As a photographer, going to Alpe D’Huez during the Tour is like dating the most popular girl in high school. Yes, the Alpe is beautiful, but it is crowded. And, yes the most popular girl in high school is beautiful, but also likely a high traffic area. Maybe she is a cheerleader who absentmindedly starts miming her routine in the grocery store. It happens. And it is annoying.

The Heroes have historically gravitated toward the less popular arty girl, the punk rock girl or the girl who rushed to the stables after school to ride her horse.

The day before the Alpe d’Huez stage, two Heroes avoided the crowds by stationing themselves on the descent from the Col d’Izoard. We were in Cervières – the “town next door” if you will – with mostly local fans and not too many of them. The views were beyond category. For the first time we were able to photograph Cadel with no Aussies in the background waving inflatable kangaroos.

The next day, planning to watch the stage on television, we drove toward Gap. After a few hours of one of the most scenic drives (tied for every other drive in the Alps) we found ourselves unexpectedly at the bottom of Alpe d’Huez.

Sometimes the most popular girl in school is popular for good reason. She is most likely pretty, could be smart and maybe athletic: cheerleading is not easy. Neither are (some) popular girls. And neither is the Alpe d’Huez.