Category Archives: Tdf trip planning

Information on seeing the Tour de France in person, including the process I go through myself each year- figuring out the TdF route, finding places to stay, rental cars, trains & more.

This is summer, right?

As we’re watching the clock run down on time left to get ready for our annual trip to the Tour de France, we have to wonder… is riding in cold muck preparing us for what’s coming? Hope not! But it’s not as if we haven’t had some epic weather days on the bike. Two really stand out; first, going to bed in Lourdes to a raging thunderstorm, the morning before riding out to the Tourmalet stage. Fortunately no thunderstorms while riding, but we did get a fair amount of rain. But nothing compared to the torrential rains we had descending from the Galibier to Bourg d’Oisans (base of Alpe d’Huez), half an hour of insanity, could hardly see the road, just following a ton of bikes ahead of you and hoping other bikes didn’t run into you. I pretty much destroyed my front wheel, grinding through the rim. Later that day, someone responded to my Strava post that, just 10 minutes behind us, two landslides cut off 400 cyclists from the rest of the world. They were stuck for two days, staying in churches and schools, no clothes or supplies. Dodged a close one!

Of course, last year I broke two ribs sliding out in the rain (yeah, while carrying a pizza, I know…), my most serious incident to date. Maybe 10 years ago I was climbing near Foix and a rider descending lost control and clipped me, putting us both to the ground. I didn’t think much of it when it happened, but looking back, and how I rode the next 5 or so days, it’s possible I might have done more damage to myself than I thought.

Thankfully, I’ve not practiced crashing (away from France) for several years.

So how did this morning’s ride go? Well, pretty slow. Kevin and Kevin showed up, with Kevin (ex-pilot Kevin that is) finally slowing down a bit as he’s gotten older. I’m ok with that. Kevin (younger) rode on ahead, and I’m ok with that, too. A bit annoying that we had to go long sleeve and leg warmers again; it’s only been three weeks, I think, that we’ve been able to ride without them.

Am I in shape for France? I figure I’ll ride myself into shape while there. Yeah, right. We’ll be starting out pretty hard the day after we get there, staying in Grenoble for the Alps stages. Then we take a few trains from Grenoble to Lourdes, to see a couple stages in the Pyrenees, before flying home. We’ll be missing both the final time trial and Paris, but staffing at the shop is very tight and missing two Saturdays didn’t seem like a good idea. Also, it wasn’t practical to spend a lot of time in the Pyrenees because there are really just two stages there.

Flying won’t be nearly as easy as last year; planes and airports were pretty empty, with upgrades easy to come by. This year, we’ll be in economy plus, no chance to upgrade even to premium economy, and the flights were expensive! We did get smarter and won’t be connecting within the US like we did last year, flying SFO-Newark-Paris, getting delayed in Newark 4 hours and missing the only possible train to Lourdes. Had to stay overnight in Paris then fly to Toulouse, via Munich I think, where Lufthansa lost some of our luggage. Not great memories. Hope for better ones this year!

I already want to go back. Unfinished business, in so many ways

Is it any wonder I want to go back?
That picture, taken from the train as we were leaving Lourdes, says it all. Look at those mountains in the background. They go on, and on, and on. You ride 12.5 miles down a beautiful separated bike path (runs along a former rail line) and you have mountains to ride in front of you, mountains to ride to the right of you, mountains to ride to the left.

You think it’s nice in the Bay Area that we don’t have to worry about rain from May through October, but we also have to deal with air that’s not nearly so clean and a lack of running water everywhere. You know how we look forward to Tunitas Creek actually having running water in it? If it were in the Pyrenees, it would be gushing during the summer.

And all the little roads going anywhere and everywhere. You can visit 10 times and still find new places to ride.

Unfortunately my plans got cut short this year when I broke my ribs with 3 solid riding days still to go, including our own “Queen” stage that had been planned for the day following, heading from Lourdes (by bike, no train shortcut this time) all the way to the Col de Portet, two big climbs, 80+ miles, and I felt like I was ready for it.

Will I go back? Heck yes. If for no other reason than to try and get a similar, better photo of Lourdes, not taken through a dirty window on a moving train.

Nevertheless this trip did have a lot of high points, even after breaking my ribs. Kevin getting to do the Luz Ardiden day/stage on his own was definitely up there. That final night dinner in Paris was great. And this was the first trip where Kevin thought it would be nice to stay longer; he’s usually ready to leave before the end. There would have been some real benefits to staying longer too; when Kevin and I got back, we came down with some weird flu variant that knocked him flat first, then me. Didn’t even get to ride today because I’m still recovering from dehydration. And before that I had to do the regular Tuesday & Thursday-morning rides on Kevin’s e-bike, to keep from causing too much trouble with my broken ribs.

And about those ribs. When I got back from France I had Kaiser get some new x-rays to see how things were doing. I think it was Wednesday, two days after we got back, and I hand the x-ray tech the originals from France and he tells me, no, we don’t need to see them. OK… no biggie I guess. And the next day I get a report back from a doctor who reviewed the x-rays, saying there were no acute fractures. Despite the x-rays from France showing two highly-visible breaks. Still waiting to hear back on that one; the Kaiser doc who reviewed the x-rays had checked a box that didn’t allow me to reply. More on that soon.