banner. About a half hour after the leading cyclists went past, the grupetto or last group on the road went past. About half an hour later, the road was re-opened and I started making my way to the top.

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The flamme rouge or 1 km to go banner being dismantled.

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The finish-line at the top of the Col d’Izoard was cordened off.

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Cyclists were being allowed onto the hill which overlooks the Col d’Izoard.

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Crowd outside the doping control. As I watched, a Team Sky car pulled up and I knew right away that Chris Froome must have still been in the doping control. So I decided to wait to see when he would emerge.

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View of the TV crew and other trucks at the finishline from the hill overlooking the Col d’Izoard. As I waited on the hill, I had time to get some shots of all the trucks that are used to transport the TV and other equipment from stage to stage.

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Chris Froome after emerging from the doping control. After waiting for 10 minutes, suddenly a roar went up and Froom emerged from the doping control. He first went to get into the car but then walked over to the barriers and signed autographs and posed for selfies for about 5 minutes. He looked very relaxed as well he might as he had just wrapped up his fourthTour de France title. He ended up posing for a photo with the police bodyguards before then getting into the car and being driven to his hotel for the night, probably in Briancon.

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One last look at the finishline area.

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The road near the summit was deserted, except for a few trucks. The road down from the Col d’Izoard was a lot quieter than it had been when I was making my way up the climb about an hour earlier.

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The famous Coppi and Bobet monument at the Casse Deserte about 2 km from the top of the Col d’Izoard.

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Traffic was backed up for about 5 km further down the road. Officially the road was closed until 10 o’clock but vehicles were being allowed down the climb at around 8 when I went past. It took me almost 2 hours to get from the Col d’Izoard to Aiguilles and it was near 9 when I eventually made it to the campsite and starting to get dark. I had been away for over 12 hours but I had got to see the Tour de France on the Col d’Izoard which was one of my main aims at the start of this year’s Tour de Travoy. Unlike in 2015 on Alpe d’Huez, I didn’t get to witness a classic stage but I didn’t mind as I still got some great shots. Getting to see Chris Froome emerge from the doping control was a unexpected surprise and it was great to see him smiling and chatting with fans. I am not a huge fan of Froome but you have to admire someone who made time for his fans when he could easily have got into the car and been driven off. It was an incredible bonus to see him looking so relaxed and a great way to end a day which hadn’t quite gone to plan but worked out just fine in the end.

 

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