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Tour de France 2012

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My wife and I and our two kids (girl 12, boy 15) will be travelling north through the Pyranees this summer on the day of the 16th Stage of the Tour (Pau to Bagneres-de-Luchon) . I would be very grateful for any advice on where is the best place to view this stage of the race. I suppose it is largely a matter of personal preference, but as this is our first time viewing the Tour, I would appreciate any ideas that any of you might have. I will have a car, and will be coming north from the Port-Aine area. I am prepared to get an early start, and to drive to wherever may be necessary to get to the best viewing point. The most important thing is I want my kids to get a real feel for what the race is all about! Thanks.

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    Sounds like a great idea: to show your kids the excitement of the Tour de France! Stage 16 should also be a great day of racing! You are correct that viewing areas are somewhat a personal preference, but here are some good things to keep in mind:

    - a car will give you great mobility, but realize that there could be major traffic jams trying to get across or onto the route in advance to see the race. Plan your route well to avoid traffic.


    - In June, the very detailed routes of each stage will be released on the official website: www.letour.fr. Use their maps along with a Michelin road map to show exactly where the stage will go AND what times they are expected to go through each town/mountain pass. In planning to see the Tour, try to plan your driving route so that you don't have to cross the race course either before or after the race. In other words, find a good road that brings you to the course perpendicularly from the direction the race will travel, then exit the same direction.

    - an hour or so before the race comes through each point, a publicity caravan will also drive through. In planning your viewing, realize that you'll need to be in position at least a couple of hours before the caravan, not just the race.

    - For the mountains themselves, the roads may close to cars early in the morning, meaning that if you want to see the race on the climbs, you'll have to walk up. A suggestion since you're traveling with your kids, would be to drive as close to one of the climbs as possible (arriving on a road that is not part of the course) and then walk uphill a kilometer or maybe less. Pack a picnic lunch and find a good spot to see the race. It's a lot more enjoyable to see the race on a climb, because the riders are going (relatively) slower. On the flats, they speed by in 30 seconds. So even just a little bit of uphill will provide better viewing. See what your kids are up to, but keep in mind the walk afterwards as well (including back to the car)

    - Once the race passes, all the spectators will turn downhill to try to leave. Cars will be stuck for a long time, but pedestrians will make it down just fine. If you planned your approach/departure parking spot well, you will hopefully not have to wait in much traffic. Essentially, the farther away from the course you parked (and you're willing to walk), probably the less traffic you'll have on departure. But you may prefer to get to your car sooner, so your kids can sit, even if it means a bit more traffic later.

    - General advice would be to pick one of the earlier climbs of the day. There will probably be many more spectators on the last climb of the day, which of course mean that it could take longer to drive to/from. This might not work well for you if you're coming all the way from Port-Aine, but it's worth keeping in mind.

    - You'll probably want to avoid the finish because it will be VERY crowded and hard to see the race. Plus you don't really get a feel for the race at all at the finish.

    Hope that helps! Let us know if you have more questions.

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