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Tour de France - Visiting Start of Stage

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Tour de France - Visiting Start of Stage

Old 04-13-18, 08:42 AM
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penquin
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Tour de France - Visiting Start of Stage

I have tickets for the start village of this year's Tour de France stage that begins in Dreux, about an hour/hour and a half from Paris. If you've visited a start of a stage before, is it crazy to think you can drive there in the morning? The only trains heading there from Paris, where I'll be staying, arrive kind of late in the morning and I want to be there as early as possible to soak up the atmosphere (and get my money's worth).

Anyone have experience with something like this? Not sure of the gendarmes manage to keep traffic moving and orderly or if I should expect gridlock from the wee hours of the morning. As long as we can get within a reasonable walking distance (we might hire a driver if needed - we're not missing this) of the start, we'll be happy.

Last edited by penquin; 04-13-18 at 08:45 AM.
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Old 04-13-18, 09:12 AM
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No clue, but I am attending the final stage this year, and I was informed that I should be there many hours early to get a decent spot, and that is not dealing with a car. Just figured I'd pass it along, I'm sure you'd at least want to be parked many hours before anything is scheduled to happen.

Quick search shows hotels that night under $100 in town, maybe worth just going the night before and not dealing with it?
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Old 04-13-18, 09:21 AM
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Oh and it probably should go without saying to avoid the actual racing rout in and out of the city.
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Old 04-13-18, 09:47 AM
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Originally Posted by jefnvk View Post
No clue, but I am attending the final stage this year, and I was informed that I should be there many hours early to get a decent spot, and that is not dealing with a car. Just figured I'd pass it along, I'm sure you'd at least want to be parked many hours before anything is scheduled to happen.

Quick search shows hotels that night under $100 in town, maybe worth just going the night before and not dealing with it?
All I've seen for that day over the past few months, and again just now, is one very sad hotel that some people describe as "seedy...bad location...etc." I'll have a 4 year old in tow, so wife has vetoed this one. For convenience I would almost consider a smoldering hole with a tarp over it, but my vote is weighted less. The other hotels that I've seen are all actually well outside of Dreux on the map, in neighboring towns that aren't train/bus accessible, at least not that time in the morning. I would consider them if we rent a car if the odds that we won't just get stuck in traffic aren't high, which is what I can't figure out. If not, then that opens up a lot of options for us. But if you're seeing something I haven't, I'm all ears. Either way, I appreciate it.

When I bought the tickets, there appeared to be ample trains from Paris to Dreux in the morning. I now see that those are only on the weekdays. Tix are non-refundable. Hence my dilemma. It seems my best options, given the train/bus availability is to stay further west and eat an extra hotel night, taking the train, or to rent a car (if that is actually an option given the scarcity of parking and potential traffic).

Great signature line, by the way.
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Old 04-13-18, 07:35 PM
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Parking shouldn't be too hard to find, but arrive as early as possible. If it were myself, I would be there before sunrise, or, better yet, the night before, and sleep in my car.

After the start, spend the day in town, and wait for the crowds and traffic to leave before going yourself.

If you are thinking of seeing other stages, especially in the mountains, get a seat on a tour bus. Traffic can be insane, but at least you can nap in your seat, or you can learn some French, Italian, or Spanish swear words if you are sitting near the bus driver.
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Old 09-07-18, 11:08 AM
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I thought I would follow up in case this is of any use to anyone in the future.

We were lucky enough to find a decent hotel about a half hours train ride that had an opening pop up. We arrived at 8am that morning, which is when the VIP booth opened. In retrospect, I think we probably could have driven there, assuming that you can navigate the blocked roads, as things were pretty quiet there that early. It looked like we probably could have found parking at some of the side roads. I suspect it would be very different on more isolated areas, like the mountains stages. Still, the train is the best way to go if at all possible.

In retrospect, I have mixed feelings about the start village. It was nice to get some free food and drinks, but there wasn't a lot to do. I also thought we would have gotten more, or at least better, freebies. People along the route seemed to do a lot better than we did with giveaway items when the caravans came through. So no fun polka dot or green hats or shirts for us. Everyone outside the VIP areas seemed to have them. We were done with the start village in less than an hour. It was nice to have access to the team bus area. It gave us the chance to get up close to the riders and watch the mechanics prep the bikes. Starting about an hour before the race, many riders were cruising around the area. Unfortunately, we couldn't figure out how to get to the VIP starting line spot, so we missed seeing everyone line up and take off. It was all a little chaotic and it often wasn't clear where to go or where some things are. Security would block off certain areas and re-open them randomly. The map they gave us lacked any useful detail.

I'm glad we did it; but in the future, we'll just find a good spot to watch from the sidelines.

Last edited by penquin; 09-07-18 at 11:09 AM. Reason: Clarification - ain't good grammer fixin
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Old 09-07-18, 11:52 AM
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FWIW, I was in France for work around the time of the TDF. I paid my own for one extra night in Paris to catch the arrival back on the last day of racing.

I took the train in from the hotel out by CDG early and found a Patisserie for breakfast on my walk towards the Louvre. I just sat in the garden Touleries by the Louvre most of the morning and walked around. I grabbed one of the green garden chairs right by the road. We were elevated a bit on the side facing the river. Great view, pretty cool given it was "free".

I knew that guy was caught, but everyone was still rooting for the guy who thought he snuck one by with everyone sleeping. Goes to show how much practice and math on the timing is behind leadout trains and pelotons.

I had a car and my bike case barely fit. Flying with it was fine, just got to airport real early to avoid any lines or snafus with that. The Vosges and the Alsace area for riding is just heaven on Earth beautiful and totally bucket list kind of stuff.
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Old 09-07-18, 12:03 PM
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follow up question

I donít mean to side-track your question but are tickets required along the route too?

Originally Posted by penquin View Post
I have tickets for the start village of this year's Tour de France stage that begins in Dreux, about an hour/hour and a half from Paris. If you've visited a start of a stage before, is it crazy to think you can drive there in the morning? The only trains heading there from Paris, where I'll be staying, arrive kind of late in the morning and I want to be there as early as possible to soak up the atmosphere (and get my money's worth).

Anyone have experience with something like this? Not sure of the gendarmes manage to keep traffic moving and orderly or if I should expect gridlock from the wee hours of the morning. As long as we can get within a reasonable walking distance (we might hire a driver if needed - we're not missing this) of the start, we'll be happy.
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Old 09-07-18, 12:10 PM
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penquin
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Originally Posted by Jno View Post
I donít mean to side-track your question but are tickets required along the route too?
Nope. As long as you find an open spot along the route, it's yours. Tickets are only required for the VIP areas at the start and finish. Even then, you can get pretty close to the action if you get there early enough for a good spot.
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Old 09-07-18, 12:16 PM
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Originally Posted by burnthesheep View Post
I had a car and my bike case barely fit. Flying with it was fine, just got to airport real early to avoid any lines or snafus with that. The Vosges and the Alsace area for riding is just heaven on Earth beautiful and totally bucket list kind of stuff.
We were in Alsace afterwards too. We didn't bike it, but I bet that was fantastic, going from one beautiful little fairy tale village to the next, refueling on Riesling and hearty Alsatian food as you go. That's how I imagine it anyway. Come to think of it, I probably wouldn't make it back on the bike after lunch.
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Old 09-07-18, 12:39 PM
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I live in the French Alps and watch at least 1 stage every year. Biking is still the best way to go. Find a parking spot a few km from the course and ride to where you want to go. The roads close early for cars, but cyclists are allowed until the caravan appears. If you don't mind where you see them, then you can show up just before the caravan. However, if you want a good spot (e.g. top of a Cat 1 col), then be prepared to arrive 5-6 hours in advance.
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