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.

First ride in France- I’m good, TSA did a number on bike

Kevin at Lac d’Estaing, our kickoff ride in France
As things go, guess it’s better that I’m good than the bike? The damage TSA did to my large chainring became evident today, but more on that later. After all, it could be worse, could be raining. Oh, right, it did a little bit of that too! But just barely enough to mention.

We got off to a bit of a late start, which is never unusual for us, but today it was caused by a bit of overlapping meds due to the time change. If Kevin takes too much carbatrol (for his epilepsy), he experiences fun things like double vision and instability. This, of course, is worst just after suiting up and getting ready to find breakfast. So Kevin heads back to the room to try and sleep it off, while I get breakfast. Actually, I think everything up to that point is in the earlier diary entry? Geez, sometimes I go days without getting around to things, and now I’m doubling up!

A few hours (and a double espresso) later, Kevin’s all good. I mapped out a 38 mile out-and-back that included a reasonably-decent climb at the end, up to a lake we’d never ridden to before. I’ll admit it is beginning to get tougher, finding new places to ride around here! Actually, it turns out we’d ridden all but the final 5 miles, just a couple years ago. Part of the Col du Borderes that will be featured in this year’s Tour de France, next Friday’s stage in fact (the one that finishes in LeRuns, after climbing the Aubisque). Thankfully, the part we’d ridden before didn’t seem quite as steep as last time, and in fact I even rode it a bit faster. I’ll go further than that even; it didn’t seem nearly as steep going up as it did coming down! That’s a good thing. A very good thing. Of course, for Kevin, it was even easier and he had to wait for me a few times.

So nothing too challenging, and on the way back we stopped at the Monoprix to pick up some stuff we needed (paper towels, toilet paper, an extra drying towel for the bathroom because they only give you two, shampoo, an electrical extension cord with multiple outlets, think that’s it) and then stopped for dinner at the Kebab place. OK, I’ll admit, in the past I thought the Lourdes Kebabs were really good but frankly, Grenoble has them beat. Hands down.

Tomorrow we take a train 40 miles out of town and ride back, via the Aspin, from the side we haven’t yet climbed, and a new route into Lourdes that I discovered on Strava. 56 miles tomorrow, about 6600ft of climbing, so pretty much our normal Sunday ride! Hopefully I’ll have figured a way to get the chainring bent into shape first. It’s OK as long as the pressure on the pedals is steady, but on a descent, it won’t stay on. Not much fun having to freewheel down the whole way.

We made it! Home away from home in France

This is why France is so cool. What cyclist can’t relate to roadside signs advertising PAIN?

The long travel day over, a decent night’s sleep and we’re almost ready to go. Well, more on that later.

Thursday morning we got up much earlier than anyone but a true morning person would want to, and trust me, I’m not even a good fake morning person. 5:45am, quick shower, out the door headed to the airport by 6:09, just 4 minutes behind schedule. Flight at 8:05am, and you’d normally think that arriving at the airport at 6:40am for an 8:05 flight should give you a lot of extra time, but it really didn’t.

Pleasant-enough flight to Newark, other than both the wi-fi and entertainment system being down, and this was an otherwise “dark” plane, with no seatback screens. Flying transcon is a long way to go without being connected or having a dumb movie to watch! Kevin, of course, used some of the time to sleep.

Check out the young lady apparently checking out Kevin who’s checking out her…

In Newark Kevin and I both had our very first “Philly Cheesesteaks.” Not sure what all the fuss is about. I mean sure, not bad, but not that much different from an Arby’s y’know? The Newark airport is a lont nicer since the remodel, but they’ve hidden the temporary United Club (lounge). The food court is a bit confusing too; one of those setups where you pay for food (and anything else, including, for example, magazines) separately from where you order or pick it up. There’s no signage, and nobody tells you when you order the food, until you look appropriately confused. That’s actually not true. A very nice employee did assist me, and other confused people, regarding how things work, and did so without making us seem like idiots.

First-time ever landing with view of Paris instead of fields. And the ugly Montparnasse tower!

The flight to Paris was better in terms of working wi-fi and entertainment system (“Blockers” is a better movie than it should be, by the way). Still, you felt OK at the beginning and start to feel a bit “ripe” towards the end. Would be nice to have showers at CDG for sure, but we didn’t have time to do the 2-hour room thing at the nearby IBIS, because we weren’t sure how long it would take to retrieve our rail discount cards at the CDG train station. Too bad because that meant way too much time waiting at a really inadequate train station. Funny thing how trains in France are for the most part a fantastic way to get around, but major train stations are abominable places to have to spend time, with limited seating, few bathrooms (which you have to pay for, by the way), too hot, too humid… just not fun places to be. Same can be said for most major stations around France (Lyon, Montparnasse in Paris, Marseille).

The connection in Bordeaux was not much fun, since we arrived 10 minutes late and our connection time was… 10 minutes! Fortunately they were hold other trains for ours, at least it seemed that way, so we made it. Should mention that the train from CDG to Bordeaux felt a bit dated and not terribly fast. The Bordeaux-Lourdes train was much newer, had wi-fi that actually worked (good luck trying to get a decent cell signal from a high-speed train moving through the countryside) and the temp was bit cooler as well.

Getting off the train in Lourdes, happy that our very long travel “day is over.

Arrival in Lourdes, well, about time. Long day, nice to see our hotel right after exiting the train station, same as it ever was. We’ve used this place for a number of years now. Inexpensive (about $75/night), fairly large room for France, mini-kitchen with fridge, elevator large enough for both our bikes at once, coin-op laundry, what’s not to like? No daily made service but I don’t need the bed made every night (good thing, that, since if I did, my wife would be asking why I’m not doing it myself).

Immediately outside the station and there it is, our hotel, with a much-needed shower waiting for us!

Eventually we got around to dinner (favorite pizza place 100 meters from the hotel) and I used what consciousness I had left to build the bikes. I managed to successfully stay awake long enough to guarantee I’d actually sleep and wake up at a reasonable hour (11pm-6:40am). Would have liked to have slept a bit longer, but this was good enough to get me onto France time.

The plan for today was to initially head out on the bikes into town and pick up some supplies and breakfast, before going out for a moderate ride. That plan was shelved because the time change did a number on Kevin’s epilepsy med schedule; any deviation from the norm can give him double-vision and that’s what he got this morning. So got to head out myself to get breakfast and let Kevin try to sleep off the effects of his meds. The new plan is to head out around 2pm or so (an hour from now), get in a ride, and pick up supplies on the way back. We’ll see how that goes soon!