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Pyrenees logistics

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Dec 10th, 2014, 11:56 PM
  #1
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Pyrenees logistics

Hi,

Calling on all experts on France and Spain - specifically the beautiful Pyrenees. I will be heading there next July for a stage of the Tour de France - hopefully when it goes from Tarbes to La Pierre St Martin. Any tips on where to stay to get access to a vantage point to watch the Tour come through would be much appreciated. We will probably hire bikes but will be in the area for a few days and would also like to have easy access to food sources!

Thanks ��
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Dec 11th, 2014, 11:34 AM
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It appears the Tour is in the Pyrenees on the 14th with the Tarbes-La Pierre-Saint-Martin, Stage 10, after a day of rest in Pau. Stage 11 on the 15th is Pau-Cauterets - Vallée de Saint-Savin, and Stage 12 on the 16th it's Lannemezan-Plateau de Beille.

You should concentrate your search in and around Pau and the villages between there and Tarbes. Since the route was announced in October, finding a room within an hours drive of the route could be difficult as they usually book up at least 6 months in advance.

Be aware that roads in the Pyrenees associated with each stage will be closed ahead of the riders, so you will have to plan your day carefully. There are not a lot of secondary routes you will be able to take once they close off the crossroads.
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Dec 11th, 2014, 12:34 PM
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It is a magnificent area, but try to find time to visit the Gorges of Kakuetta while you are in the area: http://tinyurl.com/kakuetta
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Dec 11th, 2014, 12:57 PM
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Thanks Robert2533 and kerouac.

Do you have any advice on how to access the Tour without a car? Would travel information groups in the area be able to help do you think? Or is it worth going to a travel agent here (in Australia)? I have never been to Europe so quite unsure about it all. Also, if you know anything about the TdF could you please tell me if it would be best to stay in Tarbes where we could see the Tour leave? or somewhere along the route?

Thanks
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Dec 11th, 2014, 01:40 PM
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Seeing a stage leave from a city is of course not as exciting as being at the arrival on a mountain pass or some such, but there is so much stuff at the departure city, that it is a great experience in itself.

This report I made about an ordinary flat stage in northern France might give you some ideas about what you can do: http://anyportinastorm.proboards.com...de-france-2012
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Dec 11th, 2014, 01:49 PM
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Thank you kerouac - I just read your report and loved it! You sound very experienced ... wow you first went 50 years ago and I am only contemplating it now!

So perhaps the best thing for us to do would be to hire a car for a few days and try to stay in Tarbes, or Pau, or in between and then get up early and try to drive to the right location to watch it!
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Dec 11th, 2014, 02:03 PM
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In 2012 we stayed for 2 weeks in a Gite at the east end of the Col d'Aubisque near Argeles Gazost. The TdF went over the Col a few days after we departed. We were also close to the Col de Tourmalet - which I think was on the TdF route that same year. A week before the race went through the area, there were signs everywhere that indicated when the Col routes would be closed to all traffic. I think it was 1 day before the race arrived. There are really only 3 routes into the area where we stayed - the Col d'Aubisque to the west, the Col de Tourmalet to the east, and through Argeles Glazost/Lourds to the north. No roads to the south - except from deeper into the Pyrennees through Cauterets, Gedre, and Gavarnie - places with little population. Since the two Cols were closed a day before the race - the only way in on "race day" was through Argeles Gazost - which I imagine was pretty much bumper-to-bumper starting around 7AM.

We then stayed in a Gite near Foix, and the race went within 500 meters of our Gite after the last mountain descent of the day (Route Verte) and before arriving in Foix. A "flat" ride. The peleton was scheduled to go through this spot around 3PM, as I recall. They closed off just about every access road in the area around 11am. We drove our car to a small parking lot near the TdF route and walked to the side of the road to watch the action - along with about 500 other people. The procession of cars & trucks & motorcycles making announcements & throwing out "gifts" started around 1 pm & lasted until around 2:30. Then there was a long pause, then a bunch of motorcycles, then the race leaders. Then another pause, then the team cars with the spare bikes on top arrived just ahead of the peleton (they may have been just behind the peleton). The entire event lasted about 3 hrs but we only saw 3-5 leaders pass (30 seconds of viewing), waited 20 mins or so, then 15-30 mins of the peleton and a few stragglers.

I haven't studied a map for the route you are interested in, but I would not want to watch the race on any flat portion of the route. The riders go by too fast & there is a LOT of waiting. We were fortunate enough to have the race go by our gite - so there was no "getting there" for us (we reserved the Gite before the race route was announced). I would have REALLY been disappointed if we had a 2 hr bumper-to-bumper drive to/from the viewing point in addition to time waiting along the course - for only 20-30 mins of really "seeing" the bicyclists.

I would suggest that you find accommodations very close to a mountain climbing section, starting 2 nights before the race. Perhaps just south of the route so there isn't any traffic coming from the northern more-heavily populated areas. Cauterets would be a nice village to stay in. There are certainly enough "other" things to see & do in that area for a couple of days before the race.

Don't try to go to the TdF & just "wing it". IMO, the flat sections of the race are not very interesting, and the mountain sections are difficult to access. Have a plan & have accommodations reserved ahead of time - after a lot of research.

Stu Dudley
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Dec 11th, 2014, 02:53 PM
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Thanks Stu, do you think it would be worth me trying to locate a local travel group to help find the best location closest to where the race will whiz past?
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Dec 11th, 2014, 04:06 PM
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Sure - if you can. I wouldn't know how to find one, however. It's probably easy to find a "specialized" TdF travel agent who offers a "package" - but I'm guessing they would charge you quite a bit.

Can you change your schedule and do the TdF a day later??? That seems like the toughest stage in the Pyrennees. If you can find a hotel in La Mongie (huge ski resort) that would put you in a position to watch the start the Col de Tourmalet ascent. You might even be able to get to the Col itself. Gorgeous area.

Stu Dudley
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Dec 11th, 2014, 04:14 PM
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Thanks! This shows exactly how uneducated I am in this area, because when I looked at the map for the Col de Tourmalet stage I could not see where I would need to be/stay.
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Dec 11th, 2014, 04:22 PM
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So I just did a bit of looking around and found this hotel, at the foot of the Col de Tourmalet. Stu does it look to you like this would be a good location to walk or ride our bikes from to see the Tour go past?
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Dec 11th, 2014, 04:32 PM
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Would help if I gave you the link Stu! Sorry, here it is: (sorry it is a long link)

http://www.booking.com/hotel/fr/ra-c...=0;type=total&
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Dec 11th, 2014, 05:05 PM
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That's at the bottom of the descent from the Col de Tourmalet - so they'll be going pretty fast then. But they'll go through Luz St. Sauveur so you don't have to travel far (if at all) to see them. See if you can find anything available in La Mongie if you want them to be going a bit slower on the ascent. On the map, go over to the east - it seems there are at least 5 places in La Mongie available from this site. However, there are a lot more huge places in La Mongie. We were there in early July (departed July 13) and I'm not sure all were open then, however.

If you don't care if the riders "whiz" by - try Cauterets - which is where the race finishes. It is a little nicer town than Luz St Sauveur - although Luz St Sauveur is nice. When we stayed near Foix, the city was really "gussied up" for the TdF. La Mongie is not very scenic - just a large ski village for the masses.

Stu Dudley
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Dec 11th, 2014, 06:24 PM
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Thanks Stu. So if we stayed in Cauterets would it be difficult to see the race - given there will be so many people there for the finish?
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Dec 11th, 2014, 06:31 PM
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How about any of these places? Thank you so much for your feedback Stu - it is so hard not only not knowing the area, but how to get where and how to see something so big but so quick!

https://www.airbnb.com.au/s/Cauteret...ss_id=9933i50k
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Dec 11th, 2014, 06:52 PM
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>> if we stayed in Cauterets would it be difficult to see the race - given there will be so many people there for the finish?<<

Don't know - we didn't go to Foix to see the end of the race (roads closed). Cauterets is quite popular, but it is a tad remote. Pont d'Espagne just south of Cauterets, is very scenic & interesting to explore.

Stu Dudley
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Dec 11th, 2014, 07:03 PM
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Thanks - and the tour passes through here?
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Dec 11th, 2014, 07:42 PM
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Actually it appears this one would be close by, in Arreau:

http://au.hotels.com/hotel/details.h.../07/2015&MGT=1
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Dec 12th, 2014, 04:09 AM
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Fellow Aussie here

I've "done" the TDF twice now, once in 2011 and again this year. It's very possible to do it without a travel agent. In fact I suspect most if not all travel agents know next to nothing about how to do the tour once you are in the area.


You don't say how commited you are to watching the race. There's everything from people who just happen to be in the area to cyclists and campervans following the whole tour and riding some or all of each stage. If you are prepared to set aside most of the day, it's very achievable if you have bikes though of course much easier with a car. Is there a reason you won't have a car?

You can click my username to find a report of my 2011 trip. I haven't done a trip report for this year's yet but I did most stages from Leeds to Paris, including all the stages in the Pyrenees. I based in Lourdes as did many other, including press, sponsors and support crews.

You might find the following sites useful

http://www.freewheelingfrance.com/

http://www.abelard.org/france/le-tou...ce-tactics.php

and of course, the official site

http://www.letour.com/le-tour/2015/


http://www.steephill.tv/


Closer to the time, you can find more detailed maps and details of the route, right down to the minute they will pass through each village and major intersection. Generally the roads will be closed about four hours before the race goes through that part - earlier on mountaintop finishes. The campervan followers will have snagged the best parking spots but if you are cycling, you have more choice.

Sure the cyclists flash by very quickly after a long wait. Frankly, if you just want to watch the racing, TV's the place but the atmosphere roadside is a great experience. If you handle the crowds, the departe is interesting too as you can get close to the cyclists as they are introduced and there are lots of freebies on offer.

If you have any questions I'd be happy to help
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Dec 12th, 2014, 07:54 AM
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>>>How about any of these places? <<

Any place in Cauterets would be fine. The TdF will pass through just after the descent from Tourmalet.

Arreau is a very nice town. It at the start of the Col d'Aspin ascent. It would be a good place to watch the race if you want to be on a flat portion.

Stu Dudley
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