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TDF Travel Article from Yesterday's Washington Post(12 posts)

TDF Travel Article from Yesterday's Washington Postno excuses
Nov 4, 2002 6:16 AM
Cool! Good source for you guys looking to go over. (nm)Spunout
Nov 4, 2002 7:44 AM
The article suggests several points to keep in mind . . .Look381i
Nov 4, 2002 10:53 AM
in choosing a tour. (1) Good timing. I noticed that the author ran into road closure problems, even on Mont Ventoux. That means either that she was making very slow progress on her climbs (understandable) or that her tour didn't start their days early enough, or both. Road closure for cyclists usually started no earlier than 11 a.m. and often about 1p.m. depending on race progress. (For example, starting at a reasonable hour and riding at a lesiurely pace 60k to Mont Ventoux still put my group on top before noon. At that point we had the choice of going over the top and down back to an awaiting bus or (riding to the hotel) or waiting four hours for the race and then going down.)
(2) Good hotel and route location. The trick there is to be far enough away that you can avoid the worst TdF traffic jams, but close enough that it's a nice bike ride over and back to the race course. This factor requires experienced tour operators who know France well and are experienced cyclists who know good locations to ride from. It also helps not to have to move every day. Two-three night stays in one hotel should be the norm.
(3) Price, Value and Amenities. There is huge difference in price from tour to tour. In some cases it is justified by the class of hotels and the number of meals included. In other cases it means pampered support, perhaps even a "team" car. If you get hungry or thirsty, they bring you food and drink. If you get tired, you call in a sag wagon to load up your bike and take you to the hotel. You may even get massages on request. In some cases, though, it looks like pure profit margin. I'll just say that my tour was the least expensive per day, put us up in 3 to 4 (maybe even 5 once) star hotels, provided mechanics and excellent guides -- former tour professionals - and had cold beer (and water and soft drinks) on the bus. We ghad a great time. But we were expected to finish whatever ride we chose for the day. It was a excellent compromise, but without excessive coddling.
Choose your tour carefully so that you don't feel like you are being "taken for a ride" or are being left out.
I just signed up with Graham Baxter tourtoronto-rider
Nov 4, 2002 12:51 PM
Well I paid my deposit the day the official tour route was announced. What tour did you go on?

I have a question on bike bags/boxes. I can either rent a Trico bike case for the tour or have my LBS pack my bike in a bike box and rent a bag from the tour operator. Which would be the best option?

Any other advise?
Bike cases,etc.Look381i
Nov 5, 2002 2:10 AM
For most tours you will only unpack and repack your bike once each, but it is important that both times it's done well, or the airlines might reconfigure it. Of the 40 or so riders on our tour (Bikestyle Tours) all but four or five had hard cases. Some had soft bags, and two had these neat triangular cardboard boxes that looked very efficient and durable. All apparently worked fine on the trip over. No one had the usual bike shipping cardboard box. Trico cases were very popular there, as they are with triathletes.
Make sure you practice packing your bike well before you leave.
Other advice? I could go on for quite a while, but I'll just mention a couple of points: If you don't speak French, learn a a few key phrases ("une biere, s'il vous plait") and some basic nouns. If you know a little already, learn a bit more. My wife and I read and speak enough French to be much more comfortable when we go to France. It also helped last summer in following the TdF progress on TV and in the papers.
Pack light, wear shorts and t-shirts, with a collared shirt and long pants if you go to a nicer restaurant; take good rain gear for riding; rinse out your riding kit in the sink; use an ATM card for $$, not travelers checks; take some reading matter for the bus; leave room in your bags for souvenirs. Don't expect everything to go like clockwork. Be flexible.
I am sure your tour operator will have a good packing list and other info. If you want, email me at Good luck. You'll love it.
How much did you have to put down(if you don't mine me askin)?nmjtferraro
Nov 5, 2002 6:54 AM
How much did you have to put down(if you don't mine me askin)?nmtoronto-rider
Nov 5, 2002 10:30 AM
30 % of the tour - $460 US
Good post...Need help planning?teoteoteo
Nov 4, 2002 1:25 PM
look381 is right on here. I am a 3 time Tour geek and guide for Veloechappe Tours. I have to say he noticed the same points about the article I did. Vigilance regarding departure times is essential. Watching and riding is an all day affair at times. In many cases riding to and from races is quicker than the car. The traffic snarls can get messy.

My second note is that you don't HAVE to go on a group tour but it makes things much easier for most. I have already layed out a complete self-guided Tour de France package for those who don't want a group tour or don't get a group deal. Many tour companies are booked full and are only taking waiting list names. Since the route was announced recently some people may chose not to confirm there reservation and thus open some spots.

If your interested in my info mail me at over the last few years I have helped quite a few people put trips together that couldn't/wouldn't do the group thing. I live in Austin and am currently working with the Lance Armstrong Foundations travel agency to procure rooms in the key "base cities" that most of the tour companies will use. You can mimic what the pro companies do on their trips. It's not for everyone, but to some of you it can be a viable alternative.

If you want some more reading here is my 2001 journal from when I traveled with bikestyle
Great article - thanks. I need to start planning! =) (nm)jtferraro
Nov 4, 2002 7:49 AM
Right On. Thanks. All former tourists, pls give us your recs....sprockets2
Nov 4, 2002 10:23 AM
Bikestyle Tours . . .Look381i
Nov 4, 2002 11:00 AM
Lawrie and Natalie Cranley run the show. Neil Stephens (Once, Festina, 1 TdF stage win) and Jono Hall (Festina, former World Duathlon champion) were the pro guides, along with several other Aussie guides (like a former Australian Masters Time Trial champ). The group was about half and half Aussie and American. The Aussies had a great attitude toward life and were great cyclists. Excellent value. My wife went along as a non-rider, one of seven or eight. I'll go on another Bikestyle tour soon, I hope.
Good People (eom)teoteoteo
Nov 4, 2002 1:28 PM