The Best School Trip

Being huge Tour de France fans it was always frustrating never being able to watch it with it being during school time. So the only answer was to take a group of just as nutty students to cycle the cols and watch the tour! And this is what we did!

Students fundraised some of the money for the trip by completing the 7 Stanes challenge as well as the usual bag packing and raffles. The trip worked out as £300 per student for the 9 days. We sent a cheeky email to Sky explaining what we were doing and they were extremely supportive and sent us all a goody bag with Sky caps, waterbottles and rider cards and a signed Bradley Wiggins shirt to go away with. This enabled us to spot the group easily within the crowds!

Day 1 & 2

We left Brampton with 12 students, 3 staff, a bike trailer and mini bus on the morning of Saturday 7 July. The plan was to drive through the night to arrive at our campsite at the foot of Alpe d'Huez for Sunday afternoon. And this is what we did!
Guess who was on bike duty at the services!
Camp for the week was A La Rencontre du Soleil. We had stayed at the campsite the year before and we received the same excellent service with our group. On arrival we pitched tents and headed into Bourg d Oisans for a touristy afternoon. We decided not to ride as it was important to get over the journey.

Day 3

The plan for the first day was to ride the Col d Ornan and then climb a small col to oulles. We split the group to have a faster group start at the campsite and a slower group to start a 1/4 of way up the col. Our aim is to never exclude any students from a trip we just adapt to accommodate!

At the top of the col the group had a drink in the refuge before descending to start the climb to Oulles. Some students returned to the campsite whilst the main group made their way to the village.

Descending late evening we made our way back with all the group in good spirits. The day had been a good introduction to riding in the Alps and also allowed students to recover from the long journey.

Back at camp it was down to us to cook for 15 people on a camp stove! It was all good with everyone tolerating our spag bol!

Day 4

The second day the plan was to race the group up Alp d' Huez. We gave the student start times trying to ensure all students finish around the same time. This proved difficult with the slower group taking nearly 3 hours and our fastest riders completing it in just under an hour!

At the top all the riders were happy to browse the shops and have a drink in the cafe before a team photo on the podium. The descent down was well controlled and it was an interesting experience leading a group of 15 down Alp D'Huez and its 21 bends!

Day 5

Through twitter we had learned that the Crankworx festival at Les Deux Alps. 

Some riders were still tired from the previous day so we had the option to either ride to Les Deux Alps or take a ride in the bus. We had a hard core group that took to their bikes to tackle the climb from Bourg d' Oisans to Les Deux Alps.

Being cheered on by the bus was always a good motivator for the riders who were feeling their legs from the day before!

The views were stunning off the Barrage de Chambon. Arriving at Les Deux Alps we were very excited by the scale of the festival. The students were keen to go star spot and managed to track down Sam Pilgrim, Mark Beaumont and Rachel Atherton who were all very willing to have a photo with the group.

Everyone enjoyed watching the riders so much we decided to go back in the evening to continue watching the action. After the excitement it was time to go for tea which we managed to do at Les Deux Alps itself. A happy group after a great day sang many renditions of 'We are Young' by Fun which was fast becoming the team anthem!

Day 6
The time had arrived to go and watch the tour! Wiggins was in yellow and we were all extremely excited to go and cheer him and team Sky on the Col du Glandon and Col de la Croix de Fer. We decided to drive up the Col de la Croix to ensure we get there in time, this was the best decision although driving was like being in the Wacky Racers! The amount of cyclists and people in general making their way up the col was unbelievable. 

Parked and ready to find the perfect spot we were taking in the electric atmosphere on the col. When all the caravans came through students had collected lots of free stuff from all the sponsors. The amount of stuff was mind blowing and at times quite dangerous when some of the caravans were launching the free stuff at your at quite a speed!

A short time after the caravans had gone through it was time to wait for the first riders. The atmosphere was electric and when the helicopters started buzzing around the col excitement exploded!! It felt like something off the A team!
The first riders past before the Wiggins group following a short time behind. Many of our students took the opportunity to run with Wiggins up the col which they say will remain with them forever!

The col was erupting with the crowd shouting 'Allez Allez' the experience was awesome and well worth the effort organising the trip! Next up the Col was Mark Cavendish, again our students ran and cheered showing their support for Team Sky.
Once the riders and team cars had passed it was time to head with the crowds back to the campsite. The journey down was very dangerous with cyclists and motorists all trying to descend the alpine pass! Wacky racers it was again! Happy to be safe in the valley it was time to cook and discuss the excitement of the day. The group were so excited by the Tour it was decided to get an early start and head over to St Jean de Maurienne to watch the tour leave.

Day 7

An early start it was time to drive over the Col de la Croix de Fer to watch the Tour leave. A few travel sick moments later we were being officially parked and bused into the town centre. The organisation and infrastructure was mind blowing!
We headed for the team bus and made our presence known outside the Sky bus cheering for Wiggins. Bernie Eisel was a legend and came out to sign anything the students wanted! 

We headed into the main street to get a good position to watch the riders leave. Trying to keep a group of 15 together amongst the crowds was an interesting challenge!
Excitement was building again and all the riders were at the start for the official depart. We were all keen once again to have a glimpse of the yellow jersey and were well rewarded with our patience.
Once all the riders had gone we went for a shop around the official stalls. A yellow jersey and a few key rings later we were heading back on the bus over the Oisans valley for lunch. As it was the last day we were determined to make the most of every minute so we headed up the Col du Lautaret to ride the Col du Galibier. 

We set the groups off at different intervals once again to ensure riders were not waiting at the top too long. The scenery was spectacular and having done the Galibier a few times from the other side it was a welcomed change in perspective!! The students were once again an inspiration digging deep to reach the top! After a quick team pic it was time to descend safely as a group stopping off to look at the memorial to the Tour de France founder which was very apt given our amazing week!

After a quick shower and change we were soon sat for the final evening meal in the campsite restaurant. We had awards for all students given their contribution on the trip, they ranged from the shower award (or lack of) to the professional! After a well earned meal it was time to pack ready to head off in the morning.

Day 8 & 9
We left the campsite at 8am and drove continually until we arrived back at school 8am the following morning. It was an interesting experience taking one of the students through border control in a tiger suit onsie! On arrival parents were waiting in anticipation for all the stories from what had been an exciting week although they were following us on Twitter!

This was certainly a school trip of a lifetime! We believe a well rounded person has a well rounded education and that is more than sitting in a classroom! This is why we continue to work hard to provide students with these opportunities! 

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