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.

Why was this one of our best-ever trips to France?

9 days of riding, one travel day between the Alps & Pyrenees.
Not sure why this trip went so well, despite some real difficulties getting to France (spent all day in the Munich airport thanks to a delayed United flight), and a longer-than-should-have-been travel day between the Alps & Pyrenees causing us to be stuck in Toulouse for hours. Also missed two stages of the ‘Tour, the first due to our extremely-late arrival in Grenoble Monday night (close to midnight instead of 2pm) and later on, when France cancelled rail service to Foix due to heat.

So a fair number of changes and hassles, plus the long transfer between the Alps & Pyrenees (we normally stay in just one place, but this year’s Tour de France route was really light on mountains in the Pyrenees, so the idea of basing ourselves in just one place, and then moving on to Paris, didn’t make sense.

Paris. We missed out on the final time trial and the finale in Paris. Logistically, even if we’d only done the Pyrenees, it still would have been impossible to get to the time trial and then Paris afterward. The time trial was in the middle of nowhere; it would have added another day of travel to get there, and afterward, it would have been tough to get to Paris the next day. But Paris is pretty tiring; it becomes a very very long day & evening, followed by a very early flight out the next morning.

If we weren’t traveling, we were riding. Every day, without exception. By the end we were absolutely stronger than the beginning! Nothing really long, but we did get in some pretty stiff climbs. The weather was probably the hottest ever, but the humidity was pretty low. The toughest was the very first day’s ride, a new climb for us, the Chamrousse. 104 degrees on the lower flanks of the mountain! But every day after seemed to get just a little bit easier.

The least-challenging ride was from Grenoble out to the Cat 2 climb out past Tulins, a town just 17 miles from Grenoble yet feeling like an entirely different country. While Grenoble is modern and people dress up and nobody’s overweight and English is common, Tulins is the opposite. The crowds lining the hillsides were 100% local too, with no sign of anyone who follows the ‘Tour from place to place. Kind of refreshing to see. Just surprising that you could be so close to Grenoble yet feel like you were in a different country.

I’m going to work on this some more, breaking the trip down day-by-day and try to figure out exactly what made it feel like such a success, despite the best efforts of airlines and trains to try and mess things up for us.

Another France train issue (collect ’em all!) prevents stage viewing

It was a bit of a close call. I had everything set in place for viewing today’s stage (ending in Foix); it was largely a copy of what Kevin and I did in 2012. Take an early (6:28am, ouch!) train from Lourdes to Toulouse, connecting there to a train to Foix, arriving 11am. Ride the course backward to the top of the final climb, watch the stage, and then ride like mad about 40 miles to a train station in Boussen for the trip back to Lourdes. It’s something of a risky plan in that, if anything happens mechanically, or if bad weather hits, you’re not likely to catch the 8:18apm train in Boussen. The fall-back is a train an hour later, that doesn’t quite get all the way to Lourdes, ending in Tarbe. About a 45 minute ride at 11pm, but hey, we got lights, you do what you gotta do.

Late last night, and I mean late, after Kevin’s already gone to sleep, I check the train schedules again. And every single train from Toulouse to Foix… cancelled! Cancelled due to the high temperatures that have been causing issues for all manner of transit (aside from bikes, because of course, we really enjoyed yesterday’s 105 degree temps!).

I briefly considered a pretty long out & back from the Boussens train station, but decided it involved a few too many moving pieces, too many things that had to go right, and the weather forecast was for thunderstorms from 2pm-on. So we ditched seeing the ‘Tour today, and instead did a local loop including the Col du Spandelles, this time in the direction the race will use (we climbed it last year from the other side).

Let me tell you, the Spandelles is a BEAST of a climb! Crazy steep, and it’s featured in Thursday’s final Pyrenees stage, the one that ends on the Hautacam. I have to believe we’re going to see some action on that climb; it’s one of the few in France that is so steep that drafting really isn’t going to be a big factor.

For me, I’ve gone over to the “bring it on” club. I am riding so much better than last week; every single day has seen an improvement. In retrospect, it was a mistake to start out with the Chamrousse near Grenoble. I wanted to hit the ground running, especially after the late arrive in France (getting to our apartment at 11:15pm instead of 3pm was less than idea), but it really was too much, too soon. Also, that was my last ride not using an albuterol inhaler. I think it’s pretty clear now that I do ride better using it, than not.

Tomorrow we see our first Pyrenees stage, completely by bike, no trains. Riding an out & back from Lourdes to the top of the Ancizan, a climb that parallels the Aspin. The weather has cooled down so it should be a pretty good day on a bike. The next day (Thursday) we ride to Hautacam, a very short distance in miles (16 each way) but a pretty stiff climb. The Friday morning we take a train (yikes!) to Toulouse, flying back home, hopefully uneventfully!