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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

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Old 05-21-13, 09:57 AM   #1
FasterNearGirls
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Going to the TdF (I hope) - need help!

Just found out last minute and need to make some plans. ANY help will be greatly appreciated!

I'm going to be working in London from June 23rd through 30th. I booked my return ticket from London only for July 7th.
Therefore I will be free from Jul 1st through July 6/7th. Yeaaaaah, first week of the Tour!!!

They start on June 29th and do 3 stages in Corsica. Then they go to Nice for a TT (Stage 4), and head west from there for the following stages.

My first ideas are to fly from London to Nice, probably rent a car and a bike and drive to the mountains for some climbing, stay at a cheap bed and breakfast at some small town, and catch some stages. Totally open to suggestions and in great need of advice.

Routes to ride, who to connect and ride with, how to rent a bike, which stages to watch... These are all still open topics.

I'm a Cat 3 racer with explosive/fast twitch profile, so I know I'll be hurting on those climbs.
Also, I've been racing for the last 8 weekends so my training and races have been mostly low volume + high intensity. Only longer ride was a road race a couple weeks ago that I actually got 2nd in (field sprint).

Thanks in advance!
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Old 05-21-13, 10:48 AM   #2
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My wife and I will be there as well, right about the same time. We're flying into Nice at the end of June, immediately driving up to Alpe d'Huez to see the Alps and do some climbing (Galibier and Alpe d'Huez, if I survive), then back down to Cannes/Nice to catch the TT and the beginning of the next day's stage, and relax on the beach. My wife and I also plan to ride out to Monaco along the coast, which is a nice, flattish 60 mile ride (check out Joe Dombrowski's Strava profile for routes, he lives close to Nice and trains there). Looks to be plenty of places around to rent bikes, both in Alpe d'Huez and the Riviera, so we'll probably just bring pedals/helmets and figure that part out when we get there.
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Old 05-21-13, 11:00 AM   #3
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Unfortunately, you're mostly there for flat stages, which do not make for good spectating. Watching the start of a stage is interesting because you can see the riders as they sign in, and as they roll out.

Watching a sprint finish is cool, if you can get a spot where you can see.

Watching a flat stage along the course is hardly worth the bother.

The TTT is kinda cool, but once you watch one or two teams go by, you've got the gist.

Best day on your schedule is likely Saturday Aix 3 Domaines, where you've got two climbs that you could watch on. Best way to do that is ride up the climb early, picnic with a bottle of wine, and wait for the race to come by. Check with the locals to find the last time they let bikes up the climb before the race.
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Old 05-21-13, 11:10 AM   #4
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Unfortunately, you're mostly there for flat stages, which do not make for good spectating. Watching the start of a stage is interesting because you can see the riders as they sign in, and as they roll out.

Watching a sprint finish is cool, if you can get a spot where you can see.

Watching a flat stage along the course is hardly worth the bother.

The TTT is kinda cool, but once you watch one or two teams go by, you've got the gist.
My wife and I had the same thought process...our schedule didn't allow us to be in France for any mountain stages, so we decided to focus on working the TTT and a stage start into our schedule. Seeing the peloton pass at 25mph would be cool, but ultimately not worth planning a vacation around.
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Old 05-21-13, 11:53 AM   #5
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Thank you for the responses so far!! Very good info!
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Old 05-21-13, 12:09 PM   #6
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Considerations to keep in mind:
–Accommodations close to the Tour routes are likely to sell out (if they haven't already sold out soon after the Tour announced the routes of its stages).
–Roads will be closed to motor traffic typically 2+ hours in advance of the publicity caravan, which in turn precedes the lead riders by about 1 hour. Bicyclists can usually still ride on the road until the publicity caravan approaches. After that you may or may not be able to ride on the course, depending on how strict the cops are being.
–As others have stated, it's not worth the trouble to go see a flat stage. The racers go by in seconds, while you have to spend hours to arrive before the course closes down and wait for their arrival. Race starts can be interesting, but the Tour tends to keep spectators well separated from the teams (unlike the Giro, which often lets the public get up close). The finish line, if you can get there early enough to beat the crowds, can be a good place to be, though usually the public isn't allowed closer than about 100 meters from the actual finish line/podium. However, there's often a giant projection screen on which you can see live TV coverage of the stage (and commentary in French). Climbs are where you have the best chance of seeing the racers for a reasonable length of time, but still you have to get there well in advance and wait around. The crowd is usually fun, in a festive mood, and many actually trade swag thrown out by the publicity caravan.
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Old 05-21-13, 12:26 PM   #7
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I'm going to be over there as well. We are planning to attend the climbing stage up Alpe d'Huez towards the end of the tour.
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Old 05-21-13, 12:34 PM   #8
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I heard somewhere that you should learn how to say "is that beer any good" in several languages... including Australian. But that you should beware of Germans bearing gifts. Have fun.
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Old 05-21-13, 12:46 PM   #9
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My wife and I will be there as well, right about the same time. We're flying into Nice at the end of June, immediately driving up to Alpe d'Huez to see the Alps and do some climbing (Galibier and Alpe d'Huez, if I survive), then back down to Cannes/Nice to catch the TT and the beginning of the next day's stage, and relax on the beach. My wife and I also plan to ride out to Monaco along the coast, which is a nice, flattish 60 mile ride (check out Joe Dombrowski's Strava profile for routes, he lives close to Nice and trains there). Looks to be plenty of places around to rent bikes, both in Alpe d'Huez and the Riviera, so we'll probably just bring pedals/helmets and figure that part out when we get there.
Have you decided where to rent a bike? I would just be bringing pedals + shoes and gear as well.
As for climbing the Galibier and Alpe d'Huez, is it pretty much straight forward or do you need some specific guidance?
Thanks again!!
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Old 05-21-13, 12:50 PM   #10
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Unfortunately, you're mostly there for flat stages, which do not make for good spectating. Watching the start of a stage is interesting because you can see the riders as they sign in, and as they roll out.

Watching a sprint finish is cool, if you can get a spot where you can see.

Watching a flat stage along the course is hardly worth the bother.

The TTT is kinda cool, but once you watch one or two teams go by, you've got the gist.

Best day on your schedule is likely Saturday Aix 3 Domaines, where you've got two climbs that you could watch on. Best way to do that is ride up the climb early, picnic with a bottle of wine, and wait for the race to come by. Check with the locals to find the last time they let bikes up the climb before the race.

Noted. I should probably plan to make it to Saturday's stage then. I want to take advantage of the opportunity as much as possible in terms of experiencing the tour primarily, and riding.

With my return flight scheduled for Sunday July 7th from London, I need to figure out how to make all this work. Maybe I wouldn't necessarily fly roundtrip London - Nice. The airfare is really cheap (under 200) though, likely more affordable and practical than any train too.
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Old 05-21-13, 12:51 PM   #11
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Only one way up.
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Old 05-21-13, 12:52 PM   #12
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Considerations to keep in mind:
–Accommodations close to the Tour routes are likely to sell out (if they haven't already sold out soon after the Tour announced the routes of its stages).
–Roads will be closed to motor traffic typically 2+ hours in advance of the publicity caravan, which in turn precedes the lead riders by about 1 hour. Bicyclists can usually still ride on the road until the publicity caravan approaches. After that you may or may not be able to ride on the course, depending on how strict the cops are being.
–As others have stated, it's not worth the trouble to go see a flat stage. The racers go by in seconds, while you have to spend hours to arrive before the course closes down and wait for their arrival. Race starts can be interesting, but the Tour tends to keep spectators well separated from the teams (unlike the Giro, which often lets the public get up close). The finish line, if you can get there early enough to beat the crowds, can be a good place to be, though usually the public isn't allowed closer than about 100 meters from the actual finish line/podium. However, there's often a giant projection screen on which you can see live TV coverage of the stage (and commentary in French). Climbs are where you have the best chance of seeing the racers for a reasonable length of time, but still you have to get there well in advance and wait around. The crowd is usually fun, in a festive mood, and many actually trade swag thrown out by the publicity caravan.
Good stuff, thank you! Sounds like you've done this a few times.
Pumped!
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Old 05-21-13, 12:54 PM   #13
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I heard somewhere that you should learn how to say "is that beer any good" in several languages... including Australian. But that you should beware of Germans bearing gifts. Have fun.
Pretty sure I'll have fun, and also learn how to say the beer sentence in French now to add to my language repertoire! Thanks!
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Old 05-21-13, 12:58 PM   #14
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Pretty sure I'll have fun, and also learn how to say the beer sentence in French now to add to my language repertoire! Thanks!
Rumor has it that using the phrase too liberally among those waiting on the side of the road as you await the approaching peloton can result in not remembering where you parked your feet.
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Old 05-21-13, 01:16 PM   #15
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Have you decided where to rent a bike? I would just be bringing pedals + shoes and gear as well.
As for climbing the Galibier and Alpe d'Huez, is it pretty much straight forward or do you need some specific guidance?
Thanks again!!

We're staying in Alpe d'Huez and there seems to be plenty of places to rent bikes, but I can't seem to find anywhere that does online reservations. The plan is to rent a bike and have my wife drive me to Saint Jean de Maurienne so I can get a few warm up miles before hitting Galibier. Then over Telegraph/Galibier, down to L'Bourg-d'Oisans and up to Alpe d'Huez. It's about 10k feet of climbing in just under 70 miles...pretty difficult riding, but relatively straight-forward as far as the route goes. My wife is going to stick with me in the car, so that takes a lot of pressure off and gives me lots of flexibility with clothing, hydration, and nutrition. We're staying in Alpe d'Huez for 2 full days and I'll keep an eye on the weather to pick the better riding day.
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Old 05-21-13, 01:29 PM   #16
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I'm going to be over there as well. We are planning to attend the climbing stage up Alpe d'Huez towards the end of the tour.
You better plan on getting your spot on Alpe d'Heuz several days before the stage.

We were there in 2003. Rode Alpe d' Heuz the day before the stage came through and there were already hundreds of thousands of people on the mountain. Day of the stage, we rode up the Galibier, watched there. Bombed the descent as soon as the road opened got to the hotel bar, and watched the climb up Alpe d'Huez on TV

Members of our group that insisted on watching on Alpe d'Heuz that day, didn't get down the mountain for something like 10 hours.

With the tour going up Alpe d'heuz twice this year, it will likely be even more of a mad house
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Old 05-21-13, 02:08 PM   #17
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We're staying in Alpe d'Huez and there seems to be plenty of places to rent bikes, but I can't seem to find anywhere that does online reservations. The plan is to rent a bike and have my wife drive me to Saint Jean de Maurienne so I can get a few warm up miles before hitting Galibier. Then over Telegraph/Galibier, down to L'Bourg-d'Oisans and up to Alpe d'Huez. It's about 10k feet of climbing in just under 70 miles...pretty difficult riding, but relatively straight-forward as far as the route goes. My wife is going to stick with me in the car, so that takes a lot of pressure off and gives me lots of flexibility with clothing, hydration, and nutrition. We're staying in Alpe d'Huez for 2 full days and I'll keep an eye on the weather to pick the better riding day.
SAG support form the wife? Awesome!!
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Old 05-21-13, 02:12 PM   #18
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I have 15 tabs open on my browser right now (not much work getting done today).
I definitely want to make it to Stage 8, on Saturday July 6th.
So I think I should fly to Pau or Tolouse and just ride and watch the stages around there and into the Pyrenees. I wouldn't go to Nice or the Alps in that case.
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Old 05-21-13, 02:39 PM   #19
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That sounds like an awesome trip. I lived in Grenoble for a year so I rode several of the big rides in that area of the Alps and I'm definitely a huge fan of that plan. Although I see that you're looking into Toulouse, I've never been there but I've heard it's a beautiful city.

How is your French? Let me know if you need a hand with searching for bike rentals.

Last year I took a day off work to go watch them pass by Col du Glandon et Col de la Croix de Fer. I got there well before the caravan but the police made me get off my bike a few km from the summit (there was a line of cars along the road several km long).



Getting back down was a complete gongshow as well. But overall it was a cool experience.


Edit: My honest opinion - in terms of "cycling in the mountains in France"... riding to watch the TdF was nowhere near the top. If I was to redo it again with a friend, I would ride the stage the day before or something like that, then on the day of the stage, ride somewhere else in the morning, watch the race in a bar/café and then go watch the finish live.
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File Type: jpg stage 11 - picture 13.jpg (95.4 KB, 17 views)

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Old 05-21-13, 02:46 PM   #20
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We're staying in Alpe d'Huez and there seems to be plenty of places to rent bikes, but I can't seem to find anywhere that does online reservations. The plan is to rent a bike and have my wife drive me to Saint Jean de Maurienne so I can get a few warm up miles before hitting Galibier. Then over Telegraph/Galibier, down to L'Bourg-d'Oisans and up to Alpe d'Huez. It's about 10k feet of climbing in just under 70 miles...pretty difficult riding, but relatively straight-forward as far as the route goes. My wife is going to stick with me in the car, so that takes a lot of pressure off and gives me lots of flexibility with clothing, hydration, and nutrition. We're staying in Alpe d'Huez for 2 full days and I'll keep an eye on the weather to pick the better riding day.
That is a hell of a ride you've got planned! The descent from Galibier to Le Bourg d'Oisans will be the most fun/fastest 45 km of your life .
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Old 05-21-13, 03:08 PM   #21
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That is a hell of a ride you've got planned! The descent from Galibier to Le Bourg d'Oisans will be the most fun/fastest 45 km of your life .
Bring a blinking tail light. The tunnels on the descent are a bit scary.
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Old 05-21-13, 07:04 PM   #22
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We have a place in Olonzac so I'm shooting for Friday or Saturday as well. Contact Phil at mellowvelo.com for rentals - I had a Giant Defy last year and took my own pedals. Do lots of planning and carry a GPS for sure. Be prepared for some significant climbs - they kicked my butt last year. The actual bike race is a small part of the celebrations!
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Old 05-22-13, 06:27 AM   #23
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Just found out last minute and need to make some plans. ANY help will be greatly appreciated!

I'm going to be working in London from June 23rd through 30th. I booked my return ticket from London only for July 7th.
Therefore I will be free from Jul 1st through July 6/7th. Yeaaaaah, first week of the Tour!!!

They start on June 29th and do 3 stages in Corsica. Then they go to Nice for a TT (Stage 4), and head west from there for the following stages.

My first ideas are to fly from London to Nice, probably rent a car and a bike and drive to the mountains for some climbing, stay at a cheap bed and breakfast at some small town, and catch some stages. Totally open to suggestions and in great need of advice.

Routes to ride, who to connect and ride with, how to rent a bike, which stages to watch... These are all still open topics.

I'm a Cat 3 racer with explosive/fast twitch profile, so I know I'll be hurting on those climbs.
Also, I've been racing for the last 8 weekends so my training and races have been mostly low volume + high intensity. Only longer ride was a road race a couple weeks ago that I actually got 2nd in (field sprint).

Thanks in advance!
Have you filled out the appropriate entry forms? I hear the TDF has some steep entry fees.
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Old 05-22-13, 07:08 AM   #24
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The plan is to rent a bike and have my wife drive me to Saint Jean de Maurienne so I can get a few warm up miles before hitting Galibier. Then over Telegraph/Galibier, down to L'Bourg-d'Oisans and up to Alpe d'Huez. It's about 10k feet of climbing in just under 70 miles...pretty difficult riding, but relatively straight-forward as far as the route goes. .
This is the view you'll be looking down on as you descend the Galibier



This is looking down the side you'll be coming up



Col de Lauteret (where you'll turn for L'Bourg-d'Oisans:

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Old 05-22-13, 01:55 PM   #25
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Never having been to the Tour (nor France, for that matter), I get the feeling that there is some very well-intentioned naivete here. No offense intended.

Judging by the accounts of those who have been there before, this trip would be similar to saying, "I've never been to the Super Bowl before, but my schedule opened up and I'd like to be able to catch it while I'm in town next week. Hopefully I'll be able to get 50 yd line tickets, a cheap motel near the stadium, and walk down on the field during warm-ups."

Sounds simple enough, but it's something you can't realistically do very well without a good deal of early preparation and a chunk of money.

That said, I wish those people going there the best. Hope you have a good trip.
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