In 1953, my dad went cycling in the Alps with a friend (I don’t know his name unfortunately). It seems that they read a magazine article about a tour over some of the Cols that the Tour de France used, and they decided to do it – without really knowing that much about what they were letting themselves in for. Information about the Tour was pretty scarce in those days.
They got the train down to Grenoble, cycled over the Lautaret, down to Briancon, over the Izoard, then the Col du Vars and the Col de la Cayolle – one Col per day – and then about a 50 mile coast down to Nice.
They obviously passed very close to the bottom of Alpe d’Huez as they went through Bourg d’Oisons, but didn’t really know that it existed or what a famous climb it would become. The Tour went up the Alpe for the first time in 1952, but didn’t go back until the 1970s.
I’ve seen photos of the roads in the 50s and they were basically gravel tracks rather than the smooth tarmac we have now. Incredibly, he didn’t get a single puncture – his front tyre went down on one descent, but he couldn’t find a puncture (once the rims had cooled down enough to take the tyre off!), so it was probably just down to the heat from all that braking.

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