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Flanman

Thoughts on being at the Tour

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I would like to hear thoughts from those who have been to the TdF.

We watch it on the TV. We hear the commentary, see the faces, marvel at the crowds. Most of us would love to be there watching it live. However.....what's it actually like being there ?

The race goes past so fast. I do know that the villagers have big festivals and celebrate. The emotion on the big climbs look great. But to me, the race would go past in a blink of an eye.

So, for those who have been, ….. what's it like ?

FM 

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I am here now been to 2 stages one in Toulouse and th other went past our hotel,

We are at the base of the Tourmalet,  it still watched on tv

if you like long long days it ok, we just come to ride our bikes and enjoy France 

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I've been a couple of times but only because I was in the area cycling at the time and thought I'd wander out for a look. Would rather be out riding my bike in France than standing by the side of the road waiting for the peloton to zoom by. It's all over in 30 seconds. The sponsor's caravans roll through an hour or so before the cyclists. You can usually bag a few free hats and sachets of washing powder. The packets of pork sausage is kinda interesting.

In 2011 I was staying up on Alpe d'Huez for the triathlon - that was the year Cadel won the Tour. It was stage 19 and we were hoping to catch a glimpse of them coming up the home straight and corning up to the finish line. Saw nothing - too crowded. We ended up finding a pub that streamed Phil Liggett but would've had a better time back in Aus watching from the comfort of the couch. For the final stage into Paris, Cadel was in yellow. We were still on the mountain and couldn't find a pub that was streaming in English. We watched Cadel's trophy presentation with French commentary over the speeches. Best part was the barman realised we were Aussies and gave us free champagne.

I personally would avoid the Tour and just go over for a big cycling trip.

The photos below:

-watching from inside the pub with smelly MAMILs

-As close as we were gonna get to Andy Schlek in yellow (before Cadel rocked the ITT the next day)

-Mark Cavendish trying to get the honk outta there after the race while my friend tries to get a pic of herself with his 'sprinters flower bouquet' - that's his security dude 'Woogie' forcibly wrenching the flowers from her grasp as I stand there looking totally innocent. Never met her before in my life.

Stage 19 8.JPG

Stage 19 Andy Schlek 2.JPG

 

Stage 19 HTC Cavandish 4lores.jpg

Edited by The Customer

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The stage a coupon of days ago looked like the ideal spectator day, 4 or so laps of the women’s race, then the Men’s TT. That’s actually a fair bit of action.

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I’ve been twice in 2009 and 2011. With a bit of planning and research of the route you can make it manageable, lots of waiting, but c’mon it’s free!

In 2009 I saw three stages; a flat sprint finish, a TTT and the start of another stage.

The sprint finish was at La Grande Motte and I spent about 5 hours standing around in the sun getting burnt and dehydrated whilst I watched the caravan and pre-race procession roll through. Snagged some sponsor hats and products etc as well. I was near the finish, so they had big screens showing the action (in French). I made friends with some other Aussies, so the time went fairly quickly and saw Cavendish nail the sprint.

The next day was the TTT in Montpellier and after looking at the route it was possible to watch half the teams near the start, run about 4-5km to the finish in time to see most of the teams finish as they took a more circuitous route than me. We started on a nasty little corner where a few teams came unstuck and once again showing the Aussie colours drew some new friends to keep things entertaining. Seeing a team go past every few minutes, was far more interesting than a big group finish where only the first 10 are trying to win.  

A few days of travel found me in Barcelona for the start of another stage. The actual race start was a bit tame, as everyone just pushed off like a bunch rolling out on a lazy Sunday. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was anti-climatic. The value in the start was being able to wander the team areas and see the riders up close pre-race, hear the interviews and maybe grab a photo.

In 2011 I was living in London and when it looked like Cadel was going to win I made a spur of the moment decision on the Friday night to take the Chunnel and see it in person. I was on the Eurostar heading over whilst the ITT was happening, so I was on the phone to Mum and Dad in Australia as they updated me on the splits as they happened.

Spent the majority of the next day standing on a fence on des Champs-Elysees, trying not to drink so I didn’t lose my spot to go to the toilet. The riders rolled around 8 times, I was able to spot Cadel in yellow briefly before Tina Arena sang the anthem.

Expect long days, sunburn and to be dehydrated, but the atmosphere made up for it for me. I plan on going to a mountain stage next time I’m over there and then I would think I’ve seen all the tour has to offer from the roadside.

Cavendish.JPG

Diablo.JPG

TTT.JPG

Cadel.JPG

Lance.jpg

Sastre.JPG

TDF.JPG

Edited by Froudie
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We caught a stage finish and a depart in 2011.

The finish was crazy, I didn't even see Cadel as he rode past so I spent a lot of time thinking I managed to catch the stage where he lost the tour!

It was a mountain stage, but not a summit finish, so dribs and drabs of riders coming past.

Crammed onto the train post race with half of Europe it seemed.

The depart the next day was much better for seeing riders.

I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

 

 

DSCF1554.JPG

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I watched a couple stages back in 97 98ish  the year Festina got kicked out .My village that I was living in had the TT go through it and finish there .I strolled around and had a bit of a look but usually just watched it on tv.

I remember I think Richard Veronque saying no no not our drugs etc then the next day came out and went “ yep they were ours I take them our team takes them and so dose every other guy in the Peleton “ or words to that effect 😂

who would have thought ..

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I went a few years back and did a tour with Custom Getaways. It was terrific. You ride the stage yourself in the morning and then watch the riders come through. Meanwhile the roads are clear of cars, campers are on the hills clapping you through whilst they wait for the main event.  Great atmosphere at the starts and finish lines.  You realise what a huge circus it is . Especially for all  the international tv crews to get their gear/vans etc. from one stage to the next when every man and his dog is trying to leave the same mountain top with only one road out!!  It's worth doing once, but yes, you do see and hear more on tv.

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A cycling holiday combined with watching a stage or 2 of the Tour is a great holiday. Cycle some of the famous climbs yourself and find out how super tough they are.

You need to get a spot early to watch the tour. They have a convey of vehicles with music and throwing out freebies to keep you amused while you wait.

We watched the tour on a steep section towards the end of a stage. By then the riders were strung out and it was steep so they went past us slowly.

Fantastic experience.

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Definitely worth having a look and if you do some clever planning, can actually see quite a bit.  But they do fly past and its all over.  Did a tour with Phil Anderson in 2013 seeing many stages, starts, finishes, mid race.  The highlight of that trip was riding Alpe d'Huez the day the pro's rode it twice, crazy times on the mountain.

In 2017 did a trip with some mates and again saw quite abit, the TT is a fantastic opportunity to watch them warm up, cool down, have a chat to the riders. Saw them start a days ride, then went a different route to watch them descend the Galibier, so its very possible. You need to be flexible in movement, and you can ride before the start or even after the start depending on what you want to see.

Another trip we did the Vuelta (2018) and had the best access , whilst still lots of fans, in some stages we were riding up and down the start line up to 30 mins before the start.  we were there for a week on the north coast, say them each day (bar 1), then drove to the Pyranees and rode the Tourmalet both sides, Pyerosourde and then drove to Andorra and watched the final mountain stage only missing a flat day.

 

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For those who have been on the mountain, where does everyone go to the toilet? It seems packed and plenty appear to have been on the beers for a while?

NSF

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We saw the stage finish in Nimes in 2011. Yes the race goes past so fast you hardly see anything. But the carnival atmosphere at the finish line with the big screens and all the trade team busses waiting for the riders, is great to cruise around and check out. 

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Went in 2010 as part of a European Holiday (London, Rome, Venice, France). Was probably the least I have ever seen of the tour, because the race happens in the afternoon and the wife wants to sight see (not allowed to sit in front of the TV).

For the TDF section of our holiday we stayed half way up the Tourmalet (about 10km from the top).  They passed our hotel twice that year. Climbed the Tourmalet from the other side and descended passed us finishing in Pau, then a rest day, then the hardest day of the Tour that finished with a climb up the Tourmalet.

Lance Armstrong was in the break away that day and Cavendish was way off the back. But it was almost impossible to identify any riders in the main peloton because they sped past so fast (80+kph). We walked to our spot about 2 hours before they arrived to secure a good spot. And then wandered back to our hotel after they left to watch the remainder of the stage.

Far more interesting watching the climb. It was just before the break away got caught, the pain on their faces made them look like 50+yo men. Once they passed we went straight back to the accomodation (about 20 metres away) and watched the rest of the stage.

The best part was the company in the hotel. All the guests were there for the TDF and the English owners of the hotel were cycling mad. The worst part was not having my bike with me. It was a minimum 5 night stay and everyone else was doing great rides every day.  I tried to take out my frustration by running up the Tourmalet.

We were also in Paris for the last day, but the crowds were 5 deep.  Being tall I could see over them, but my wife could not see a thing. So we only stayed for 1 lap.

I would go again. But would definitely take my (or hire a) bike and make it into a cycling holiday.

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