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Tour de France - how to see the best parts of the race, where to stay, etc

Tour de France - how to see the best parts of the race, where to stay, etc

Old Jan 21st, 2004, 10:28 AM
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Tour de France - how to see the best parts of the race, where to stay, etc

We are heading to France for the Tour de France this summer - maybe one of our last times to see Lance win the yellow jersey. I would love to know anything about how to see the race, where to go, any tips on camping or places to stay - generally anything or everything on the Tour. This will be our first time and we want to do it right.
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Old Jan 21st, 2004, 10:39 AM
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I don't know the route this year, so can't give you specifics, but DO go! I didn't have much interest in it at all, but when it came through the Dordogne a few years ago, we toddled on down into Le Bugue and set up pinic chairs to watch it - one of the most fun things we've ever done!
Unless you're a real bike maven and know a lot about the different stages and all and have some particular reason for wanting to see a certain aspect of the race, I'd just pick a small town, get a spot two hours before the riders are due to come through, and pack a picnic and some folding chairs.
The promotion cars and trucks that precede the riders are loads of fun. They toss miniature cheeses and sausages and t-shirts and backpacks and all kinds of stuff into the crowds and everyone flocks to gather the goodies.

The riders go so incredibly fast that the actual sighting of them is over in seconds.
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Old Jan 21st, 2004, 10:50 AM
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In 2002, we drove from Interlaken to Gruyere where we picked a spot on the road and waited for le Tour. Had a positively great time meeting and visiting with people from all over who had gathered. Before the racers arrived, sponsor vehicles would pass by and toss out all sorts of "goodies". A great experience.

Regards,

Jinx Hoover
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Old Jan 21st, 2004, 11:00 AM
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I'm not aware of the route for this summer but the best possible place is in the mountains - on a steeply uphill stretch and most preferably on a hairpin bend and, if possible, stand on the inside of the bend if you want to see the cyclists really close up for a photo of your favourite athletes.
Otherwise on the outside of the bend facing directly down the road up which the peleton will cycle. This will give you the longest possible view of the individual riders.

Be warned though that these prime spots will be quickly taken by other interested parties so maybe 3 hours before (or even more) would be better planning for arrival. But then, take a picnic, fold up chairs and enjoy the breeze in the sweet chestnuts and the smell of the wild garlic... you're in the mountains when all is said and done!

It's a great fun day out and strongly recommended... and finally don't forget to take along some coloured chalks so that you can write "Allez Lance!" on the tarmac at your corner.

Enjoy yourselves!

Dr D.
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Old Jan 21st, 2004, 11:05 AM
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Google "tour de France" for the official website. it gives the exact route and calendar. As DDG said at or near the top of the segments in the mountains are probably the best for viewing. Even while climbing they are moving rather quickly.

As St. Cirq suggested bring food and something to sit on.
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Old Jan 21st, 2004, 11:10 AM
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www.letour.fr
There is the map and complete schedule.

We have been lucky enough to see Lance Armstorng come in to Paris on a win twice now. Last year we stood right by Concorde for the many final laps they did. It was thrilling to say the very least.

Unfortunately this summer we'll be leaving France the week before their arrival and it doesn't look like we'll be logically able to catch any stage from where we'll be. I will say, they go by as a streak of light -- but it is all the pre-arrival stuff that's fun.
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Old Jan 21st, 2004, 06:01 PM
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2 summers ago I was in France during the Tour de France and had the opportunity to see it twice, once in Rouen. The riders did go by in seconds, but like others have said, there is camraderie and lots of free french goodies. In Paris there are bleachers set up and you have the chance to see the riders more. Both times I've been in Paris for the end though it has been very hot and humid.
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Old Jan 21st, 2004, 06:12 PM
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I would second the suggestions made by Dr. Do Good...BUT FOR GOD'S SAKE, KEEP YOUR BANNERS OUT OF THE WAY OF THE PASSING HANDLEBARS!!
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Old Jan 21st, 2004, 06:59 PM
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Good point, Giro. Stay out of the riders' way! You don't want to be responsible for an accident!
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Old Jan 21st, 2004, 07:08 PM
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Checked with my hubby on this--former pro racer in Europe and TDF guru. He advised that on the mountain stages, people will camp out overnight to get good viewing spots, so if you want a good view on a climb, 2 - 3 hours prior won't be enough time. Many of the roads will be closed as early as the night before. Have a great time!
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Old Jan 21st, 2004, 07:12 PM
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We happened to be in Paris on the last day of the Tour de France in 2000. We didn't really have a plan for the day, but followed all the crowds down to the Champs d'Elysee just to see what was going on. We ended up staying 6 hours and had a ball!
The advantage to viewing on that day, was that the riders passed by several times, so we felt like we saw a lot of the race. We were amazed by all the tactics the riders used -- the relatively "leisurely" pace on the first go round, the out and out racing by the sprinters at the end, and the US team's protectiveness of Lance. It's one of our best memories of Paris!
Enjoy!
Annette
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Old Jan 21st, 2004, 07:55 PM
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There is a book, "Camping and Caravanning France" that you can order at Borders.com or Amazon.com or some other online bookstore. It lists most of the campgrounds in France, gives you contact details and driving directions.

Most campgrounds have a little restaurant right in the campground. When we reserved, we sent a personal check for about a quarter of the amount. We checked in with no trouble. (They don't all speak English out in the boonies but the are all wonderful and helpful people.) When we checked out, they returned our deposit check and let us pay either with MasterCard or cash. There are phone numbers in the book if you speak enough French to call.

We had a great time camping, and oddly enough saw part of the Tour de France by accident one year. Our daughter was soooo jealous!

One tiny problem we ran into in France was that the campgrounds have no shelves or benches in the showers. We noticed the French campers take a little plastic bucket, upend it and use it as a shelf and then carry their shampoo, soap, etc. in it. You can pick one up at any hypermarché.
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Old Jan 21st, 2004, 09:01 PM
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The Tour goes over the Tourmalet in the Pyrenees every year. We were there last year three days before the tour. The campsites were absolutely full. If the Tour goes over the Col d'Aubisque, you might be able to see the riders on the way down to Argelès by sitting in one of the cow fields by some of the hairpin turns.
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Old Feb 27th, 2004, 07:24 PM
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Go to www.lancearmstrong.com and look for the self guided tour notes by Ted Arnold on the right side of the page. You can download pages and pages of advice about viewing the race from a self described TdF fanatic who has led bike tours for a living. Also, go to www.letour.fr which is the official site of the TdF to see the route for 2004 and links to most of the start and finish towns. There are links to the tourism offices of those towns if you keep clicking. I recently won an educational grant to spend the month of July in France to follow the tour from beginning to end. See you at the race. Go Lance!!!
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Old Feb 27th, 2004, 08:39 PM
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Our daughter says to go to the Tour de France web site and check it out. They have a map and dates on it.

Hope Lance wins for you . . . and many others!!
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Old Feb 28th, 2004, 03:28 AM
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Son and wife went last year and saw stages for the last 10 days or so with a tour. One of his pictures on the Col d'Aspin was spectacular--all 5 leaders ascending the Col in a pack. He said "you either watch the riders or you photograph them--not both".
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Old Feb 28th, 2004, 04:39 AM
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This is great! You folks make me feel like summer is almost upon us!
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Old Feb 28th, 2004, 08:15 AM
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Hello Maxson, We too are off to see the tour this summer. We have been trying to do this trip for three years now and decided it had to be this year or else. First go to www.letour.com to see the route and determine where you want to catch the race. We plan to see the finish in Nimes as we will be in Provence for six nights. Afterwards we are staying four nights in Alpe d'huez. We will drive the two hours from Alpe d'huez to see the mountain finish in Villard-de-Lans and of course we will then catch what will certainly be one of the most exciting time trials in the history of the race.

If you want to stay in Alpe d'huez it will be hard to find something now, but you can go to www.alpedhuez.com for hotel listings. You can also register with the booking agency who will get back to you in the spring if something opens. Also try www.oisans.com, which lists some hotels/inns in the valley below and quite a few camping sites. The site is mostly in French, although some linked hotel.camping sites have English translations. However, you can go to www.freetranslation.com for translation help.

Others advice about getting to a site early is crucial, especially on the mountain stages. We planned our trip so we could see both Provence and some mountain stages in the alpes. I am going to take Amwosu's advice and try the Lance site. The more info the better. Let me know if I can be further help. We are bringing our bikes with us and I have some info about cycling that I would be happy to share if you need it.
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