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.

A *VERY* eventful day following the TdF on Sunday (entry after this will explain)

I actually felt pretty good at the top, but not quite in the celebrative mood as Kevin, 5 fingers for the 5 big Cols this trip.
I actually felt pretty good at the top, but not quite in the celebrative mood as Kevin, 5 fingers for the 5 big Cols this trip.
View from the top of the Col du Grand Columbier
View from the top of the Col du Grand Columbier

Our spot to view the race was pretty spectacular, and should have been the most-memorable part of the day. The next entry will explain why that wasn't the case.
Our spot to view the race was pretty spectacular, and should have been the most-memorable part of the day. The next entry will explain why that wasn’t the case.

Finally got a chance to start catching up and report on quite the day last Sunday, two days and a world away.

Overall one of our best, and don’t want to say worst but certainly most-challenging day ever at the Tour de France. It started out well; headed out on an 8:30am train from Lyon to Culoz to catch the stage ending on the Col du Grand Columbier. Train was on time, and the route I’d mapped out worked great.

The climb is incredible; from the route we took, it starts out fairly “easy” (about like climbing Kings), passing through a number of tiny villages, and then beings to ramp up… and up. Thankfully you get a change to take a rest on grades maybe 7-8% before the next 14% grade hits you. I was watching my power and heart rate, trying to find a pace I could maintain and not end up flaming out like I did on the Tourmalet. For the first 2/3rds of the climb, I might have even had a bit of an advantage on Kevin, but as we neared the top, where you go around this corner thinking you must be near the top and then look up… WAY up… and realize those people wouldn’t be lining the hillside if that wasn’t the route… that’s where Kevin took off and I couldn’t respond, only watch.

If Elton John attended the TdF, this is probably what he'd look like...
If Elton John attended the TdF, this is probably what he’d look like…

We arrived at the top a good hour ahead of my plan (which was admittedly conservative and based on Kevin still having some knee issues, which thankfully didn’t materialize). This wasn’t our destination though, nor did it have food. The top of a huge climb at the Tour de France and no food? What’s with that???

We headed down the other side, continuing on the race route, stopping at the top of what would be the Lacets du Grand Columbier (the final climb) that the riders would loop back up before finally descending to the finish. One more time to do the Caravan thing and then we descended to find a good spot to view the race.

Afterwards we raced back down towards the train station, wanting to catch the earliest-possible train back to Lyon since we had to pack the bikes and try to get a few hours sleep before catching a 5:50am train to CDG (Paris airport). Didn’t quite work out as planned. That’s in the next entry, which should go live around 9am 7/21. –MikeJ

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We came, and can hardly believe what we saw. Trek’s Mollema in 2nd place at TdF!

Pretty amazing. More on our day at the TdF time trial after we head we get dinner taken care of.
Pretty amazing. More on our day at the TdF time trial after we head we get dinner taken care of. But you’re looking at Bauke Mollema riding into 2nd place at the Tour de France!
Nobody could have predicted the outcome of today’s stage. Oh sure, the part about Froome keeping the yellow jersey and even adding to his lead over his rivals, that part was pretty much inevitable. But seeing Trek’s Burke Mollema ride the time trial of his life, and end up in 2nd place overall? That was beyond belief. We’d already seen him do an astounding climb up Mont Ventoux just yesterday, and then this today. I have conflicting feelings… on the one hand, it’s time to head home, we’ve been here long enough, and on the other, well, let’s just say I’m going to be glued to the coverage once I get back home Monday night.

The ultimate selfie! Check out the reflection in Greipel's lenses. That's Kevin on the ground, taking the photo.
The ultimate selfie! Check out the reflection in Greipel’s lenses. That’s Kevin on the ground, taking the photo.
Today’s stage had us driving from our place near Avignon to a little town on map named Bidon, located about 4 miles away from the road the time trial was being held on. From there we rode the short distance to the course, which was a whole lot easier than trying to drive there, since you couldn’t park within a mile of the race, and it would have taken hours to get back out. We watched from Saint Remeze, the self-proclaimed Lavender capital of the world (at least they have a museum), although the field of lavender across from our photos was pretty weedy. Several good places for sandwiches and drinks. Weather was sunny, warm and… windier than you could likely imagine. Crazy windy!

Kevin got most of the good shots of the leaders, which I’ll claim is largely because my main lens went bad on me (my Canon 70-200 F4L), giving me an “01 error, difficulty communicating with lens). I’d loaned Kevin my nice all-purpose 15-85, which left me with either his slower-focusing 55-250 or my 10-18 wide angle. I figured what the heck, do something different, try the wide angle for everything. Not a great idea, but it’s true, a poor photographer blames his equipment, while Kevin just goes about taking photos and getting better each time. Hate that.

Regarding the tragic terrorist events in Nice, that’s something that I feel uncomfortably disconnected to. I can read all about it in the US-based news feeds on my iPhone, but I can’t understand the conversations on the street, nor talk with anyone about it, offering my condolences and solidarity. It’s a very odd feeling, basically with some guilt attached to just going ahead with my plans regardless of what’s happened here in France. I should make it clear that I have no fears for my or Kevin’s safety; the odds are with us and while you could say we’re in a “large gathering”, that gathering is spread across 100 miles road, not all packed into a small space. I will say that I have picked up on one thing quite strongly. For reasons that I don’t fully understand, France has become the focal point of hatred from the radical terrorist groups. This will not stop me from coming though. If I had means for a second home somewhere, this is where it would be.

Tomorrow (Saturday) we move on to Lyon, viewing the first stage in the Alps on Sunday, then we pack for home, leaving literally before the crack of dawn (5:50am train, yuck!) to catch a flight from Paris back to Chicago, and then home. I miss the strangest of things, like the day-to-day unusual challenges at the shop, along with the regular things, like my wife, my daughter Becky (who’s running the store, so obviously I couldn’t be in France otherwise), maybe the dog just a little tiny bit, the cat a little bit more. And the employees at the shop. Really good people, whose hard work has allowed me to take this trip with Kevin.

It’s time to come home and take a vacation from the vacation. Sleep on a regular schedule, eat regular food and drink COFFEE!!! –Mike–

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