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Catching a stage of the 2004 TDF(2 posts)

Catching a stage of the 2004 TDFrmlee
Oct 22, 2003 9:55 AM
My wife and I are planning on heading to Europe for a couple weeks this summer and we'd like to check out a stage of the TDF while we're there. We'd like to spend most of our time in Spain, so a stage in the Pyrenees seems to make sense. I know the course is announced tomorrow, but I was wondering if any of you who have been to the TDF could offer in advice as to how to plan to catch a stage. Particularly,

* How soon do we need to book a hotel for the night before and after the stage?

* Where's a good place to find out about hotels in the area?

* If we catch a mountain-top finish, how early will we need to show up to get a spot to watch?

* Any other advice about watching a stage?

I know this is a pretty broad question, but I'm just trying to get things figured out as early as possible so I'm not scrambling around later. Thanks in advance for your help.
teoteoteo is the expert, but here is my two cents worth . . .ms
Oct 22, 2003 1:29 PM
You should check teoteoteo's various posts on the TdeF in the archive. He also prepared a guide to viewing the 2003 TdeF that was linked in one of his reports on lancearmstrong.com (where he is known as Ted Arnold). Teo has said that he will prepare a 2004 guide after the route is announced.

I will not repeat what teo has said. I also posted come comments on August 9 about the TdeF. However, here are some specific thoughts I have about coming from Spain for the tour.

1. Last year I drove from Madrid to the Pyrenees. There are few crossings from Spain through the Pyrenees and the drive from Madrid is longer than it looks -- the roads leading up to the Pyrenees are two lane, twisting roads that go through towns, etc. If you are on the Western coast of Spain, I would go up the coast, cross into France near Biarritz and take the Autoroute from Bayonne east to the exit nearest to where you want to view the Tour. Be prepared for expensive tolls on the Autoroute.

2. If VeloNews is correct, there is going to be a stage from Andorra to Barcelona. So, you may be able to see the Tour without your leaving Spain.

3. I think that finding a hotel near the start or finish of a stage will be hard even now. The teams/publicity caravan, etc., make hotel arrangements before the tour route is announced. But, you should be able to find something within driving distance of a stage. A good site for rural bed and breakfasts is www.gites-de-france.fr

4. If you want to catch a mountain stage, the important variables are: how far up do you want to be on the mountain, how do you plan to get up the mountain and which day of the week is the stage being held (i.e., more people on weekend stages). The higher you want to go on the mountain and the later the mountain is in the stage, the earlier you need to get there. Parking spaces on the climbs are very hard to come by. Last year the closest that I was able to park to the summit of the Col de Portillon, which was the second to the last climb of a Sunday stage, was 5 km from the summit. I arrived at about 9:00 a.m.; the riders were scheduled to come by somewhere after 3:00 p.m. If you have your bike with you, you can park your car at the bottom of a climb and ride up. If you are riding, you can leave much later -- as long as you are up the mountain before the publicity caravan comes along you will be OK.

5. Bring food and drinks with you. Although there are bars at the top of most cols in France, the TdeF is a self-catering event. People bring all kinds of food and drink. Bring a little extra to share with your neighbors -- you may get some interesting stuff in return.

6. If you really want to see the race, go to a bar somewhere in France and don't waste your time on the mountain. The race goes by very quickly and it is hard to figure out what is happening unless you are near someone with a television (there were several people with small generators and televisions on the Col de Portillon last year -- they had no problem with others watching). Watching the TdeF on the mountain, something about which teoteoteo has written eloquently, is about something different and, in my opinion, greater, that merely the race itself. I recommend it highly.