The Tour de France is a three-week bicycle race which usually covers more than 2,200 miles in total. This 100+-year-old event is one of the biggest spectator sporting events in the world and the pinnacle of the cycling community. While most people view the race in front of their TV sets at home or the local sports bar, some want to experience the thrill of the moment in person. Spectators camp out along the route to get the prime viewing spots as the racers sweep past.
Keep in mind that viewing the Tour de France live means just a few moments of cyclists sweeping past you. There is little warning of the riders' advance. You'll see the caravan, a group of sponsor vehicles, come through and helicopters flying overhead, filming the race for TV audiences. Your brief glimpse of the race will be over in an instant. The riders are moving very fast after all. TV coverage is the best way to get closeup views of the cyclists as well as keep track of the progress of the race, but nothing compares to being there.
The exact route changes every year, but it always begins in a different French city, and can even include visits to neighboring countries. Traditionally the Tour de France finishes on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris with the riders taking victory laps.
The Tour route is announced in the fall, in October or November, for the next year's race. Tourists who want to catch a glimpse of the race or travel along with the Tour de France should start planning as soon as the route is made public.
Determine if you want to follow the entire route or simply visit one leg of the race and watch it pass. The tour lasts for three weeks, so you can plan a vacation to one of the cities that the race passes through. The Tour can be one of the highlights of your trip along with the other attractions and activities that you take part in. You can make plans on your own, but it pays to leave the arrangements to a competent travel agency if you're a newbie traveler to France or Europe.
Consider a Tour de France vacation...
These packages are designed for two types of visitors...
1) Spectating - You'll be ferried along the race route from one destination to the next so that you can watch the cyclists swoop by.
2) Riding - If you're a diehard cycling afficianado and want to experience all the thrills of the Tour de France as if you were riding in it yourself, consider a Tour de France vacation.
These guided tours allow you to cycle, watch the Tour and see the French countryside. All of the details are taken care of by the travel company. You just show up and have fun! It's a marvelous trip for those who are up for it! Riders are able to travel the same route that the Tour de France competitors ride. It's not only a Tour vacation, but a gastronomical adventure, too, with vacationers dining on cuisine from each part of France that the Tour passes through. The travel agencies plan...
Transportation in France
Of course, these packages aren't cheap, but the logistics of setting up a vacation to the see the Tour de France on your own is next to impossible. It might be a once-in-a-lifetime dream come true, but if you love cycling, it's worth it!
There are many angles for planning a Tour de France vacation. The Tour can be one part of your vacation, the day that it passes through. Line up early on the route and wait for the cyclists. To learn when the riders are coming, you'll see the caravan, a group of sponsor vehicles, come through and helicopters will fly overhead, filming the race for TV audiences. Remember that even a glimpse of the race is over in an instant. The riders are moving very fast after all.
The rest of your vacation can be a traditional trip to France where you take in the sites and cuisine. Another option is a gastronomical tour where you eat your way through France with a side trip to the Tour de France location.
Some companies that arrange Tour de France vacation packages are...
- Viva Travels - vivatravels.com - $3,650 for double occupancy a week.
- Trek Travel - trektravel.com - Packages start at $5,195 per person for one week.
- Velo Echappe - veloechappe.com - $3,799.00 per person.
- Sports Tours International - sportstoursinternational.co.uk - Billed as "the ultimate cycling challenge," this package allows up to 10 riders to ride the actual course of the Tour de France, two days ahead of the actual race. There are three sections of the race available and you can select one, two or three rides...
Ride 2 - 6 stages
Ride 3 - 6 stages
This tour is obviously not for the novice. Riders should be in optimum physical condition, but what a ride! This is the thrill of a lifetime for cycling enthusiasts! Again, we're talking about some serious dollars to sign up for this event. But is it possible to ride through France, Tour style, on the cheap?
Keep in mind that there is as much security surrounding the Tour de France as there is at the Olympics. No one can sneak onto the route. However, you can still experience the scenery by riding the route after the Tour has been completed. Get your bike, sling a backpack over your shoulder and off you go!