It begins with a #525 Michelin map spread across the floor… (the 2011 Tour de France)

And so begins the preparation for a visit to the 2011 Tour de France. Every year I go, I figure it might be the last for a while, because what compelling reason could there be to go again, what unique set of circumstances would make such an effort worthwhile? And every year since 2000, except one, I have found the allure of the Tour de France impossible to escape. I had a good shot at breaking the chain three years ago, the year I didn’t go. It wasn’t easy; I was definitely going through withdrawal, and really badly wanted to get back to Europe even afterward, perhaps to see the Vuelta. In the end, I stayed home, watching the ‘Tour every day, and wishing I was there (even though 2008 wasn’t that great a race, with Carlos Sastre winning in unimpressive style).

But yesterday the bug hit. Again. I went to the usual sites, the ones that have figured out the route ahead of the official announcement, and started to piece together an itinerary. It won’t be easy! With the ‘Tour going counter-clockwise in 2011, it will be the days in the Alps that make the difference, so that’s where we’ll be. And the Alps are much more difficult to get around than the Pyrenees, with fewer options for train travel so a rental car becomes a requirement, not an option.

The ‘Tour is going to come up from the south into Gap around the 19th of July, and between then and the 23rd will apparently be hitting the Telegraph, Galibier, Alpe d’Huez, Glandon, a final individual time trial up the beyond-category Chamrousse and possibly even the Izoard. Amazingly, there’s a lot of new territory for me in that mix; I’ve set to climb the Telegraph, Galibier, Izoard (which I’m really looking forward to) or Chamrousse.

Making things difficult is that there’s no one place you can spend several nights, as was the case two years ago when we planted ourselves in Albertville for 5 days. It’s possible LaGrave could work out for a few days, but if I don’t get my act together quickly, what few rooms exist there will be gone. And since, at this stage, the route isn’t yet certain, there’s a chance that LaGrave might be the wrong place at the wrong time.

And then there’s the issue of leaving the shop, yet again, at close to the busiest time of the year. Of course, it’s a long way off, and we’ve got the opportunity to beef up the staff well before then, plus, while my daughter gripes about me taking off and leaving her and my wife in charge of things, they do a pretty decent job and they’re not above feeling good reminding me that yes, the shop can exist without me for a few days (as long as they’re here to take care of it).

Addendum 11:39pm- have made reservations for 7/19-7/23 at a place near La Grave, in the Alps. This will give us easy access to all of the Alps stages with the exception of the final time trial on Saturday, the 23rd, which will require a two-hour drive. There are very few places with rooms left to rent, in fact, far fewer tonight than when I first looked last night! From here on, a trip to see the TdF in the Alps will probably have to be booked through a tour company (which has already booked a block of rooms on spec).

2 thoughts on “It begins with a #525 Michelin map spread across the floor… (the 2011 Tour de France)

  1. Mike –

    In 2001, when the tour had a TT up to Chamrousse my sister and I stayed in a ski lodge at the top. It was maybe 1000 meters to the finish line. Fantastic. Nice place, cheap. Somehow I think the tour has gained more status since then but if you plan ahead you should be able to stay there. I’ll look up the name. We stayed there again in 2004. Also has good access to Alpe D’Huez, and there was easy access from Grenoble. My sister and I didn’t rent a car, we took a bus from Grenoble to the ski station and just biked from there. Have to look up the name…

  2. John: I suspect the place is probably booked by now; the day after I made arrangements for La Grave, everything, and I mean everything within miles of any of the major climbs became booked up solid. There is still some space left in Grenoble, but even that’s likely to go fast. I think people are pretty excited about Contador, Schleck and now Nibali.

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