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"Tour" tour questions/advice(14 posts)

"Tour" tour questions/advicehomegrown2004
Nov 5, 2003 9:56 AM
I plan on taking a trip to the 04 Tour de France, most likely during the Alps stages (that TT is a must see.) I was wondering if anyone here has any first hand experience with a tour company and how they liked it. So far I've checked out stevebauer.com, thompsontours.com, breakingaway.com and sportingtours.co.uk. So far I'm leaning towards Sporting Tours because a) its less expensive and b) seems like it gives me more independence. Has anyone dealt with Sporting Tours? I really don't care if I have ritzy lodging, support cars, and bike mechanics (not like I'd let anyone touch my bike anyways.) Finally, if anyone has any tips or suggestions for the tour. ie. useful information you wish you would've had. Thanks much.
why go on a tour?mohair_chair
Nov 5, 2003 10:15 AM
Just fly to Lyon, find a way to get to Grenoble, find a place to stay (it's a big city), then ride over to and up Alpe d'Huez, which is roughly 25K away. The transfer from the airport to your hotel is the only tricky part, but that's not worth the premium you'd pay for a tour.

There is a really great website on cycling around Grenoble: http://grenoblecycling.free.fr/index.htm
I have a full PDF document for Self-Guided 04 TdFteoteoteo
Nov 5, 2003 10:27 AM
Shoot me a mail and I'll hook you up. It is a self-guided TdF packet (22 pages). I work for a Tour company and do the self-guided thing on the side for friends and such. It is even helpful for people on pay tours as I go into painful detail on what to pack, how to save $$, where to stay, and all the logistical know how I've gathered on my trips.

teoteoteo@hotmail.com
"Go to the Giro, the Tour is too crowded"pmf1
Nov 5, 2003 10:41 AM
Andy Hampsten
I did a Sporting Tours Trip Last YearGregory Taylor
Nov 5, 2003 10:46 AM
I did the Graham Baxter Sporting Tour's 8-Day trip to see some Tour stages and ride the Etape du Tour in 2003. I had a great time, but the organization of the trip was a DISASTER from start to finish. It's a long and involved story, but basically it boiled down to the fact that the company greatly expanded the number of customers that it took over to France in 2003, and our trip suffered from some serious (and inexcusable) quality control slip ups. The situation was bad enough that the group demanded (and received with no argument) a 75% refund.

Would I do another Sporting Tours Trip? Probably not. They do have a good reputation and are a reputable company that stands behind their product, as witnessed by the no-hassle refund, but if I was doing another trip I would try another company or make arrangements myself.

Local knowledge that I wish that I had before I went over:

Two-star or "tourist" hotels can be a mixed bag. Some don't have air conditioning and most are very basic. This is okay, if you are prepared for it. Location is key: a crappy hotel in a nice town that is close to restaurants, etc., is better than a crappy hotel that is located in the middle of an industrial park. Trust me on this one.

The French people are wonderfully nice. No worries there.

Try and learn some French. It's the polite thing to do.

Based upon availability and the sheer numbers consumed, the National Dish of France is the Ham Sandwich.

Take appropriate spares for the bike with you. An extra tire is a good idea. I torched a tire while riding the Etape, and got VERY lucky that the town that we were staying in had a bike shop. Most little villages don't.

I had issues getting my ATM card to work in France, even though it is on a network that is supposedly supported in Europe. I had traveller's checks, but most places don't take them.
Ham Sandwich -- National Dish of France . . .ms
Nov 5, 2003 6:48 PM
I have visited France four times and never had a bad meal. BUT, I love ham. I really didn't realize how much ham is a part of French cuisine until 2002 when my family went with me to France. We went from the Alps, where we had seen the Tour, to Paris. My daughters spotted a Chinese carryout near our hotel in Paris and demanded that we stop there. They exclaimed, with glee, that after two weeks they finally could have a meal without ham. Until that point I really had not focused on the fact that ham or some smoked pork product was a part of almost every meal we had had in France. If you are a vegetarian or keep kosher, France may be a challenge for you. If you like ham, your palate will be very happy.

I have posted previously (do a search in the archive) my thoughts on seeing the Tour on one's own. However you see the Tour, it is a great experience. Enjoy.
jambon fromagecyclopathic
Nov 6, 2003 5:54 AM
words to live by ;)
and grilled cheese with ham = "Croque Monsieur"!wolfereeno
Nov 6, 2003 6:19 PM
That simple knowledge has saved me on several occasions in places where either no one spoke any english or the menu was either really limited or a little more intense than my stomache would accomodate at that moment.

It's often my goto choice in a typical Brasierie which is kind of like a diner rather than a regular resturaunt. They're usually open late and cheap.

"Croque Madam" is similar but I think they drop an egg on the top. Similarly beware of the Pizza! They put a RAW egg on that :-) Pizza was the only bad meal I've ever had in France over 4 trips to Paris and 1 month long trip to the foot hills of the Alps.

Have fun!
I did a Sporting Tours Trip Last Yearpedalruns
Nov 6, 2003 5:21 AM
When I was researching tour companies I read you post about your trip and was impressed by the refund... I emailed the company and got a reply from Graham Baxter himself that apoligized for that trip and said the tour was let down by the coach drivers and I'm sure there was poor planning on GB's part... I think yours was an isolated problem.. as everything else I read was very good about the company.

So we will see in July how they do.. I'm also in one of the premium tours, Alps to Paris and all the hotels are 3* and 4*, and a little more "support" than the standard and quality tours... And staying on top of Alpd'Huez and possible meeting bob roll. So I think the risk is worth it. And in dealing with them so far as been fine.
Yes, Graham Baxter is a very reputable businessmanGregory Taylor
Nov 6, 2003 6:53 AM
They are a good company with a sterling reputation. A lot of the folks on my trip were repeat customers, which says something. Our particular trip was probably a bit like the Donner party, cursed from the start and inevitably ending with an outbreak of cannibalism.
Consider Bikestyle Tours . . .Look381i
Nov 6, 2003 3:03 AM
It's an Aussie outfit run by Lawrie Cranley and Neil Stephens. It's a nice combination of moderate lodgings, support and comraderie, with a variety of riding options, including independent riding many days. My wife and I did their 17-day 2002 TdF tour and had a great time. As Americans, we especially enjoyed the Aussie style of light-hearted humor, occasionally serious riding and fun-loving evenings. Americans can often be insecure, cranky sourpusses. Aussies don't seem ever to be so. Link:

http://www.bikestyletours.com/index.php
re: "Tour" tour questions/advicehomegrown2004
Nov 6, 2003 5:06 AM
Thanks everyone for the feedback and advice. Maybe I will do some more looking around for a tour company. Teo. I will probably email you shortly.

Thanks
re: "Tour" tour questions/advicepedalruns
Nov 6, 2003 5:09 AM
I'm going to use the GB tour company... The premium Alps to Paris tour! I'm very excited The prices alone are far cheaper than any other tour comapny... I'd rather have minor problems, as opposed to paying 1000's more... And staying on top of Alp d'Huez really swayed me to use GB!!

Also alot of those other tour companies are sold out, and GB is selling out of his premium packages fast. (The tour I picked was sold out in 2 days)

Like one post said, doing a self-drive type tour is another low cost option.. or doing it yourself... I just can't see paying nearly $4,000 to do this, and that is the going price on some of the U.S. based tour companies.
customgetaways.com, with whom I went this yearElefantino
Nov 6, 2003 8:59 AM
I can't say enough about what we saw at the tour. Huuuge groups from Baxter, Bikestyle, Trek ... and then there was us, from a Winter Haven, Fla., outfit called Custom Getaways, with 23 riders comfortably settled in our 60-person, fully-loaded tour bus. We had a great time and rode far more than those other groups. We didn't stay in the best hotels (except in the Champagne region, when we stayed in one of the best I've ever seen), but they all were clean, had bathrooms and showers and were close to all the racing. I was with them from Paris to Marseille.

One of my riding buddies is going with them next year, the Alps to Paris. I think that tour is sold out, but it's worth contacting the owner, Chris.

Good luck.

FWIW,
Mike