Watching the Tour de France on the telly and seeing the cyclists whizz through the European countryside is an experience in itself, but imagine how fantastic it would be to be right up there with them. We’re not suggesting you put on your bike shorts and join the race, but you can enjoy it from the sidelines. If you are a cycling enthusiast, or just want to explore the French countryside, here are some tips and advice so you can plan your trip and get the most out of the Tour de France experience.
1. Don’t expect to see the entire race
Those cyclists ride pretty fast, and if you’re setting up camp in a particular spot you’re only really going to see them go past for a few seconds. It’s a good idea to keep that in mind when you’re choosing a place to set up camp for the day. Make sure you’ve got plenty of food, water and some shade if it’s a particularly hot day.
2. Join a group
If you’ve got limited time and want to see as much of the race as possible, then one of your options is to join a tour group. Your guide will ensure that you see some of the best bits of the race and you’ll have your transportation and accommodation organised for you. All you’ll have to worry about is having a great time.
3. Hang around the starting line
If you want to get up close and personal with the riders, then it’s a great idea to hang around the starting line. You won’t get the chance to mingle with them, or give them your warm regards, but you will get to see them close up as they prepare for the big race.
4. Plan your trips around the first half of the course
It’s later in the tour that the course gets particularly steep and crowded. If you want to avoid the large groups of people who will all be vying for a look, then stick to the first half of the course. The course might not be as beautiful as the later stages, but it will be easier to navigate and find your way.
5. Take it easy
The Tour de France course is more than 3,500 km and there’s no chance you’ll be able to see it all. Think about a handful of areas you would like to see and plan your trip around that. Organise to stay in the small towns that host a rest day. This means that you’ll have a few days to discover the town and enjoy yourself before the race picks up again. This is a holiday after all, so make sure you take it easy and enjoy the experience without rushing from one place to another.
6. Learn the language
You don’t have to speak French fluently to travel around the country but it will surely help, even if it’s so you can ask simple questions and share your love of the tour with the locals.
7. Travel light
If you are travelling from one town to the next during your Tour de France trip, then make it easy for yourself and pack light. Prepare for the weather, pack some decent walking shoes and don’t forget a hat on those particularly sunny days.
8. Book in advance
If you’ve decided to go it alone instead of booking a tour, then make sure you arrange your accommodation and car hire as far in advance as possible. Thousands of people visit the tour each year, so it’s best to be as prepared as possible to ensure you have an enjoyable time.