A ski freak’s Tour de France

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It’s articles like this that make the Tour de France the most interesting sporting event in the world. No other event tracks through such varied and spectacular terrain and has so many different competitive elements to it. I started out wanting to give some coverage to Ryder Hesjedal, and the tour has now seduced me completely.

Lance Armstrong & the Tour de France of Ski: Stage 7, Ordino-Arcalis
After spending the first six stages rolling through relatively flat ocean-scapes, it’s time for the real men of the Tour de France to step forward. Those big things in front of the sprinters of the 2009 Tour de France are the Pyrenees. It’s the first mountain stage, and the first real clue if this entire Lance Armstong business is fo’ real.

Armstong remains a fraction of a second off leader Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland. However, Mr. Cancellara is about to become a footnote in the 96th Tour de France. It’s mountain time. Carlos Astre, the 2008 champ, Alberto Contador, the pre-race favorite, these are the guys who are about to take over. Men are made in the mountains. We all know this, we ski!

As we watch Lance Armstrong go for his 8th Tour de France win, we’re checking the great ski areas along the route. Friday we hit our first spot.

Tour de France of Ski: Stage 7, Ordino-Arcalis

Barcelona, Spain to Arcalis, Andorra. The seventh stage of the Tour de France ends in Arcalis, Andorra. At Ordino-Arcalis, (pictured above) thirteen modern lifts — minus the modern lift lines — service 2,231 feet of vertical. Rarely will you see a lift cue at Andorra’s most challenging ski area. Ordino-Arcalis is the preferred spot for locals on the weekend, while other Andorran resorts cater heavily to British and Irish tourists.

The heli-skiing in the Pyrenees of Arcalis is immensely popular. Definitely pack your skins, as off-piste skiing in and around Arcalis is absolutely ruling after a sizable dump.

The people of Andorra, the small land-locked nation sandwiched between Spain and France, are blessed with the highest life expectancy in the world, averaging 85 years. Extrapolating an answer? Skiing makes people happier, and happier people live longer.

The Ski Channel

Armstrong: “the only way to describe days like today is scary”.

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armstrong stage 6Lance Armstrong on Stage 6:

“There are not many days when I have regretted my decision,” he said. “But maybe that was one of them.

“Maybe I’m being facetious, but it wasn’t a lot of fun. There were dangerous downhills and some crashes. The only way to describe days like today is scary.”

Looks like Ryder Hesjedal got involved in a couple of mishaps today, dropping from 21st overall to 25th. I hope he’s ready and fit for the first mountain stage tomorrow

The Tour’s early entrance into the mountains will be sudden, with a Level 1 mountain pass and one of the highest finishes in its history, at 2,200m elevation. And yet this will not be the time for great manœuvres. The fact that difficulties will be spread out throughout the race, as well as the length of the first Pyrenees stage, should enable a bold, sturdy climber who breaks away from the pack early to seize his chance at Arcalis.