"Attending the Tour de France" France by wandering360
France Travel Guide: 59,166 reviews and 161,407 photos
Although cycling enthusiasts from all over Europe have religiously attended the Tour de France cycling race each year for decades, I've always had a difficult time finding tips and information on HOW to attend the Tour in person. (Perhaps, I need to follow the pro racing cycling forums more.)
There are organized tour groups offering cycling holidays, etc. but they can be expensive and certainly there will not be enough available spots for the hundreds of thousands who attend each year.
While there is cycling photographer Graham Watson's excellent book on the subject, his book is more of a general travel guide. So here is some of the information I've found.
The Tour usually starts on the first Saturday of July and finishes on the Sunday 23 days later (21 days of racing + 2 rest days).
You will not see much of the actual race itself if you attend in person… but you will get caught up in the excitement of the spectacle and you might get up close to some of the finest cyclists in the world. Think of it as watching a parade or joining in a celebration. (Similar to watching any other sporting event, you will have the benefit of closeups and instant replays on television, but the experience is different in person!)
Attending the Tour de France can be a full day commitment… If you’re planning to drag your significant other to see the tour, make sure they understand this… otherwise YOU may have to pay for it later. :)
The finishing time of each day’s stage is designed to be around 5 pm… although it has arrived as late as 6 pm. The start time, therefore, will vary depending on the distance of the stage and what the tour organizers believe the speed would be (based on the steepness of any climbs, etc.)
Depending on the importance of the stage (e.g. the finish on the Champs Elysées in Paris or a mountain stage) , you may have to arrive as early as 10 am… and there may or may not be toilets available. (There usually will be food and drink stands available regardless where you choose to wait.) If you aren’t likely to strike up a conversation with another person waiting, bring a book or anything else that could entertain you until the publicity caravan arrives — which is usually 1 to 1.5 hours before the first racers are due to arrive (at 3:00 to 3:30pm).
The expected arrival times at various locations are well-publicized in newspapers and on the letour.fr website.
Be prepared to accept late comers trying to barge in. Bring sunscreen or rain gear and be as pickpocket-proof as you can (so you won’t have to worry about people rubbing up against you). Accept that impolite (or let’s say, not so brash) people will try to squeeze in front of you.
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