Ever been to France to watch The Tour live? Advice needed.

Discussion in 'Professional Cycling' started by Chrisjleu, May 16, 2005.

  1. Chrisjleu

    Chrisjleu New Member

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    Hello all,

    I'm planning on going to France to watch some of the mountain stages in both the Alps and the Pyrenees. Having never been before, I was wondering if anyone has been before and doesn’t mind dispensing to information and/or advice.

    My thoughts were to rent a camper van and just park it up on the mountains. Is this possible? How busy does it get? Will there be parking space? How early do I need to get there? Are the roads open? (Lots of questions I know!).

    Alternatively, I thought about just travelling to the alps by train and staying in hostels or B&B’s. Any advice on this?

    All information/advice appreciated.

    Thanks!
     
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  2. whiteboytrash

    whiteboytrash New Member

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    Have done it both ways..... you will need to park your camper up at least one day before and for big mountain stages 2-3 days before to get a good spot.... trains are excellent and will get you anywhere in France and surprisingly a lot of the hotels will have vacancies shortly before the tour.... you could even try getting on one of the tours that go to the tour but these are more for bike riders and sometimes their organisation is chaos (avoid sporting tours - diabolical*).... when going to a mountain stage make sure you bring some cheese, wine and a copy of the L'Equipe and make a day of it !

    You will met some very interesting people not to mention some brain dead Lance fans who may spoil it (just ignore them)... :eek:) Enjoy ! and remember for the French the sport is about celebrating the countryside, the land, their country and culture not just about cheering the riders on… respect this and you will be fine… a few words of French go a long way...... its not America and it doesn’t have to be…. The French are just as proud of their country and ways as the Americans are….. I shouldn’t have to write this but when you go you will see why….

    * if you decide on a Tour I hear that former pro riders Phil Andersen and Neil Stephens have tours which are really really good...... you stay in château’s, drink wine, eat great food and hear stories of Tours gone by.....


     
  3. Chrisjleu

    Chrisjleu New Member

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    In many ways I would prefer to get the train from location to location since I'd rather not be responsible for parking a camper/minivan and also avoid running the risk of getting caught up in what horrendous traffic jams. It's encouraging to know that there is a decent rail network.

    Of course, this leaves the problem of finding a bed for the night. In your experience, is it likely that a person can find a room (not fussy about the standard in the slightest) at very short notice, say even for the very same night?

    Thanks for your info, it's extremely useful. :)
     
  4. whiteboytrash

    whiteboytrash New Member

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    OK if you go the train way there is one web site you will need.... the best way I found was get the Tour De France map and pick the stages you want to see... your profile says you live in London so go to Stanfords Travel book store and pick up a map of the French Alps or Pyrenees..... (or order off website: http://www.stanfords.co.uk/)

    Pick the locations you want to train to and use the following website to see train connections : http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en?ld=212.53&seqnr=1&ident=28.01435053.1116281123&OK#focus - This website is the only one to use when training around Europe... you can enter in any city you want and it will find the connections for you... you can even see travel time and book on-line if you want.... another method is to book a flight with Ryanair or EasyJet who have flights into nearby locations and you can train from there... flights are generally cheaper than training the entire way from the UK... althought the train network from Paris is second to none...

    Thirdly its probably better to book hotels ahead of time so you can drop bags off and know you have a bed for the night.... The best way is either to put the name of the city your staying in into Google and see what hotels come up or post a message on the thorn tree website at: http://thorntree.lonelyplanet.com/ - Sometimes you can get a responce from a local recommending a nice hotel or somewhere close to the stage etc or someone who as stayed before can give a great tip.....

    Another good tip is to stay in the town of the stage finish on the night that the stage finshed as there is always sure to be a party on the mountain on the local town... nothing like a few thousand people for all around the world to party with..... most people move on to quickly or try to keep ahead of the race... no chance... you miss all the fun....

    Hope all this helps... :)

    PS I wrote this on my web enabled PDA so excuse spellings......

    PPS Dont forget sunscreen as there is going to be a heatwave this year....
     
  5. tpiace

    tpiace New Member

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    We meet again... saw your post on thorntree.... hehe

    I am also travelling to the tour this year and so far on my own. Coming all teh way from Australia! Would be great to email you and keep in touch as the time get closer i am starting to get nervous about the lack of plans i have made... oops!

    [email protected]
     
  6. Chrisjleu

    Chrisjleu New Member

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    This info is gold, thanks. It sounds like ultimately you're recommending careful planning. I was kinda hoping I could wing it when I get there but I guess that's wishful thinking (but then I don't think I'm alone in that line of thinking, huh tpiace?! ;) ).

    I've taken a look at the race route in terms of start and finishing towns, so I reckon I'll book some accomodation in those places.

    Once again, thanks for the tips. Invaluable. Feel free to dispense more...
     
  7. whiteboytrash

    whiteboytrash New Member

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    It doesn’t take precise planning and you can buy your train tickets when you turn up at the station... hotels are available but its always nice to know you have a place for the night... running around looking for a place to stay will cut into your viewing and drinking time ! When I went I booked the hotels prior and printed out the train connections and rocked up on the day and bought one... there were always seats... somedays I didn’t get the train and I got it another day.... I also met alot of people on the mountain stages and ended up traveling with them and then going to the mountain time trail stage with them in 2001.... there were four of us and we met this French couple who had there Citron parked on the side of the road and we got talking in very broken English and this French guy we met popped he's boot to revel about 12 bottles of wine and an assortment of cheese’s... we spent the afternoon drinking and him translating race radio the best he could for us... it was an amazing day and the often the people you meet and experiences you have are just as good as seeing the racing....



    Another good idea is to bring some presents from your native country... I live in the UK but I'm originally from Australia... the second time I went I brought about 50 little kolas.... they were a little crappy but the European's loved them and appreciate the thought... perhaps a few Big Ben’s but leave the American flags at home !



    They are not doing l'Alpe d'Huez this year but we stayed up on the mountain in 2001 and it was the biggest party I have ever had... we drank until around 3am and I'm not sure how I got to the next stage... meet a lovely Dutch girl but that’s another story ! :cool:



    The third year I went with two mates and we decided to dress as Mexicans for one of the stages.... no idea why but it just makes for a better day out... we had maracas and had many photos taken by passers by….



    You should always prepare for a lot of waiting around as well... you may get to the stage find a good spot and then wait 2 hours for the riders to arrive and then its over ! So that’s why you should bring in the food and wine... also bring sunscreen and a big hat... it can get mighty hot out there on the road and sitting in the sun for 3 hours can hurt ! :mad:



    If you go to the final stage in Paris then go early to get a good spot… you will have to wait for about 3 hours but if you don’t get near the front you cant see any of the racing… about an hours before they arrive on the Champs Elysee there is a massive push from behind and you can lose your spot… it can be hard going and you maybe better going to a pub or café on the Champs Elysee to watch on TV… that way you can hear the roar of the crowd and watch the racing proper… I think if I went again I would do this in Paris… I just couldn’t stand on my tip toes any longer…. At the end of the stage the crowds dissipated and it was easier to see the victory laps and get some decent photos…..



    One last thing... bring a bag to each stage as the tour caravans roll past about 30 minutes before the riders and give out free stuff... by the end you will have about 300 different caps etc....



    Not sure there is much more I can tell you but Enjoy ! You will have a ball !



    This year I'm going to fly into Pau train up to Saint-Lary-Soulan to watch stage 15... if you have seen photo's of Ullrich this year its going to be a great race... :) :) :)
     
  8. James Felstead

    James Felstead New Member

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    I went for the first time last year - doing two stages in the Pyranees - it was amazing. I'm not going this year and am a bit gutted about it to be honest!

    I drove with a friend, we both had our partners with us, and had hotels booked in advance at the base of the final mountains. So we set off up the mountain in the morning with picnic etc. Even with an early start it took a long time to get up to our final spot. I quite enjoyed this, seeing all the different people, chatting etc but I know the girls found it a bit hard going! In a way I wish I'd been camped out on the mountain the night before - Ideally with a motor home with TV so you can see what's heppening in the stage! I reckon there would be a great atmospheer on the mountains at night.

    The first stage we saw (at La Mongie) we stopped next to a group of German lads who had a motor home and peered through their windows to see what was happening. They also has a wind up siren that they cranked out when the riders came into view - man THAT makes the hairs on your neck stand up for sure!!!

    Definitely take plenty of suncreen, hats etc and take plenty of water. Although it's great to get gently sloshed on the side of a mountain as you await the riders we soon got through our water and were pleading with the caravan for more as it passed through!!

    Hope you enjoy it - it was a real highlight of last year for me.

    James
     
  9. Andreas_H

    Andreas_H New Member

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    Hey Whiteboytrash, great tips!!

    I'm also going to Saint Lary this year. We'll be staying at a hotel in Lourdes the night before, and drive to Saint Lary early morning (67 kilometers). By looking at the detailed race route, there seem to be an "open" road into the town from the back (that is, not the way the riders take), and our plan is to take that road, park the car in town and walk down the mountain from the finishing line to get a good spot.

    You know if this is possible? My fear is that the finishing area will be closed, and the only way to get a good spot is the same way as the riders take. Should I be worried?

    Also, do you have any tips for attending the finishing line at a flat stage? We'll be staying at a hotel in Montpellier the night before, and plan to get some good seats (foldable chairs) by the finishing line, with good view of the big screen tv. How early do we have to get there? Is it possible at all the same day as the race, or do we have to get there in the middle of the night?

    Andreas
     
  10. whiteboytrash

    whiteboytrash New Member

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    Are you hiring your car ? Make sure you get GPS system in the car as you can enter in when you plan to go and it will tell you the route with road closures taken into consideration….. It can be frustrating as you think you know where your going and all of a sudden you see a policeman and you have to find another way….. there is where the GPS helps ! Because if you double back the GPS will just reposition itself for your final destination. Worth its weight in gold ! J If taking your own car you can buy a euro very for around $400US that attaches to your front windscreen……..

    It you want to go the stage finish on the flat to get a good spot then go early…. About 3-4 hours before estimated stage fnish… (no need for overnight) park your seats and then individually you can walk off to get food etc. It can get very busy at stage finish and sometimes the big screen gets shined out by the sun so get the right spot ! One other problem is the irrating French commentary which comes out of the those schoolyard styled megaphones…. Scary ! Sounds like you will have a great time and great stuff you have booked up all the hotels…. You will have a ball ! Enjoy the food and wine ! and get stuck into some that French meat… its lovely ! Just remember they cook there meat rare so ask for it medium+ Let me know if you want any more info…..

     
  11. Andreas_H

    Andreas_H New Member

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    We have already hired a car, but a GPS sounds like a good gizmo. Good tip, I have to check with Hertz for an upgrade.

    3-4 hours before (a flat stage finish) sounds very reasonable to me; I thought we had to go there much earlier. Actually, we may do that anyway, to see the whole race on big screen tv. The sun shine tip could be a lifesaver! Great tip!

    It's kind of hard to know what to expect the first time on the road there (I went to the final stage only last year), so we opted to skip the first mountain stage (in the Pyrenees) and instead have a travel day after Montpellier to get a good spot for the second mountain stage. Perhaps it's possible to get to an early mountain at the first stage too, but it's hard to know for sure when being a newbie. :)

    How have you planned to see the Saint Lary stage yourself? Ideally we would like to stand somewhere in the last mountain, and get there by walking downhill from the finish early morning (is that too late?) of the race day. You think that will work out, or will they close that route for walking, and we have to start from the bottom at the other end and walk up instead?

    Thanks!!

    Andreas
     
  12. whiteboytrash

    whiteboytrash New Member

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    You'll have no problems walking up and down the mountain before the race.... the police allow this...only problem if it gets busy and its hard to walk down with all the people...... I find that you can work up and down the mountain find a good spot and then lock it in for the day... last year it was so hot that we sat under some tree's for a couple of hours and then came out when the riders were approaching..... just to prove what a nutcase I am myself and my friends dressed up as Mexicans to add to the flavour of the day...... the orange maracas were for Iban and the boys who were sadly well off the pace..... have included a picture for you all to laugh at !

    :)



     
  13. whiteboytrash

    whiteboytrash New Member

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    Oh I almost fogot.... the offical website has a listing of all the towns the Tour passes through so you can go to local tourist sites to pick hotels etc. The links are below.....

    http://www.letour.fr/2005/presentationus/villes_02.html
    http://www.letour.fr/2005/presentationus/villes_03.html

    There is also estimated arrival times for each town so you can plan your timing and your wake up times when hung over..... see:

    http://www.letour.fr/2005/presentationus/parcours_iti_01.html

    These two sites are good for maps etc: (The Michelin one is the best)
    http://www.viamichelin.com/viamichelin/gbr/tpl/hme/MaHomePage.htm
    http://www.tourdefrancenews.com/tourdefrance/daily/stages/0,3485,,00.html

    Take loads of photos and tell us all your stoires when you get back..... :eek:
     
  14. Dimos

    Dimos New Member

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  15. whiteboytrash

    whiteboytrash New Member

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    I posted this on another thread but should mention that a good way to commemorate that you went to the Tour and if you see an all inspiring stage is to buy the l’Equipe newspaper (http://www.lequipe.fr/Cyclisme/index.html) the following day and have it framed up when you get back home…. That way you can tell the story from the mountain for years on end……. (and bore everyone with it)

    __________________________

    I was there the day it happened.... we were in a bar on the l'Aple watching the race…. It was in French so I could not understand the commentary.... we all keep saying he was gone... the French guys in the bar kept cheering every time the camera panned to the pained expressions on his face... we all thought he was gone..... and then BOOOOMMMMM !! He was off... made Ullrich look stupid.... we all ran out of the bar when Armstrong powered past us up the mountain and cheered him on (with beers in hand !)...... O'Grady wore yellow that day and to commentate such a great stage and a marvellous victory by Armstrong I framed the front page of l'Equipe from the following day which has a great photos of Armstrong on the attack and Ullrich in the background in the German jersey with his head down in a world of hurt (psychologically and physically).... when ever people drop by they always ask me about the framed picture... so I tell the story.... ‘well in 2001…..’


     
  16. alibat

    alibat New Member

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    If you're female you definately need to be aware of the lack of toilet facilities if you're planning on spending several hours on a mountain (or even in Paris). I wouldn't drink too much unless you are sure of toilet facilities.
    Also, don't plan on getting back to your base town in time to eat in the evening, especially if it's anything like Grenoble was last year. Not just the sheer volume of traffic, but we got lost several times both getting in and out of the place with all the roadworks and diversions (to nowhere).
    Get to the spot you want in plenty of time and don't drive unless you have no choice. Check local major towns for special bus services or cycle if you're
    fit enough.
    Take a fold up seat unless you want an aching back and sore bum.
    Unfortunately due to my job, I can only make Paris this year. I'm fed up of ending up halfway up the Champs Elysees because of the restricted area, no matter how early I arrive. Any suggestions anyone? Is it possible to buy into the restricted area without being on a tour?
     
  17. whiteboytrash

    whiteboytrash New Member

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    If you have a lazy $300 you could book a penthouse apartment ? (http://www.experienceplus.com/specialty/frx006_fun.html)

     
  18. jrsachs

    jrsachs New Member

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    Unfortunately due to my job, I can only make Paris this year. I'm fed up of ending up halfway up the Champs Elysees because of the restricted area, no matter how early I arrive. Any suggestions anyone? Is it possible to buy into the restricted area without being on a tour?[/QUOTE]
    Same here. Getting into Paris on Thursday AM and maybe go to the Final Time Trial, but that might be more effort than is sensible. Do you have some suggestions for decent areas to photograph from that are up the Champs. I'll have good cameras and 300mm tele lens. any advice would be appreciated.
     
  19. MadDaze

    MadDaze New Member

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    Let me tell you how French females cope. They all carry Kleenex and, when nature calls, they duck behind the nearest screen of bushes to attend to to business. That's why you often find bits of Kleenex behind bushes along the bike paths here in the Gironde.

    Doing the same along the TdF route is perfectly acceptable in France.

    Harvey the White Rabbit (who lives in Bordeaux with a French SO)
     
  20. Olka75

    Olka75 New Member

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    OK, I'm gonna use this opportunity again to plug my website: www.cyclotourist.net/roadsidetour . I'm writing a practical guide to seeing the Tour from the roadside (where to watch, what times roads close, local events, etc). Due to time contsraints this year, I'll only be able to get a handful of stages up (only 2 so far), but if there's interest, I plan to extend the project next year. Let me know what you think.
     
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