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May be going to France in July....(20 posts)

May be going to France in July....WCC
Nov 20, 2001 8:04 PM
..Was wanting any suggestions on viewing the Tour. I'll have the wife with me, and while she's a Lance fan, and has attended a race or two, she's definitely not up to busting her rear to see alot of bike racing, especially only a few seconds of it.

Has anyone here been? Would probably like to see the finale in Paris. Have thought about timing the trip so that we could catch one of the late mountain stages, the the finish in Paris the day before we leave.

While I am a fairly experienced traveler, Ive never been to France, and am totally clueless about viewing the tour...other than from the couch.
re: May be going to France in July....SteveH
Nov 20, 2001 8:10 PM
Caught the time trials a few years back (Pre-Lance, the day Festina dropped out amidst the scandal). Nice for a full day of action, spectators were able to get autographs fairly easily. Never caught a road stage, seems like it would be over in a flash. Maybe that's why the mountain stages are popular, they're riding a little slower, not in the peleton. Besides, Lance rules in the mountains. If I had to do it again...maybe a mountain stage, but it might be difficult to get a spot. Have to get up early :-)
Ditto the time trial.JS
Nov 21, 2001 8:06 AM
Folowed most of the "99" tour and the TT in Metz was a great day to walk around and enjoy the atmosphere, it helped that Metz is a beautiful town. That being said, riding up to the top of the mountain passes (Galibier, etc) and watching the riders come up and hanging with other fans is one of the best memories of my life.
Tour and Spousezelig
Nov 21, 2001 12:10 AM
Not unlike you, my wife has seen more than a few races in the past 25 years and definitely has a preference for circuit courses, ie, the mountains are out.

As already mentioned, the time trials are a good way of seeing the riders, that is if you're into time trialing.

This past July we went on a day trip from London to Paris to see the last stage in Paris. It's really easy. Just take the Metro to any number of stops, and then watch them as they do the final laps. This past year it was 8 laps of about 10 kilometers each. We got out of the Metro about 20 minutes before the pack came through for the first time and got a position on the rail exactly 1k from the finish. If you want to see the view, check racing moments section for some pics I took. The route was different in 2000 for specific reasons but that was an exception.

As for the mountain stages. Its easy to get near the climb fairly quickly by train or car. It's getting up and down the mountain that takes time. Plan on a long day as you need to get up the road before the promotional and entertainment caravan that precedes the race. On the bigger climbs, plan on bringing your own refreshment as there's not much in accommodation, food or loos. No big deal but just be prepared. Keep in mind that the aficionados have been camped out in their motorhomes for a few days already all for that quick look as they go by.

I'm no Francophile but France is a great place. It's very regional, like any other country with varied food, culture, accents and even language. I like the area surrounding Provence. Paris, well the Parisians are different and it's not unlike living in London. Spend your time traveling and catch the final stage where you'll see all the excitement of the Tour and only have to invest about 3 hours of time (about 3-6pm CET).
provence rocksslow-ron
Nov 21, 2001 7:02 AM
Never been to France for the tour but I've been there on many vacations as my wife is French and visits her family ever year. I would highly recommend viewing any stages near Provence which isn't far from the Alps. I much prefer the south of France to the north & Paris. Cool towns include St. Riemy, Les Beux, & Seguret. The only town I didn't like was Arles. If you have the chance take your bike because the views are stunning and the roads are perfect for riding. Take a triple or a 12-29 cassette because some of the climbs are wicked.

Avez-vous un bon voyage!
very true.......dupe
Nov 21, 2001 8:24 AM
beautiful sleepy towns, fantastic wines (visit the co-ops with a large plastic water container as $5 bucks for a gallon of spanking wine is hard to pass up), simple but amazing produce and food, only rode around the villages on a farmers bike but was still in heaven.

you have to respect any country where the price and weight of a baguette is fixed. rural france is slowly dying but that comes as a great bonus if you want an inexpensive sojourn and perhaps check out some cycling action.

your only problem with smaler towns may be that it could be tricky tring to book somewhere to stay as the tour has quite a following.

go for it.
very true.......very truephilippec
Nov 21, 2001 8:38 AM
rural France and provence in particular come about as close as you can to cycling paradise. But, having lived here in both rural and urban areas, I can assure you that life in rural France is not dying insomuch as it is changing. The arrival of many new rural inhabitants has helped to re-energise many areas that were loosing vitality b/c of the changes in farming and decrease in farming populations. Many rural areas are really dynamic and have turned towards "green" tourism as one strategy for ensuring their future -- this means more outdoor activities, cycle routes bed and breakfasts, buy-on-the farm production, etc -- just the kind of things that make cycling in rural France especially worthwhile!!

no doubt. i wanted to live there ;-)dupe
Nov 21, 2001 8:56 AM
i was there in '98 duting the world cup hysteria. small village between avignon and l'orange.

fantastic village.

every day was wake up eat breakfast. fix up the de chevaux to go into the village (if not we took the bikes). visit the butcher and and pick up some groceries (they always told us what we should eat that day). sneak in a pastis go home. cook up a feasty but very simple lunch. drink. read books / sleep. late fternoon we would visit the wine co-op for more wine - 11, 12 or 13% alcohol by volume was the only option we had. fantastic wine. sometimes we would visit the co-op olive press - amazing fresh olive oil. go home - tons of guloise's, boule on a hot afternoon. prepare and cook dinner. drink, talk stories, read. sleep. another day.

the whole time i was in paradise. and my hosts (old rambling house surrounded by vineyards) bought in there for less than $40, ooo. they have a very small income and a young child and live a royal life. i remember thinking that my friends were easily the smartet people in the world. they used to struggle here in manhattan and often comprimised which led to serious strains on their mariage and lifestyle.

now nirvana is their reality. they usually let the house out for a few months of summer while visiting their family here in the states. what a life!
no doubt. i wanted to live there ;-)Philippec
Nov 21, 2001 9:06 AM
You are making me wish it were summer already! We have a house we go to to the east of where you were. What a break from Paris! I can't wait to get down there for our daughter's school holidays in April -- I might even convince a friend to pop down there with me in Jan. for three days of long rides around the Ventoux-Mt. de Lure when my wife and girls are back in the states visiting my wife's family!

no doubt. i wanted to live there ;-)slow-ron
Nov 21, 2001 9:22 AM
My goal is to retire near Les Baux or Seguret and have a massive heart attack and die as I crest the mountain in the big ring. Plant some carnations or lavender on top of me & my bike. If any of you guys work for a company over there hiring mechanical engineers let me know. My wife is already French and I can speak enough to get by. I'll work for spare tubes, wine & cheese.
you rock - buried with your bike - now thats class (NM)dupe
Nov 21, 2001 10:15 AM
Nov 21, 2001 12:40 PM
F*(& you bozo
2 things: ive forgotten more $hit than you will ever know
and (2) you are the semen your mother should have swallowed.
re: May be going to France in July....gkrisko
Nov 21, 2001 7:49 AM
If you are going to see the Tour next Summer check out this site Going with a tour group is "the" way to travel. you can get to the mountains, you can do what you love while you are at the meca ofcycling events, ride your bike in the mountains. But these people research and put a lot of leg work into finding good lodging, food, routes, picnic areas to watch the riders and guides that are helpful and courteous. Yes it may cost a bit more but you will have the best vantage of the tour having never seen it before, and no I do not work for the company!
not so fast.....Jack S
Nov 21, 2001 7:57 AM
If you don't have alot of travel experience or familiarity with a particular country a group may be the way to go. Otherwise, you can usually do it alot cheaper on your own with a group of friends. Also, you're not stuck with a large group (some of these tours take 50-60 people at a time!) and held to strict itineraries. The "research" is pretty easy with the internet.
re: May be going to France in July....philippec
Nov 21, 2001 8:08 AM

I live here and have helped a bunch of friends "spectate" at the tour. I agree with what was said above, Provence would be a good place to spend some time and see the Tour. My advice to you is to aim for the Mt. Ventoux stage on the 21st, if you get there a day early, you can ride it yourself. The next day is a rest day in vaison-la-Romaine (great riding around the region!) where you can either visit the ruins of the roman town or hook up with some of the teams at their hotels as they go out on training rides (they are pretty cool about this). The next day is the Deux-alpes stage and will be one of the decisive moments in the tour. From then on, take your time getting back to paris and enjoy the french countryside.

Alternatively, if you are feeling up to it, sign up for the Etape du Tour ride/race. This ride is sponsored by Equipe magazine and allows you to ride a stage of the Tour de France in the same conditions as the pro's (closed roads, escort from the Gendarmerie, etc.) 1 to 2 days before the pro's do it for real. It is an unforgetable experience!

Get in touch with me if you want any more details, suggestions, etc.

P.S. Here's a picture of me during last year's Etape -- before the skies let loose on the climb to Ardiden!
Nov 21, 2001 10:38 AM
id do it just for the laughs i would get from the pro's.

id have them thinking bob roll was an accountant and a an introvert. i might have to choose a a flatter stage though.

don't know how i would keep up - maybe on enthusiasm alone. i might opt for a vespa.
Interesting side note:Lone Gunman
Nov 21, 2001 3:47 PM
I was talking with a guy who went to last years TdF and he said the most amazing thing was that it was garbage free. We were on a week long state tour and each stop used tons of paper or plastic plates, silverware and paper napkins. He said that catering companies coming through on the tour use the real stuff and haul dish washers to do the cleanup and the waste water goes where waste water goes. No massive pileup of paper/plastic trash.
worst way to see a race is in personLandsharkrider
Nov 21, 2001 8:14 PM
If you really want to see the race and get a feel for it, I would suggest staying away from the final day in Paris (or at least follow it for several days before). I went to France this year in July and managed to arrange to be in Paris on the final day.

Started the day off in Corbeil-Essons. Was about a 45 minute train ride from central Paris. Pretty crowded but still could get pretty close to the riders. It was about 80F when we walked back to the train station to return to Paris.

We rode back to Paris and got off at the Metro station near the Louvre. I honestly have never been in a crowd that packed. It was unbelievable. Didn't help that it was now about 95F in the sun. At least they did multiple laps on the streets (I think it was 8). I stayed about 3 people deep on the fence right across from the Ferris wheel. Not the greatest experience.

In Paris, don't expect to get to any of the many bleachers unless you are among the chosen few. Actually, unless you have credentials you won't even get within a half mile of the finish. The race had been over 45 minutes before I could figure out who won the stage.

My understanding is that the middle and mountain stages are far less crowded and you can get much closer. I agree that the TT's are the way to go.

I'm not trying to discourage you - I wouldn't trade my trip for anything. Just realize that if your aim is to see the race, in person may not be the way to go. I've been to 2 Olympic road and mtb races now. They are actually a worse in-person experience. Totally made for TV and they could give a crap if the spectators have a view.

Bon Voyage!!!
Nov 22, 2001 12:43 AM
I've seen two TdF stages in person and I totally agree that its much better on TV. If you hang out on one of the climbs of a mountain stage and have a good picnic spread with you, then the people watching and the picnicing while waiting for the race caravan to arrive can be good fun. But the view of the racing isn't really that good. You are really there for the tailgate party associated with the race rather than the race.

I found that the best way to experience the TdF (or Giro or Vuelta) is to be riding your own bike in the general area. Pull into a bar with a TV about 3:30-4:00 PM and watch the last hour of the stage on the bar TV. Then when it finishes, go back out and finish your own ride. (or finish your day's ride prior to 3:00 PM, shower and head to the bar to watch the stage finish with cold beer in hand.
re: May be going to France in July....Jonny
Nov 23, 2001 7:49 PM
philippec -- We're trying to put together an intinerary for the 2002 TDF with a small group and were considering riding the Etape as well as the Mt. Ventoux stage. I'd love some advice and suggestions on the best way to see the tour, how to register for the Etape, gearing, etc. Feel free to email me at

Thanks a ton.