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Seeing TdF stages in person - what to know?

Old 12-01-23, 02:50 PM
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Seeing TdF stages in person - what to know?

Who has been to France to see TdF stages?

I just learned that I need to be in Grenoble for business for the last week in June. Wouldn't you know it, the TdF will be in that area just after that weekend. Stage 4 ends in Valloire on July 2, about 2 hours away from Grenoble.

I've never been to the TdF and never contemplated it. What do I need to know?

Reserve hotel NOW?
How to pick a viewing place?
Rent a bike to get up high before the stage? Or view in town?
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Old 12-02-23, 02:35 AM
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wow. lucky ducky. haven't done. regardless, you'll have a blast. as greg lemond proffered, it's like having the super bowl for 21 straight days (minus those maddening rest days). the viewing parties and pubs will be off the hook if you don't opt to stake out the route
or ride to a vantage, viewing point. renting and reserving asap would seem to be the call.
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Old 12-02-23, 07:05 AM
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They go by much faster than you would think so a viewing spot where you can see them for a longer distance is great.

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Old 12-04-23, 09:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Shadco
They go by much faster than you would think so a viewing spot where you can see them for a longer distance is great.

.
Good point.

Another consideration is that my colleagues on the business trip aren't racing fans. Either I'd continue to the races alone or I'll need to convince an interested friend to meet me.

or maybe I should skip the races, rent a bike in Grenoble, and try to tackle Alp d'Huez? It's just down the road....
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Old 12-04-23, 10:31 PM
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I've gone twice - in 1990 to watch Lemond win his third, and in 2004 to watch some other guy. It's simply amazing! Some observations:

Mountain passes are a great place to see the race. In a stage, the early climbs will not be busy, but the latter climbs where action might be happening will be very busy. On Stage 4, the Col du Galibier will likely be packed with people who drive up a day (or even 2) before, set up their tent or camper, and wait for the race to pass.


Col du Glandon, one of the intermediate passes during a stage

The Col du Lauteret might be a good spot as well. It will be the first mountain stage so there will likely be aspiring stage winners/polka dot jersey contestants testing their legs.

It will be very difficult to get to the top of a pass the day of the stage in a car, as they close the roads very early. But it might be possible to do if you get to the bottom very early in a car and then ride a bicycle to the top. In 2004, we had some luck on motorcycles as we were able to filter through traffic and gendarmes simply waved us through the barricades of closed roads.

If you can make the time, maybe get a place in Valloire, rent a bicycle, and then the morning of the stage ride up the Galibier to a viewing spot. Bring a lunch, a jacket, some wine, and maybe some spray paint to decorate the road with.

Best of luck!
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Old 12-05-23, 10:14 AM
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It's good to see a stage at least once in your life. Finishes are crazy: the starts are a little more relaxed (that is, there's no drama at all, but you can see the bikes and riders and buses). Once the race is over, the riders are exhausted so they get into the buses and try to head off. As far as seeing the stage along the road, the best places are obviously near but not at the top of a pass on the climbing side (not the descending side) where you can see them approach. Everybody wants to be in the same place, and they close the road to cars so you need to get there by bike and be prepared to stay there, rain or shine, until the roads re-open. Bring food and drinks and appropriate clothing. Don't encroach on the road or the riders, or we may be seeing you on TV in perpetuity as that *?!&%$* guy who brought down the riders.

Meanwhile, if you have a chance, Alpe d'Huez would be great, as are the Lacets de Montvernier.
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Old 12-05-23, 11:18 AM
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I got very lucky in '15, with an amazing vantage point inside the circuit along the Champs.
Got to see the race go by seven times by two - so fourteen times! Same for the earlier women's race in the rain!

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Old 12-05-23, 11:40 AM
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I was there in 2004. I and two buds rented a camping car and leapfrogged the race for two weeks. We'd watch a stage either mid mountain, mountain top, wiz by in a village, or a grand depart, then we'd spend a day riding and driving and pick up the race again the day after that. The best viewing for us was on the mountains (I pushed George Hincapie for a few yards). Being on the course early was nice too, cuz you get the swag parade. Having a bicycle was key for getting to the mountain tops. The fans cheer you on the way up like you're a racer and hand up plastic cups of wine. It's a blast.

I wish you a great time however you plan it. You'll never forget it.

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Old 12-05-23, 12:06 PM
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I have seen the Tour on two separate occasions. If the logistics work for you, an official guide company is an amazing, although pricy, option. Preferential access and all logistical support are provided at the start or finish of the stage. I could ride to the chosen viewing points each day for the mountain stages, and the bus was waiting at the bottom after the riders went by. Truly a once in a lifetime experience. Accommodation, transport, meals and support are all provided. Thompson Tours is one of the official companies.

I also rode the L’Etape du Tour one year and watched a mountain stage the following day. It was also excellent but witnessed very little of the race; however, the L’Etape was a blast.

The key is to have a bicycle with you, as the logistics become a nightmare without a bike.
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Old 12-05-23, 04:01 PM
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Thanks all for the good perspectives, experiences, and pics.

This is going to take some planning and some thinking.

Considering the emphasis everybody puts on getting a bike, I'm sure I'll need to reserve one very far in advance.
Unfortunately, because of logistical things associated with the preceding business trip, I don't think I can bring mine over with me.
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Old 12-06-23, 07:45 AM
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Originally Posted by MinnMan
.Unfortunately, because of logistical things associated with the preceding business trip, I don't think I can bring mine over with me.
I went to Spain on a recent business trip and took a Bike Friday with me. It stayed in the suitcase until business was done and was then unpacked for a weeklong trip.

Used ones are pretty affordable and often include the suitcase. The Pocket Rocket rides like a good steel 700c bicycle.

If you travel for business a lot, might be worth a look.
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Old 12-06-23, 07:52 AM
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Originally Posted by john m flores
I went to Spain on a recent business trip and took a Bike Friday with me. It stayed in the suitcase until business was done and was then unpacked for a weeklong trip.

Used ones are pretty affordable and often include the suitcase. The Pocket Rocket rides like a good steel 700c bicycle.

If you travel for business a lot, might be worth a look.
At one point, I thought about getting one of those and ended up deciding against. Usually, I can travel with my road bike. And in many places I go, renting is an option- many places in Spain for example.

Also, if I'm going to tackle the Col du Galibier, I want to be on a pretty good and light road bike.
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Old 12-06-23, 08:57 AM
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Originally Posted by MinnMan
At one point, I thought about getting one of those and ended up deciding against. Usually, I can travel with my road bike. And in many places I go, renting is an option- many places in Spain for example.

Also, if I'm going to tackle the Col du Galibier, I want to be on a pretty good and light road bike.
If you've got the dough, Bike Friday can build a Pocket Rocket Pro in the 17 lb. range.

I've been looking at Bike Fridays since the 90s. I finally bought a used one this Spring* and was impressed. We did the aforementioned trip to Spain and are now thinking of more. We're backpack travelers, typically, so having a large check-in bag is an adjustment for us, but it's much more convenient than a bike box, i.e., you can fit two bikes in their suitcases in the back of an SUV at 4am at the airport without having to arrange for a larger vehicle.

In any case, make your hotel, bike rental arrangements soon - the whole country of France (and the Dutch and Italians too!) come out for the big mountain stages. It's such a hoot!

One note - big mountains like the Galibier might have barricades at the top. You can go to an area before the top of the pass to be part of the madness, and that may be a better place anyway because riders will be launching their attacks before the summit. Just don't knock anyone over!


L'Alpe D'Huez, 2004 ITT




* and then another...and then another...but that's another story altogether.
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Old 12-07-23, 07:10 AM
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we were just a couple switchbacks up from ^^that photo as evidenced here:



here's our camping car, the one with the Flamingo, at the Alpe d'Huez summit. The following day I hiked to the top, and a friend skied it.

the night before the ITT, we painted our recently departed friend's name on the road as promised to his family. It was an emotional moment:



anyway, make your plans now. Do whatever you have to do. You won't regret it.
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Old 12-09-23, 07:00 PM
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Try to find a bus which will take you to the race route, bus companies will provide transport to the course. Bring food, drinks, and snacks. Try to find a spot on a climb, the steeper the better. This is because the riders will pass more slowly, and you’ll get to see them longer. The weather is unpredictable, it could be hot and sunny, or cold and rainy, so have clothes suitable for either situation. Bring a book, or something else to entertain yourself during the bus rides, and while you are waiting for the riders to roll up, my bus dropped us off about 5 hours before the race passed by, and it took several more hours for the bus to get back down to the city,
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Old 12-14-23, 01:51 PM
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Originally Posted by MinnMan
or maybe I should skip the races, rent a bike in Grenoble, and try to tackle Alp d'Huez? It's just down the road....
Remember the ladies' Tour is right after the men and iirc they are riding up the Alps this year.
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Old 12-14-23, 01:58 PM
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Originally Posted by HeyItsSara
Remember the ladies' Tour is right after the men and iirc they are riding up the Alps this year.
Big gap this year due to Olympics. Le Tour Femme starts 8/12 in the lowlands. Last two stages are in the alps, ending 8/18.
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