So now that I've moved to a nice hotel with a reliable internet connection, I'm actually able to upload some of my pictures from the ride! I've captioned them but the formatting is still off a little bit. Click on the pictures to see a larger version.
Modane, the starting village. Talk about a stunning view to start off the morning.
Nerves = peeing.
My starting pen. I actually arrived a little early so I was close the front of my group.
Once we got onto the main street, there were cyclists as far as you can see... looking ahead.
Once we got on the road, it was a quick 15km ride to Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne.
And, we're on the first climb! The Col du Telegraphe.
Every kilometer, there is a marker on the road (the little tombstone-shaped thing... the big sign is temporary) that tells you the distance to the summit and the grade of the upcoming kilometer. So this one says that there is 1km to the summit with an average grade of 8%.
Still headed up....
There is a quick 5km descent off the Telegraphe into the village of Valloire (first elimination point) and then we began our assault on the Galibier.
The first 10km are relatively easy, with the gradient hovering around 4% the entire time. And on parts of the ride, you could see other cyclists in the distance (look carefully... way in the distance).
After making a wide right hand turn at Plan Lachat, the real climbing begins. 8km at an average gradient of 10%. The views were spectacular. So was the pain. If you look at this picture, you can see the line of cyclists snaking up the mountain.
A monument to Pantani, about 5km from the summit.
Cycling in the Alps allows for some awesome images.
At the summit of the Galibier, looking down into the valley where cyclists stretch as far as the eye can see on the road that's draped on the mountain.
Summit of the Galibier.
Descending from the Galibier. Fewer pictures of this since I was too busy trying to stay alive on the switchbacks while hitting speeds of over 40mph.
Finally getting to Alpe d'Huez. Beginning the climb... about 2km in where the gradient is a steady 10%.
Looking back on Turn 9.
And finally the view from Alpe d'Huez proper. There's no cool little plaque like there was on the Galibier... just a huge huge ski resort.
Finally, let me mention again that I met some really amazing and friendly people on this ride. First would be Michael, who was my roommate for the 2 days in Valfrejus and after the ride at the Etape. A true gentleman. Soft spoken, thoughtful, and the nicest person you could meet. Also happens to be the president of a large insurance company. I also spent a lot of time with Tom, from California, who is a 64 year old who does Ironman Triathlons like people do afternoon jogs. Also Michael from Strava and Ashely, who were both really chill and one of the few in our group close to my age. I've already blamed Michael for getting me addicted to his website. But that's okay... it's still an awesome site. Overall, the group was a highly accomplished bunch of cyclists, including multiple triathletes, a couple of randonneurs (including a RAAM qualifier and someone riding Paris-Brest-Paris), and a guy who rode 500km on his first Texas time trial (a test of how far you can ride in 24 hours straight). As you can tell, these guys are all really accomplished athletes and it was really great to meet them all.