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My Top Tips for Spectating the Tour de France

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Tomorrow I’ll be headed up to watch another few stages of the Tour de France (TdF).  Having lived in France now for three years and going on our 4th Tour de France, we’ve seen quite a few stages.  Usually 3-6 each year, so I’m probably in the ~15 stages realm.  Obviously there are those that have seen many more stages than I, and certainly those that have seen less.  But since I often get asked about tips for spectating Le Tour, I figured I’d just write them all down.

Given they are my tips, the opinions are based on my experiences.  No doubt others may have other tips & experiences – of which you’re more than welcome to add in the comments!

I’ve broken this up into four basic sections:

The Best Stages to See: Ok, this is self-explanatory
Hotels & Logistics: Some of the non-exciting things required to see the TdF
Getting up Close With the Teams: This is how to see the riders and bikes off-course
Spectating a Stage: Once a stage is selected, how best to spectate
Watching the TdF Finish in Paris: Again, self-explanatory

For those not as familiar with the Tour de France timelines – the three-week long event typically goes from approximately the first weekend in July to three weeks later.  Sometimes it’ll start the last weekend in June if there’s some other conflicting event or driver.  The exact stages for the following year are always published in the Fall (i.e. Fall 2015 for the 2016 race), as part of a grand unveiling event that’s globally broadcast on the interwebs.  That said, there are numerous sites that have rumors on which towns are being planned for the following year.

Finally, note that not all years actually start in France.  Many years (including this year and last year) started outside of France in neighboring countries.  The exact start location (the ‘Grand Depart’) ’is disclosed a year in advance though – so you’ll at least have that as a clue.  And of course, the finish is ALWAYS in Paris.  The race route doesn’t touch Paris until the end.

With that, let’s dive into it!

The Best Stages to See:

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We often have friends over during the Tour de France period of July, and in many cases we time their vacations to specific stages.  Of course, it doesn’t always work out that way, but usually we try and tweak things a day or two in either direction to get a ‘better’ stage.  Or, failing that – we tweak our own visits to stages to get a better stage.

In general, our top two stage types (outside the finale in Paris) are: Time trial stages, and major mountain stages.

Let me explain why.

See, the peloton is on average travelling between 40-44KPH (25-27MPH).  In many of the flatter stages where the peloton hasn’t broken up yet, that means that you’ll see approximately 5 seconds of cyclists go by.  In other words, you waited out in the searing sun for hours for 5 seconds.  Your return on investment is incredibly low.

Meanwhile, if you go with our favorite – the time trial stages – then you potentially get to see every single cyclist go by, one after another (for individual time trials, or in teams if a team time trial).  We did this our first year here in Paris and then two years ago too.

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With the individual time trial the riders are separated by a handful of minutes each.  With usually in the ballpark of about 180-200 riders, this means that you get numerous hours of entertainment.  You plunk yourself down in a nice spot on the course with a picnic basket and enjoy the day away.  Best deal out there for free.

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With a team time trial you’ll of course get less passing by moments, but certainly far more than a flat-stage.

Our next favorite type of stage is a mountain stage – such as in the Alps or Pyrenees.  Every year the Tour will go through one or both of those areas.  It won’t always hit the same passes each year (for example, Alpe d’Huez was skipped last year but is back on the plate for this year).  You’ll generally want to aim for a stage that finishes at the top of one of the mountain passes, as that often indicates a harder climb.

Further, in such mountain-top finishes you’ll usually see the peloton shattered a bit more – making for better spectating since the race will take longer to pass.

Also remember that there are ‘days off’ within the Tour, which are typically on a Monday (though not the first Monday following the starting weekend).  So be sure to take that into account with your plans.

Finally, failing all those there’s the finish in Paris – but I talk about that later on in the final section.  Which isn’t to say that you shouldn’t go see a flat-stage, but just that I’d really choose any other stage.  If you’re up for seeing a flat stage, then I’d pick going to the start or end of that stage over a random spot in the middle (unless it just happens to be nearby where you already are, or an area you otherwise wanted to see).

Hotels & Logistics:

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Now that we’ve covered picking a stage, let’s take a brief detour on picking out hotels.  It should be noted that the Tour will basically have booked out all the ‘good’ accommodations a year in advance.  That’s how most of the rumors about next years Tour stages get leaked.  These accommodations are for teams (riders/support/etc…), media, the massive Tour Caravan, Tour organizers, and anyone else officially involved with the event.  And that’s before we even talk about all of the 3rd party companies doing Tour follow-me type rides/events/programs, which usually snatch up the rest.

So by time you get around to planning, that usually doesn’t leave a whole lot of options within the start/finishing cities.  But honestly, that rarely matters.  In most cases we’ll easily find hotels in cities 10-30KM away.  Since you’re almost always outside any major cities, there’s no traffic so it’s a quick drive.  For example, for our hotel tomorrow night we just booked that three hours ago.  It’s cheap and only about 10KM outside of town – a quick drive in the morning.

Speaking of which – most of the start/finish locations are in relatively small towns and cities you’ve never heard of.  In many cases the finish to a stage (such as today), will be the start for the stage tomorrow.  But in other cases the start/finish towns will be 5-20KM apart.  Each enough for a hotel at either spot, but not really walk-able.

For bookings we tend to use Booking.com and Hotels.com in France with great luck.  Expedia and Travelocity are just so-so here, for whatever reasons.

On the car front – it’s unfortunately needed for most of the stages.  While you can get away with trains for some stages, the reality is that trains in rural France aren’t quite what you think of as far as schedules go.  They’re great for getting to/from a major city to a start/finish city – but not so great for getting between two relatively unknown small towns.

You can easily get rental cars though at any major train station.  So your best bet is to take one of the high speed trains to the nearest TGV station in that region, and then grab a car rental from there.

Getting up Close With the Teams:

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Now, let’s assume you want to go and check out the riders, bikes, and team equipment up close and personal.  No problem!  There are two places you can do that: At the start, or at the finish, of each stage.

Both locations are where all of the team motorhomes (RV’s) as well as team cars and of course the riders, will prepare for the day ahead (or wrap-up from the day completed).

In general, you’ll get far more time to mingle at the start of the stage than the finish.

At the start of each stage about 2-4 hours beforehand the team motorhomes with the mechanics will arrive and start setting up.  Depending on the town layout this is mostly likely going to be on random streets that lead to the starting line.  Other times it may be around a big parking lot (if that exists, which it often doesn’t inside old European towns).  You’ll typically want old European streets over a parking lot, because a large parking lot will limit your visibility.

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With a town street layout the teams will tape-off an area a meter or two away from the bikes, but otherwise you’re free to get super up close and personal with it all.  Basically no different than being on the sidewalk and having the teams on the street itself.

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The bikes will be all laid out, and eventually about 60-90 minutes before the race starts the riders will also start showing up outside.  Sometimes they’ll have ridden from the hotel (if a very short distance), and other times they’ll take the team van/bus/cars in (and were already in the motorhome).  Really just depends on the town layout.

It’s at this point that you’ll often see kids attempt to get autographs.  For lesser known riders that’s fairly easy, but for big-name riders and teams less so.  For example, Team Sky is about as locked down as you can get – with even installing extra screens/fencing to often block views.  The rest of the teams are pretty open/normal.

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Next, just ahead of the starting time of the stage all of the riders will jump on their bike and individually ride over to near the starting line.  There is usually a stage there (as in an elevated platform with a podium of sorts).  Each rider must then check-in by themselves that day for that stage.  They must physically write their name down as checked-in.

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This is a GREAT opportunity to see all of the riders individually, especially if you’re trying to get a photo of a specific rider or bike.

Now, when it comes to the end of the race instead – things happen super-quick.  As soon as the riders cross the line they’re briefly questioned by credentialed media.  As part of that, they’re usually whisked away by their team support crews.  There’s very little time for interaction there.

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Then there’s the awards.  The awards ceremony stage is often setup right next to or behind the finish line.  The entire awards ceremony happens incredibly quickly – sometimes even before the final racers that day cross the line.  This is largely due to ensuring TV coverage as soon as possible.  But it’s also to get the riders back to recovering before the next day.

The Caravan:

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You know those red & white polka dot hats that you see people all over the course wearing?  You ever wonder where those come from?

The source: The Caravan

This is the massive parade of sorts that precedes the riders each day.  It’s a multi-mile long string of vehicles and floats from all of the official Tour de France sponsors.  As part of that, they throw away a seemingly never-ending pile of swag out to spectators.

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The Caravan has a separate time listing on the schedules (more on that later), but usually lasts between 30-45 minutes long passing by any one point.  They cover the exact route of the course that day, but just at a slower speed than the riders.  Thus, they start a number of hours beforehand.

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There are many tricks to getting swag – but probably the biggest is to wave a lot and not be near a vast pile of people.  Go for a walk – away from the crowds.  Seriously, you’ve got like 200KM of walkable ground on every day of the course.  Double that if you count both sides.  Just walk and find a nice wide hole and own it.

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Definitely make time for the Caravan.  If you do it a few times you can generally get all the swag you’d ever want!

Spectating a Stage:

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Ok, so you’ve selected a stage.  Now let’s talk about the day-of spectating (assuming you aren’t just going to the start or finish).

The first thing you’ll need to know and have handy is the timetable for that stage.  Every stage has one, and they list the exact locations and time-splits for the day.  The website hasn’t changed in years, and looks basically the same for each stage.  Here is an example of today’s stage (actually, not all of it):

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As you can see, this is showing you the estimated arrival times at all of these locations for two different groups.  It’s also showing you the kilometers remaining.  Here’s how to decode this:

Kilometers from finish: Straight-forward, but the reason you care about this is that ALL of the race broadcasts (TV/Internet/etc…) will list this constantly in real-time, allowing you to figure out how far away the race is.

Caravan: This is the massive parade.  They start 2-3 hours before the riders and drive at a reduced speed. On average it’ll take 30-45 minutes for the entire caravan to pass any given point in the peloton.

44/42/40 KM/H: These are the three speeds of the peloton.  It can vary between these speeds, but err on the safe side and assume they’ll ride fast that day.  That’s the time you’ll want to be at that particular point on the course.

Every stage has a full listing of all the spots on it. The Tour de France website also has a detailed map of these stages, allowing you to zoom in and figure out the exact streets.  This information won’t usually show up until May or June though, so don’t fret if the full details aren’t shown online in May.

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Now you’ve selected a spot and are ready to spectate, right?

Wait, what’s that – you say you’re going to try and catch the riders in two spots that day?

Nope, you’re not.  Seriously, it won’t work.

The ONLY time you can do that is if the route makes a huge lollipop or other non-straight routing scenario that ‘buys you’ time. The reason is that on most stages you won’t be able to get your car anywhere near the route (usually the barriers are 1-2KM away).  Second, the peloton moves faster than most side roads speed limits in France.  Folks really underestimate just how fast the peloton moves.  Just look at the stage above – it’s basically a straight line, definitely not a good stage for double-sightings.

In order to pull off this tactic you basically need to choose something very near the start, and then another spot very far away (hours) that has easily accessible highway speeds where you can ‘gain time’ on the peloton.  Otherwise, with all of the blockages, small roads, and slower speed limits it’s really just not possible.

For example, the stage on Wednesday is actually really good for a double-sighting – especially if you have a bike to bridge that short gap of 2-4KM (note that the distance/time the riders have to travel between those two points is very short considering the speeds of travel).

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So after picking your spot you’ll generally travel via car to as close as you can get.  In most cases the police will have setup barricades about 1-2KM away, and you’ll have to walk from there.  It’ll vary by location of course, but that’s a good rule to go by when looking at time to walk to the course.

On the route itself, there are very rarely any barricades outside of the start/finish areas.  You’ll sometimes see them in busier towns though, especially on tight turns.  But for the most part out in the country people just know to stay off the road itself.

Depending on what time you got there you’ll see the caravan first, and then both after and before that you’ll see a never ending stream of ‘official’ vehicles.  These come in the form of team vehicles, media cars, sponsor cars, and just about anything else with at least two wheels and the right sticker.

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This stream of cars truly doesn’t stop.  It basically extends across any time gap between the caravan and the racers.

You’ll know the racers are nearby though once you start hearing helicopters.  Also, using the various apps online is the best bet for figuring out what kilometer marker the riders are at.  Then from there you can simply know how far they are from you assuming you know your kilometer marker.

The first cars you’ll see are usually the bright red official cars – this tells you that the lead rider (or the peloton) is almost always directly behind them.

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Next, you’ll of course see those breakaway riders.

Then, if there are multiple breakaway groups, you’ll often see yellow motorcycles with women on the back with time boards.  These tell the riders how big of a gap they have.

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Finally, you’ll get the peloton itself:

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Once that goes by, there’s another onslaught of cars – mostly team mechanic cars and team support cars.  These include spare bikes from each team, as well as usually PR related activities for each team.

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Once that whole mess passes (anywhere from 5-15 minutes), then the show is done for the day.  All in, the whole experience is at least a few hours.

Watching the TdF Finish in Paris:

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Finally – we’ve got perhaps the best stage out there – the finish in Paris.  This last stage always follows a fairly predictable route, with only the starting point of the day changing from within nearby towns.  The finishing line remains static year to year.

The first thing you need to know is that for the most part, the final stage in the TdF is mostly symbolic.  It’s very rare that there are any changes in the leaders on the last day.  So in many ways it’s more of a celebration than a race for the overall yellow jersey winner.

That said, there are still certainly titles up for grabs – including the stage winner and sometimes other jersey winners.  Almost all of that action though will happen within the Paris city limits on the loops themselves.

See, you can basically divide up the final stage into two chunks:

Chunk 1: Getting to the center of Paris
Chunk 2: The famed loops up/down the Champs-Élysées

The first chunk is essentially throwaway time.  It’s when the teams get to enjoy the ride into Paris after weeks of hard work.  If you look at this year’s route on the final day, it barely covers any ground at all – a mere 30KM of the most indirect route possible around the suburbs of Paris (my usual riding grounds):

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This year’s route is actually somewhat unique in the way it enters Paris (which will make for some neat/unique photos near the Eiffel Tower unlike any past years I’ve seen photos of).  But there’s one aspect that basically doesn’t change – which is the final crossing of the river and entrance past the Louvre:

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The way this works is that upon entry to the Louvre they pass the Pyramid once (Tip: If you want a picture of the riders going past the Pyramid, you’ve only got once chance).  Once they pass the pyramid and hang a left down Rivoli, they’ll enter the final looping grounds (which they’ll repeat 8 times).

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I’ve highlighted the loop section below in red.  The loop is done counter-clock-wise on the map below (basically in the direction of traffic as the streets would normally be used).

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Usually by time they wrap-up the end of the first loop they’ve started to gain speed.  It’s at this point that the race really gets on for those competing for any remaining notables.  Whereas for others that have secured a spot you’ll see them playing it a bit safe.

So where’s the best spot?  Well, it depends a bit.  My favorite is the Tuileries and Louvre.  That’s because I can move around easily in that area and see the race from many different angles.  It also isn’t all that crowded compared to the pave of the Champs-Élysées.  See, check out the below – it’s one giant park you can move freely within:

(Update: In 2016 they blocked access to the Tuileries upper edges (near the river primarily) during the mens race.  The inner portion remained open, but you can’t really see the race from there.  This was a last minute decision related to security as they didn’t block it during the women’s race hours prior.  It remains unclear what’ll happen in 2017.)

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If you want to head up towards the Arc, that’s definitely an option – just know that it’s much more slow-going there, and most of the good spots are taken hours in advance.  Whereas with the Tuileries you can basically show up whenever you’d like to get a spot.

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Also of note is that while the Caravan does go through Paris proper – there are no treats/giveaways given here.  The workers are basically in “I’m flippin’ done mode!”, and thus just waving to the crowd.

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Lastly – if you’re interested in riding the course on the final day, note that you can indeed do so.  The route is closed to cars, but open to cyclists.  It’s best to start early though, as they start closing down the route about 2-3 hours before the caravan comes through (or in the case of this year, 2-3 hours before La Course starts).  But you’ll definitely not be alone – many folks ride the route car-free.  Pretty awesome!

Oh – and lest I forget about that, they’ll be doing La Course again this year.  That’s the one-day women’s race that occurs on the same final chunk as the men’s course.  You can read all about it from my post last year.

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If you’re in Paris that day – definitely go out and see that too!

With that – thanks for reading!  And definitely feel free to drop any questions down below, I’d be happy to try and answer them.

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142 Comments

  1. JP Bezuidenhout

    Great post Ray.
    Have to agree with you on the time trial stages being great value – this past weekend we had a great spot along the route in Utrecht where the riders came past after around 1km and again coming back with 2.5km to go. Great entertainment indeed and we even saw most of the riders do a few (relaxed) warm-up laps before the caravan started.
    Hopefully next year we can see a mountain stage!

  2. Neil

    When I saw the red line you’ve overlaid on the two Champs-Élysées maps I mistook it for a GPS track and thought even my fenix 3 does better than that…

  3. Chris

    Hey thanks for the awesome guide! Me and a friend want to visit the alpe d’huez finish this year. We were thinking of parking somewhere nearby the bottom then riding up the climb. What time would we need to be there before they close the climb? Any other tips for the Alpe?

    • Havelaar

      I was there two years ago, when they did AdH twice. Riding the climb the same day means that you accept constant stop and go. The crowd is huge even 5 to 6 hours before the carravane passes. I came by bike from the Croix de Fer and was at the bottom of the climb at 10:00 a.m. It took me over an hour to go halfway through the climb only to be deviated by several French police men on another road leading up to the ski station next to the finish line. So basically, if you want to climb to the finish line, you better be an early bird.
      .

  4. Helen

    My husband and I will be in Paris for the final stage for the 4th time, and have watched from various spots around the lap. I have to agree that the Tuileries is a good spot to watch from, as well as along the Seine. A couple of years ago we were lucky enough to get a water bottle that rolled straight in our direction as the bikes flew past! My husband was rather chuffed with his prize :-)

    • Rob

      Helen, do you have any experience of viewing near the Arc? We are staying at a hotel nearby to the Arc, so it would seem to make sense to go there. However if the experience isn’t as good as Tuileries, we may well head for there to see more of the action.

      Getting really excited about it now, just a small nervousness about driving in and around Paris ;)

    • Jamie Belcher

      Rob,

      I was lucky enough to be near the Arc just after the turn back down the Champs-Élysées in 2012. As a reminder that was the year Wiggo won :o). Great view. It did get very very busy with crowds of about ten lines deep. I actually got there at 06:30 in the morning which maybe extremely early but wanted to make sure I had a good spot. There is a shop there, some sort of big store which lets you use their toilets.

    • Helen

      Rob – sorry, just seen your question. Around the Arc is ok but the riders are quite a distance away, and also it is REALLY crowded along the Champs Elysées. i think the Tuilleries is a better bet. Go for where they slow down to take a corner and it’s a much better experience. If you want to buy Tour goodies however then the Champs Élysées is better.

    • Rob

      Jamie, Thanks for the info. Bet you couldn’t believe your luck being there to see Wiggo win the tour. Hopefully this year Froome gets his second win.

    • Rob

      Thank you Helen, someone else has mentioned about the distance from the riders at the Arc. It all looks so close on TV, but their camera lenses can deceive everyone. We are leaning towards the Tuilleries at the moment. Another question for you. If we set up at Tuilleries, could we move from there to the other end of the gardens after say 4 laps? Or am I being too ambitious? The last day of the tour is something Ive wanted to see for such a long time, I want to make the most of it. No doubt after the 26th Im going to want to do it every year, but I also want to try and do TT’s and mountain stages, so it may be a while before Im back in Paris.

    • Helen

      Hmmm, I’m not too sure. We are usually on the ‘outside’ of the loop (ie on the river side) rather than on the inside (ie the Tuilleries). I think I would go for finding your spot and setting up camp. If you start moving about you will end up being 4-5 people deep behind the barriers and photo taking becomes a nightmare! It also becomes harder to get around on foot the closer the riders get to the Paris laps as the barriers close and the police don’t allow you to get across, which means very long detours to get from A to B.

    • Rob

      Helen, Thanks for that. No doubt you’re already dreading bumping into me in Paris. One last question to clinch where we go, do the riders do the lap of honour around by the Tuilleries, or do they stop at Place de la Concord? If they do, we’re going to head for Tuilleries, otherwise we may well head for Place de la Concord. .

    • Having done the interior of the Tulleries most years, you can easily get around – and for the most part you can always find a good spot on the wall, and in most places it’ll only put you behind 1 person if you come ‘later’.

      So you can definitely move around between the laps (which I’ve done), no problems there. The kinda neat part is most people don’t realize you can still actually get into that area after the race starts. That’s because the trick is that prior to the 2nd lap, you’ll have to go ‘under’ the Louvre via the mall, which plops you from one side of the street to the other.

      Once the second lap starts, then it’s super-easy to get into it from the Louvre garden side.

      As for the honour lap, they generally don’t do the Tulleries loop. Once the riders go by the final time, within about 3-5 minutes, they deflate everything. That said, you’re ability to get from the Tulleries to Concorde is heavily limited.

    • Rob

      Thanks very much for this info DC. Really torn where to go. The gardens really appeal, as does being on Champs Elysees, especially now Froome has blown the race to bits. I think seeing the honour lap if a British team wins could be the clincher.

      Also, thanks for a great site, Ive read loads of your articles the last few days, whilst researching the finale. Keep up the good work.

  5. Steve

    Went to watch last year in the UK and the guy next to me got some pretty good swag – a Garmin Edge 810 flew off one of the rider’s bikes and bounced through the peloton unharmed, coming to a stop just in front of him.

    Couldn’t see which bike it came off, so don’t know how much (if any) effort he made to get it back to the owners.

    • Jamie Belcher

      and I though two bottles discarded by riders was a good result last year. Dam I want a discarded Garmin now!

  6. Pablo

    And dont forget….we love time trials just for….BIKE PORN!

  7. Scott E

    Hint, when in the mountain stages ensure you bring a couple bottles of wine, extra bread or cheese, and then look for campers or the small mini vans brandishing their countries flags. People love to share good times and it can be one heck of a party.

  8. Mark

    A few years ago I watched my first ever stage of a race, which happened to be the prologue of the Tour of CA. That year, it was a time trial around the capitol in Sacramento. It was great. We wandered, getting spots here and there all through out the day.
    The next year, I pulled off the double-in-a-day feat. I caught the peleton climbing out of the American River canyon then zipped downtown to see the finish a few hours later.

    Time trials are the way to go, especially if you have people with short attention spans!

  9. Hu3ain

    Thank you for the helpful post – I’ll keep looking back to it. I like the idea of being on the TdF course after doing the Maratona dles Dolomites next year. Cycling holidays don’t get much better.

  10. That’d be awesome to see the Tour in person! I hadn’t really ever considered it, but it sounds not too much more complicated than spectating an Ironman event or marathon… just in French!

  11. Chris

    Hi Ray
    Do you know if any of the teams are broadcasting footage or rider data live during the event? I think there were some attempts in the past but or sure if that lead anywhere.

    • Andre Moraes

      I would like to know that too, I can’t watch ESPN with 2-3 minutes Ads ever 3 minutes
      common I’ve a family… work… and doesn’t matter how many times they tell me to buy stuffs that I don’t need… or drink.. I’ll not buy

  12. SteveT

    Another option,

    Attend the USA Pro Challenge Tour of Colorado. Big names/teams, less crowds. Last year in Colorado Springs watched Jens Voigt solo breakaway on 3 lap circuit of home town.

    May even run into Mario Cipollini, and get to exchange a few words and get a picture.

    Just a suggestion.

  13. Jose

    Hi dc
    Thank for the advice, very nice to go in person to the more fomous cycling competition on the world. Ray can you take with you a forerunner 920xt and check or compare the altimeter with another one please. I think that the altimeter funtion on 920 are crappie but everytime that I call garmin they always are said to me that my negative reading are because I am to close to the sea levels. I’m getting negative feet in all my rides.

  14. RichJH

    Thanks for posting, really interesting. Headed to our first TDF on Thurs to see stages 7,8 and 9.
    Hoping to get a double viewing on stage 8.
    We were wondering about ‘freecamping’ at the roadside, do you have any experience of this?
    Rich

    • RichJH

      Fresh back from the tour I’ll post the answer to my own question now I have experienced it, as many people in years to come might read this blog looking for the same answers.
      Freecamping is totally fine. On stage 7 we camped 100yds from the tour route down a lane just outside of Argenet for the intermediate sprint. In the morning there was a Gendarme patrolling the junction who just smiled and wished us Bonjour when we approached him.
      It is possible to see the tour twice in a day if you plan it right. For us, stage 8 was a zig-zag route, allowing us to mingle in Rennes for the sign on and ride out, then a 15 minute blast on the bikes to a shopping center car park on the ring road followed by a 1hr drive got us to the 20km flag with 90 minutes to spare.
      One thing to note, the team time trial stage had an awesome atmosphere but camping/motorhome spaces were limited. I guess its the logistics of squeezing all the fans normally spread over 150-200km onto a 28km stage.
      Bonne Journee to anyone else headed to see the tour, for me it was 100 times better than I ever expected it to be.

    • Awesome, glad you enjoyed!

      And sorry I missed the question earlier. Yeah, camping alongside the road is no issue at all in the vast majority of areas. Pretty much just a ‘use common sense’ when choosing your spot (i.e. don’t put it on someone’s front yard, at least without asking).

  15. Havelaar

    After watching the Giro on the Gavia and at the Panarotta mountain finish last year, I really prefer the Giro over the Tour when it comes to grand tour spectating. The main reason is the caravan. The whole logistic linked to this non-ending snake of vehicules leads the organisers to (a) only chose large roads and stage finishes with enourmous parking space and secondary access roads and (b) close down the roads for cyclists 3 to 6 hours before the riders pass by.
    At the Giro, they can go up any small and steep one-way-road and you can ride yourself up there until 10 minutes before the riders pass (final km excepted). But beware of the weather conditions in the Dolomites in May!
    Unfortunately, these year I was unable to squeeze the Giro in. So, it will be the Tour in the Pyrénées for me this time.

  16. Awesome !great pictures! I like your blog. Super!

  17. Jamie Belcher

    Great write up DC. I would just add, don’t underestimate how cold the mountain stages can be. I camped up one of the stages (Foix) back in 2012. I thought I had enough equipment with me to spend two nights up there but still managed to get really cold. A week later I was in Paris to see the Final.

    Last year I spent three days watching the tour, two up in Yorkshire and one back in London. It’s actually exhausting watching the tour three days live on the go. Still great fun though. Managed to get two discarded rider bottles as well.

    Did Paris Roubaix this year and hope to return to the Tour next year, hopefully mont ventoux will feature!

  18. Rob

    Ray,

    Excellent write-up as always. I’m planning on heading to the summit finish at Plateau de Beille on Stage 12 (Thursday 16th July). I know you have done the Alpe D’Huez thing before. What’s the best plan of attack for a major climb like this? I’m guessing park up (if possible) in Les Cabannes at the foot of the climb and try to walk up the road (D522) and find a spot? It’s a good 16km plus so would take a good few hours to get to the top, but halfway up or so might be possible.

  19. Radar

    You never cease to amaze with your diligence, thoroughness, and thoughtfulness. Anyway, my favorite for tech spectating are usually the TTs. The mechs are camped out there for the whole day and it seems less hectic so you can see them tending to all the bikes and equipment, chat with them, etc. Also, during the span of the TT you can see each rider warm-up, proceed to the start house, etc. so there are lots of opportunities to get close and get pix, etc..

  20. Dan Enright

    Thanks for the great write-up Ray. I will be cycling in with a friend from London over the weekend and we would love to finish up by joining the route and finishing up down the Champs-Elysees. What time will we need to be in by to do this do you think?? What time does La Course start? You mention in your article that the course will close up for the public 2-3 hours beforehand, do you know when will this be?

    • I’d go out around 7-9AM, just to be safe. I’ll probably head out around 7AM or so, and start from a bit of a ways out of town somewhere.

    • Ivan De Paepe

      Hi Ray,

      I came down from to Paris for the weekend of the TDF with my wife and planning to ride the track in the early morning Sunday. I was just thinking it would be a nice footage to record the track with a sportscam, but I don’t have one yet. Do you plan to record it?

      Maybe see you on the track Sunday morning.

      Any special Strava segments to flag as favorite to test out the Strava integration just released on the Edge 1000?

      Enjoy :)

    • I’m not sure yet honestly as to how far out I’ll go. I’ll definitely ride the main loop portions, but it’ll be interesting to see what pieces leading up to that are closed (if at all).

      There’s tons of Strava segments on much of the route, though I don’t tend to try and pick off too many segments normally on the TdF finish route because it’s normally a super-high traffic area (so really only at 2-3AM would you have a chance at it, if then).

      There are some nice DCR Test Segments I use though over near the DCR Cave. :) I use these often in various posts.

      Bike:
      link to strava.com
      link to strava.com

      Run:
      link to strava.com

    • Philippe

      lol:

      “This segment has been flagged as hazardous.
      We can still show you this segment’s leaderboard if you agree to our Flagged Segment waiver.”

  21. Ann

    Can you please tell me how many days in advance of the Paris stage the streets get blocked off? Thanks so much!

  22. Helen

    Ann – it’s usually on the day of the stage that you can’t use some of the roads, the Champs Élysées in particular, but even then as a pedestrian or even as a road user you can usually get around until several hours before.

    • Indeed, I believe the roads for cars are closing around midnight or so. But then for cyclists it was in non-La Course years about 2-3 hours before the caravan. But with La Course, I believe it was around 10AM last year it closed. If I remember correctly La Course was at roughly noon.

      When I looked last week, the Le Tour site still didn’t have any useful info on La Course (times, etc…) – just like last year. Regrettably they seem to view it as a bit of a obligatory sideshow (see my post last year for why I think that).

  23. Alan

    Here is guide to watch rest of stages life online: link to purevpn.com

  24. Zhaf

    Great tips.

    As far as the last stage is concerned, be aware that the area around Concorde and Champs Elysees are very much locked down and cordoned off, so if you wish to go to the other side of the road, you may have to walk quite a bit to get to the other side. As for Champs Elysees, its a bit easier because there are the metro stations underneath the roads on both sides. So you can go down on one side of the road and come up on the other side easily.

    I watched the last stage along the Rue de Rivoli and also just about when they come out from the tunnel after passing the Louvre area. Best experience of my life so far.

    • Rob

      Brilliant tips Zhaf. Especially the info on Champs Elysees.

    • Do be warned that they often also close down many of those Metro stations on the Line 1 under Rue de Rivoli during the few hours of the Tour (trains won’t stop/pickup there, and the gates are locked).

      I know last year they closed the Concorde entrances nearest Rivoli, for example (hosed up my plans some).

  25. KantoBoy

    I was @ the finish last year. I stood close to the Norweigan spot, just after the tunnel outside the Louvre. It was a nice spot although I originally intended to go near the Arc.

    Hours later after dinner, I decided to go back to the team bus area just to see what’s going on. I got up close to:

    – Jens Voigt, should have taken a pic with him
    – I got to congratulate Sagan and took a pic with him albeit he was looking elsewhere
    – a bunch of the AG2R guys and I’m sure Peraud was one of them
    – Saw Ritchie Porte entertaining people outside the team bus
    – Saw Voeckler outside his team bus and had changed to casual clothing so he couldnt be spotted easily

    then the unthinkable happened. As I go close to the awarding area here comes Nibali. We were side by side and didn’t want to take a pic (it’s fine, the guy is tired I understand). Got to touch his jersey at least. He headed down to Controle Dopage. Myself and tons of fans waited outside. He was pretty much untouchable after his test as he was escorted by security after.

    I pretty much got more than I expected as a fan experience-wise. I suggest you guys do the same although don’t be disapointed if you cant get a chance to meet the top guys.

    Just last May I was at the finish @ the Giro but compared to TdF it looked so amateur. I didn’t stay to walk around and meet the riders this time but I was just happy to see Contador (my idol) win it all.

    PS
    don’t wait til the last minute to get your souvenir from the TdF truck like I did last year. It sucked not getting one.

  26. KantoBoy

    oh and btw, I wanted to shoot myself for not seeing La Course last year. I had spent too much time @ the Louvre that I totally forgot about it. It sucked not seeing “history” happening right before your eyes.

  27. GB4me

    Thanks for the fantastic info DC. We will be in Paris for the finish this year and plan to watch from Tuileries. What do you recommend in terms of getting a handle on when La Chance will start? We would want to arrive beforehand.

  28. katy neale

    Hi,

    I’m coming to watch the final for the first time. I was wondering if there are any big screens to see the live action along the loop or any other suggestions of watching the finish?

    Thanks,

    Katy

  29. Helen

    Very last minute question, I know! My husband and I are here in Paris and are after a nice bar to watch the Alpe d’Huez stage. The place we have done this in the past (bar with big TV screen and comfy sofas!) in the Latin quarter has now closed. Can anyone recommend a good place to settle for a couple of hours and enjoy the cycling? We’ve been in bars before that have a tiny screen and are fairly noisy so it’s not been that great. Thanks in advance!!

  30. Olivia

    Hi there! My family and I are in Paris to watch the final stage and are keen to go to the Tuileries – would you be able to recommend the best station to go to to get into the gardens and what time to arrive? Thank you so so much!!! Your blog is fantastic!

    • The best bet is a stop on the orange #1 Metro line, from Tuileries to Louvre Rivoli, and walking from there. However, looking at the RATP site*, the Tuileries metro stop will be closed starting at 12PM. Thus, go with either of the two Louvre stops.

      *http://www.ratp.fr/informer/trafic/trafic.php?cat=1

  31. Olivia

    Brilliant, thank you! Do you think 3pm would be a good time to arrive?

  32. Agron

    It worked fine getting to the park from The Carousel (or what the shopping centre was called) just under the entrance of the Louvre.

    Thanks for the tips

  33. Thanks for the great post, Ray. I thought it was totally possible to see the tour in 2 spots in a single stage (though maybe an anomaly?). We saw stage 4 this year (the very same stage mentioned in your post). We drove to Namur at 9:30am (from Brussels), parked at the lot near the base of the castle, grabbed breakfast in a cafe and snacks/lunch in the charming town, and sat on the castle wall for the caravan around 11:30. We watched the break and peloton come across a bridge and wind up the hill to the castle (only categorized climb of the stage) around 1pm. At 1:30pm, we drove to the finish in Cambrai by around 4pm. Parked on a side street and walked a couple km’s to the finish line (where we had a good view of the big screen) in plenty of time for the finish at 5pm. We saw the team buses at the finish area and the AG2R team even handed me a full bottle from their cooler. An excellent day and couldn’t have asked for much more for the time we had to work with.

    A few tips:
    1) mobile phone with data to track updates on the race since there are no updates/commentary out there while you’re waiting for the peloton. cyclingnews tourtracker (pro subscription $1.99)
    3) bookmark the timetable, or print it out ahead of time
    4) detailed map of the course, with gps preferred.
    5) official souvenir van came through with fan packs (20 euros) with tshirt, bottle, hankerchief, cap in a tote bag. bring cash!

    See my instagram for a few more photos ()

  34. Rob

    Well its a week after Paris and I’m just about coming down from the excitement of it all.

    Given the adverse weather we decided to stick to somewhere near the Arc, near to our hotel so we could get back quick when we needed to. What an incredible experience!! The sheer spectacle of seeing 160 riders racing around one the most famous landmarks in the world was nothing short of AWESOME.

    Thanks to all the posters on here with their great advice, we checked out many of the spots on the Saturday before the race, and all being well, next year we will find ourselves near to Place De La Concord. And big thanks to DC for creating the site. Ive got a feeling that the 3rd Sunday in July could become somewhat of an annual pilgramage.

    Allez le Tour.

  35. jt

    ok, i’m trying to plan a surprise trip for the hubs, and i’m having a heck of a time figuring out which stage would be best for 2016. i would prefer a stage in southern france, as i would like to visit san sebastian during the same trip. you mentioned in your post that a “start” location would be best, what do you recommend for 2016?

  36. Dan G

    Not sure if this will still be active for the 2016 Tour, but I am planning to attend for the first time. I would love to spectate at the Mountain time trial, but will not have a car at my disposal. Will this be possible and if so, what guidance would folks provide on how to best view this stage?

    • I assume you’re talking Stage 18 (2016): link to letour.fr

      There’s a train station in Sallanches, though I don’t see a route up to Megeve by train. But, you could at least get to the starting area – which would be cool. I’m sure there are alternate routes you could find between the two spots (always are for TT stages), I’m just not clear what they are without a deeper look.

    • Dan G

      Thank you for the response. So since I have no familiarity at all with the area, I have a another question. We would be coming from Bern to view the stage, so I will need to check the train schedule between those 2 points. It looks like that is about a 3.5-4 hour trip. Can anyone tell me how close the train station in Sallanches is to the start of the stage? Is it walkable? And then does anyone have an idea of what time the time trial would start?.

    • I don’t believe the exact race start/local has been published yet, however, in every single TdF stage I’ve gone to – the start is always walkable from the main train station. The only exception was this one*, however, they also provided a bus to make the few mile connection. I just walked it.

      *https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2014/07/checking-france-touque.html

      I’m sure there are other exceptions, but I’m also guessing there are also other cases where mass transit was available.

  37. Charlie

    Great Post Ray,
    My girlfriend and I are trying to see the start of stage 16 of the 2016 tour (Moirans-en-Montagne). We will be staying in Dijon or Beaune and I was thinking we would get up really early and drive to the stage to check out all the teams before they start. What are you thoughts? Also can you tell me the name of the website that will post the times the riders will be at certain places along the route? Thanks any help.

    • The LeTour.fr site will have the timings for every turn along the route, but usually that’s not listed until a few weeks prior to the race.

      So for example, this page for Stage 16: link to letour.fr

      Will eventually be updated to add a new tab in the “Sporting View” section with the exact splits and route drawn on a map (you can zoom down to the street level in every little town).

  38. John

    I’ll will be bike packing over this year, Are there any turn up and camp site in Paris? Or is there any camping put on for spectators in Paris?

    • I haven’t looked into proper camping sites in Paris – so not quite sure there.

      However, many people do camp in the woods around both Longchamp and Bois de Vincennes. Whether that’s legal or not, I’m not sure – but it’s certainly common enough that the police don’t seem to bother anyone.

    • Helen roberts

      There is an established campsite in the Bois de Boulogne. Look it up on google for more info. I have camped there in the past and it is very convenient for getting into the centre of Paris. It may be advisable to book in advance though as it’s often busy.

  39. Dan G

    It appears that the train I would be taking from Berne to Sallanches does not arrive until afternoon (12:15). And then with a walk from the train station to the start, I am wondering what a best guess is for the start of the stage? Of course the heavy hitters are all at the end of the queue for the time trial, but I would hate to take 8 hours of trains to watch a handful of riders.

  40. Lina Gonzalez

    Hello! I´m going with my husband to Paris, and we´re wiling to see the finish and award ceremony. Do we have to pay anything to be there? How does that work? Or we should be there too early to be able to see the ceremony? I thank you for all the advices you could give me because I have no idea of how this works!

    • The finish area is open – just a case of getting there to find spots.

      As for the award ceremony, I’ve never attended – so not sure how visible it is from public points exactly. Sorry!

  41. Matt

    Thank you for such a methodical and circumspect description of your experiences at the tdf. My girlfriend and I will be seeing the tour in person for the first time this summer. We are going to be catching stages 17-20 and plan to stay in the Megeve/Chamonix area. We will have a car and possibly bikes as well. A couple questions for you:
    – We have several options on where to stay. If you were doing this section where would you try to stay? In the heart of all the craziness (Megeve) or just outside of it (Saint-Gervais/Chamonix)? There are definitely more and less expensive options in the Les Houches/Chamonix area.
    – What can you expect trying to get out after a stage? We will be seeing stage 17 from hospitality at the finish (Emosson) and I’m wondering what to expect trying to get out of there and drive down to the Chamonix/Megeve area. That drive is only an hour but are we likely going to be stuck in traffic for hours? We’d probably be leaving after the ceremonies. I’m only concerned because we would be checking into our accommodations that evening and may need to make arrangements with our host.
    Thanks again!

    • In general, I wouldn’t worry too much about staying in the heart of it all. The reason is that the pieces related to the start/finish at each day really only come alive very briefly (a few hours). Otherwise most towns are desolate.

      Getting out after most stages is easy, that’s because the entire machine that is the TdF is about getting rides from the finish line to their hotels as fast as possible. Same goes for all the works/etc on the Tour. Their days are exhausting, so they’re going to move super-efficiently to hotels each night.

      I find that even if you were to wait 30-35 minutes after the stage finishes, that’s more than enough for people to clear out. The awards take place within a couple minutes of a stage finish. It’s that quick, since it has to appeal to TV audiences.

      Good luck and enjoy!

    • Nemo

      My husband and I will be doing the same thing. We’ve booked in Chamonix and I wondered if we should move to Megeve. So thanks for this question (and the answer Ray)!

  42. Sophie

    Hi DC, my husband is a really big fan of the TdF. I will present him the weekend of the final in Paris. I try to find out if you need a place on one of the tribunes if you would be sure to see the finish. Have you some ideas or is it easy to find a spot on the route to see and take pictutres?
    Thanks a lot for your answer in advance.
    Kind regards, Sophie

    • I haven’t seen the awards ceremony to know exactly how that goes down. It’s basically kinda near Concorde on the Champs, but I’m not 100% certain who’s allowed in that area.

      But insofar as the finishing lap area, then the Tuilleries are ideal.

  43. Howard

    Hi there, great post. I would like to organise to follow the riders up Mt Ventoux this year. Is it possible to follow the riders? Do the roads open straightaway? Is there a way of finding out what time the last riders will go through a certain point of the route?

    Many thanks

    Howard

    • Typically the roads open up after all the official vehicles go through. The challenge with the mountain stages is if there are major breaks in the peloton (or stragglers off the back), which may slow things down for re-opening. That’s because all riders, plus team vehicles, plus whatever other random stuff, have to go up.

      Also, one other challenge of ‘one-road-in’ type stages (like Ventoux) is that once the race vehicles go through, all of the crowds come down the mountain, and don’t really do so in an orderly way. So it ends up as one gigantic mess. It’s usually better to ride up ahead of the riders by a few hours (a few hours before the caravan).

  44. ron

    Hi.
    This year is going to be the first time i watch the tdf.
    we are a family of 5 with 3 children (14 years old average)
    your article is great.
    my accomodation is only 5 minutes walking from the end of satage 19 (saint-gervais le bettex).
    Do you think we should stay at the end point or go futher away? I understand that the all thing with the parade should take approx 3-4 hours – is it right? are there usually places to buy food and drinks? do you have any other specific suggestions for us for this stage?

    • The parade takes about 30 minutes to go by fully. That happens 1-3 hours ahead of the peloton coming through. So between those two times is a great time to get food.

      In general The Tour doesn’t setup food booths. However in most towns there are many small ma & pa type places that setup small BBQ’s and the like. Plus most eateries will be open. So food is rarely a problem.

      For the finish, it’s always tough. While you might be able to get a spot right near the finish, you’d have to wait the whole day to do so. Personally, I find it neat to go a bit upstream of that. But it’s kinda a last minute call. Typically I decide based more on how good/what photographs I can get from that spot. But for you, it’s likely to be how easy it is to herd a family of five. ;)

  45. Todd Long

    Thanks for this info. Love your posts on the tour. I am thinking about doing stages 8 and 9 of this years (2016) tour which will be great climbs in the Pyrenees. I have a couple of questions. Do they allow cyclists to do the stage the same day of the race? If yes, when must we start and be off the course. I’ve heard anywhere from 2-4hrs before riders come thru we must be done. I am guessing it’s 4 at beginning and 2 at end. Do they always schedule the stage to finish around 5pm? If I bonk, how can I get to end of stage? How long might that take? Thanks for any info you can offer on these questions.

    • Sean G

      I am looking to do the same stages Todd. First OS trip for me, but already have a place in Pau booked as well as a car.

      S

  46. David

    Hi Ray.

    Great post you made last year.

    A friend and I are thinking about going to stage 13 this year – time trial. Would you recommend to stay at the departure city og arrival city?
    My thought is that you see more riders, busses and so on in the departure city, but there are more “action” and post race festivities in the finish area. What is your view?

    David

    • Cam

      Hey Ray

      Any tips for stage 1 and 2 this year. Not the best days for viewing according to your notes above but they’ll be the only days i’ll be in france unfortunately.

      cheers
      Cam

    • Typically for TT’s, I’d stay closer to the start. It’s far more interesting, you’ve got riders warmining up (fun to watch), then the start for each rider (also fun to watch), and then if you walk a few hundred meters down the course you can see what it’s like for the rest of the stage (normalcy).

      RE: Stages 1/2-

      They haven’t put up the exact routes yet on the TdF site. I know they were made public a couple days ago, but I haven’t dug up the route sheets elsewhere yet. Once they’re on the site, it’ll be easier to give advice.

  47. Lizzy N

    Hi

    We are hoping to watch stage 12 on Ventoux this year, we will have a camper van, do you know generally when they close the road to camper vans? ideally we would like to watch stage 11 and then drive up Ventoux ready for stage 12 the next day or do we need to travel up Ventoux earlier than that?

    Thanks

    • That’d be tough.

      It’s not that they close the road down per se, it’s that the spots get taken. I know from discussions in the past that people start staking out spots 3-4 weeks in advance for Ventoux and other specific famed climbs (since they don’t happen every year).

      My guess is you could probably find a spot a few days in advance (but I haven’t tried on Ventoux). Perhaps with enough creativity you could park the camper a few days earlier, and then use bikes/trainers to get to the other stages prior.

      Wish I could be more help on that one – but just don’t know for certain there.

    • Lizzy N

      Thanks for your help, I will let you know how we get on.

      If anyone else out there has any hints or tips on watching on Ventoux that would be much appreciated.

  48. Cindy

    DC, Lizzie N, we’re trying to see the Ventoux stage too. We have a car and will be staying about 20 mi away. We were hoping to find a place to park the car and walk up. Is this doable? Are there hiking trails that would be quicker than walking up the road?
    We’ve visited Ventoux a couple years ago but it wasn’t on the tour. We saw a flat stage at Gordes and DC’s comments are spot on. Looking forward to seeing one of the epic climbs!

  49. Phil T

    Paris Stage:
    Where do the team cars normally park as i want to get some pictures/autographs at the end?
    Thanks
    Phil

  50. Alan Taylor Farnes

    I’m attending the tour this year. I’ll be seeing stages 1-3 in Normandy. A few questions:

    1) Do you know of a radio station that airs the Tour (in English) so I can listen to the proceedings while I’m out on the course?

    2) I’ve found the timetables. I see what time the Caravan passes. What time do I need to get there (I’ll be traveling by bike) before they close the roads? Do I just need to get there before the Caravan passes whatever point I’ll be at? Or do I have to get there a while before the Caravan so they don’t close the roads?

    • Alan Taylor Farnes

      Concerning 1) essentially, do you have any ideas how I can follow the race so I don’t miss the action while I’m out on the race? I’ll have a smartphone with me.

    • Hi Alan-

      1) I don’t know of an English radio option, however, what I usually do is pay for the US NBC (or whoever it is this year) option to stream the radio/TV from them on my smartphone. It’s usually like $20 for the entire tour, or sometimes comes with your cable package.

      2) For road closures, it depends a bit on what your goal is. If your goal is to travel that road, it can be many hours beforehand. If your road is merely to ride/walk along the road, you can usually do that on lesser populated stages up till shortly before the caravan. Just be aware that many official vehicles (hundreds upon hundreds) carrying media, teams, queens, and whomever else use those mostly closed roads at extremely high speeds on the day of the race. They’ve stopped carrying about driving safely about 10 minutes after the start of the race on Day 1.

  51. Nick

    Great information on here!
    Just a few questions…
    I want to attend the Paris finale this year and I want to make sure I’m close to the stage when they present the winner. Where do they actually put the stage up, on the finish line? I guess you’ll need to be in a paid seat to be close to the presentation?
    Also- I have seen different seats and locations for sale with hospitality companies. Are these worth the money and do you actually need to pay – I don’t plan on showing up AM, I want to turn up and see the race with a decent view and I want to be close by the finish so I can get near the stage as previously mentioned. Thanks

    • I haven’t tried to get into the finish stage area, so I’m honestly not sure how that works, but everyone that I know that’s gone has either been an official guest or somehow paid.

  52. Hal

    Thanks for the tips, these are most helpful! Are you aware of any small groups of campers (small motorhomes) that travel together, especially one with someone that has done this before. It would be great to “caravan” with a group like this for the first time spectating the tour. We are looking ahead to 2018.

  53. Nick

    Thanks for your reply about the finish area.
    Lastly it’s in ambition of mine to go to every stage of the Tour de France – perhaps in a campervan etc.
    I would watch the stage then drive that night to the next stage and do that for 3 weeks. Is it possible?
    I mean do people do that or is it too hard to get from place to place during the tour? I’m wondering what difficulties I may face or if it’s not possible for a reason I am unaware of.i did see a post from someone on another site who says it’s not possible but I like a challenge !
    Thanks

    • It’s mostly possible. However, the complexity of it will depend on the exact route that year. For example, some stages will have a huge gap in them (hundreds of miles) – such as often from the 2nd to last day to the final stage (often from the Alps to Paris). So that can prove tricky. Not impossible, just tricky.

      For example, this year the 2nd to last stage ends in Morzine, which is 598km from Paris by car. So it’s a 6hr drive. But that’s optimistic, because it won’t account for the fiasco that leaving the race area (in the mountains) is, so you’re gonna burn easily 1-2 hours trying to get out of that mess on small mountain roads. So I’d budget 8+ hours for that drive, including stops.

      Again, not impossible, but certainly long. But…most teams will be there doing the same drive that night. :) Except the riders, they fly.

  54. Daniel K.

    It doesn’t seem like the zoom-able maps are being published this year…

    The detailed time schedule is there, but the map is just a static PDF even for tomorrow’s stage…

    link to letour.fr

    • Nemo

      I’m finding the same thing- which is a bit frustrating. Not sure how I’ll plan to get to a spot along the course when I don’t really know where it is going! I’m hoping when I get to Europe there will be some more info in the newspapers or something like that.

    • I know there are some 3rd party sites that publish the full Tour de France team guide as PDF’s, which is the multi-hundred page guide that teams use for every turn on the route in team cars. It’s called the ‘Roadbook’

      I haven’t dug around too much to find them (I had a bookmark for one site but then it died), but if someone does find a PDF version somewhere – feel free to link to it.

      That said, totally sucks the Google Maps version isn’t live this year. :(

    • Nemo

      Excellent! That was just the lead I needed. Found the info we are looking for here:
      link to cyclingstage.com

  55. Nick

    At the end of the stage win the winner is presented with a lion. Does anyone know what happens to these- can they be bought at some kind of auction as I want one :0) any stage, any rider provided it’s genuine!
    Thanks

    • The lions are a pretty big deal to riders, and are generally kept by the rider as a souvenir just like a trophy. However, you’ll often see them lined up on the front of team buses in the windshield (inside).

  56. Jamie

    Going to Mt Ventoux this year. Seems a lot more barriers being used on the stages this year. Unfortunately going to be walking up so hopefully I can get a good parking spot.

  57. David

    Hi there, I’m just planning a last minute trip to see my first TdF. I’m planning to go to the Grand Colombier next Sunday, do you know what’s the best way to get there? I understand the roads in the mountain itself are going to be closed from Saturday night.

    Thanks for your advise.

    David

  58. Jon

    Hi, attending the Paris stage again this year, but due to it being tagged on the end of a charity ride, rather than booked myself, I have the time constraint of a 20:43 eurostar from Gare du Nord. Need to be there at 8 at the latest really, and race is scheduled to finish around 19:20. Anywhere on the loop that’s relatively easy to escape from? Would probably concede I’d be missing the last couple of circuits, slightly annoyingly. But still, all of La Course is more than enough consolation!

    • I’d hang out close to the edge of the Louvre on Rivoli (where they came out of the tunnel). It’s a crazy-awesome corner anyway with fans.

      That’ll give you a straight and free shot to Gare du Nord. Even on a Velib it wouldn’t take more than 10 mins.

      As a general rule with Eurostar I try to arrive an hour ahead of time, but for a late service you’re fine. I’ve seen the security line go to total crap in an instant there – and an hour vanishes. But usually that’s a weekday morning. On the flipside, last train of the night also means lots of confused tourists…which probably doesn’t help. :-/

      Either way, I’d just aim to leave at 7:20PM and then you should be fine.

    • Jon

      Thanks for the rapid response! Would be on foot, rather than bike though. (That’s being packed in a truck and driven back the night before). Would a metro relatively close be open? Though, having looked at the distances now, at worst case could probably just leave at 7 and walk. Thanks for the help either way!

    • Typically the Metro nearest the Tulleries is closed that day. But you could walk to any other and be good.

      For the bike, I’d just buy the 1.70EUR day pass for the Velib (bike share system), which gives you a quick getaway and far faster than walking. :)

  59. Tony M

    WOW! Great posts and pictures! And thanks for your passion and time in responding! I cant wait tomread your post about heart tate monitors/trackers since my old Garmin recently died. And thanks for telling us that there are no goodies in Paris from the caravan, this will save us time!

    Ok, planning on taking the Metro to Palais Royal-Louvre, arriving there around 430pm. Plan to be on the same side of the carousel that you were with the Pyramid as the background, thou it seems that the route this year goes on the side of the carrousel closer to the pyramid. Then after that pass move on to the tunnel… Which side offer better view, or less crowded? Then after a few passes move on to the Rivoli. This of course will be a blur but Im looking for pics that will last me a lifetime!

    Your thoughts? Also, security wise, given Boston a few years back, Nice recently, would you feel safe around these areas (escape options, etc).

    Finally, have a spare 52 bike? Lol, jk, I wish!

    • Yeah, the street in front/through/around the Pyramid has been under construction this past few months. Though when I ran through it yesterday, it was reasonably OK again with vehicles going through (I remember having to avoid buses while crossing).

      Typically that pyramid area is desolate/empty, since it only has one pass – most fans don’t bother there. It’s usually just confused tourists.

      The tunnel you can only see from either end, not within (well, you could probably navigate the parking garage to get close, but the lighting is horrible down there, so it’s not worth it for photo purposes). The exit side of the tunnel is more interesting because it’s far more crowded.

      Hard to say on security what might change – but hopefully all will be safe. I suspect simply bag checks for entry into some areas, but even that will realistically be tough to do over such a large area.

  60. Rob

    Well nearly time to get back to Paris. Question for DC really. Where to the team buses park and how accessible are the teams after the race?

    As for a good position for this year (At the Arc last year) how easy is it to get to the end of Rivoli to see the lead out from the 1k marker?

    • So all the team buses will go through the circuit, it’s a bit of a victory lap for them. Then a portion of those will park, I believe it’s roughly near Concorde. Either way, it’s basically a no-go area.

      Also, in general team buses are not very accessible after a stage (before is great, a zillion times better). In the case of the final stage, it may be a bit different since there isn’t a rush to get out like there normally is. Inversely, many folks are trying to get out to team parties and such for that evening.

      Getting to the 1K banner as seen above is trivial. Just walk there from either side (Rivoli or Tuilleries). Crossing said street is impossible, however, you can do it via the Metro stop going briefly underground there if it’s open (many times they close it).

  61. Elle

    Hi
    We are heading to the alps to see stages 19 and 20, any particular advise given the predicted thunderstorms? What to wear, what to pack etc? Thanks in advance for the help!

    • Generally speaking I’d pack simply a light raincoat, but otherwise wear hot-weather clothing. I usually keep a backpack on me, merely in case things get rough. As with any mountain experience, I wouldn’t wear flip-flops, but rather legit shoes (such as running shoes).

  62. Tom

    ignore my comment on your viewing of the final stage when you were living there, i found this post has all i needed to know! thx

  63. Thomas Mahoney

    What time of day will the Tour de France riders reach Paris July 23 2017?

    • PhilBoogie

      It ends at 9pm. IIRC, they arrive ≈ 6pm.

    • Yup, a touch bit earlier, but roughly in that ballpark.

      For the big celebrations a few years ago they ended later (8:30ish), but now they’re back closer to 7:30-8PM for the final lap.

      I just looked back at some of my cell-phone pictures. The Caravan hit the Louvre at 4:24PM (lead car), and that takes about 30-45mins to clear. I’ve got my first photo of Froome coming into the Louvre at 6:26PM. Though, that was transferred from my DSLR, which means it was probably a touch bit sooner than that.

      Either way, in the past when I scheduled flights to arrive home that day, I tried to ensure I made it into the city by 3PM, just because traffic is a mess due to all the closures (which occur around 6AM that morning).

  64. Alfy

    Hallo! We’ve been watching the tour now for several years and man, I wish I’d seen all this useful information before – some of it we found out the hard way… (ie take cool weather clothing for mountain tops). This year we’ll be staying in a property and sort of pivoting out to travel to two or three stages from there. One of them is a mountain stage and I’m hankering to free camp the night before – how realistic do you think it is to just drive up that late afternoon or evening and find a spot for a tent? It’s the stage on 13/14 we’re thinking of here I think… thank you!

    • You should be good finding a spot for a tent, that wouldn’t be an issue as long as you’re flexible.

      Finding a spot for a car may be tricky, but I think as long as you’re flexible in having the car parked in potentially a different spot than your tent – you’re good.

  65. Nick

    I have a specific question about watching the final stage in Paris this year. ill be getting there around 1pm and I have the chance to buy a seat in one of the many hospitality areas. These are expensive however and it does look as though you are far from the riders as they pass as the champs is such a wide road.
    I really want to see the presentations at the end and be close, so I have to buy one of the packages to do that? Or is it a free for all at the end where people who watch for free could get relatively close?
    I had an idea that as the packages are so expensive perhaps buy one on the day from a tout, is this possible? Do people sell them on the day? If not is it possible to buy from official sources on the day if available?
    If I decide not to buy a seat do you think at 1pm it will still be possible to get on the front row anywhere near the palais royal?
    Lastly does anyone have a site where I can buy the cheapest stand as it seems to be sold out most places. It’s annoying really as sky tickets had reduced prices for a couple of years, and now I am going they no longer exist!
    great information on this site btw, really useful!

    • I think it’d be tough to find any tickets on the day of at the finish in Paris from folks (official or otherwise).

      It should be easy to get a front row near Palais Royal until around 2-3PM. The thing to keep in mind is that for 98% of the course (final stage), there’s no official seating. It’s just standing that’s all free.

  66. Reggie

    How can I find out the exact street address of the TDF 2017 finish in Rodez? I will be staying there and am trying to plan out how to get from my hotel to the finish line. How soon should I arrive to get a good viewing spot? Should/could I guy a VIP ticket?

    Thanks.

    • Generally speaking ASO/Le Tour sucks in this regard, and doesn’t release the final maps onto their site until about mid-June. Super annoying.

      In theory the teams get copies of the routes ahead of time (around now), but I haven’t seen the full books published anywhere. :(

      I would never buy a VIP ticket for the Tour. You can generally get very close to the finish line for free.

  67. Jesper N

    Thanks for a great guide. Very useful for a tour spectator newbie.

    But I’m missing one key piece of info: How long before the caravan, should one expect the roads to be closed???

    Planning to catch stage 17 and 18 of the TdF. Thinking of just staying in Briancon for the whole time.

    For stage 17, that means we would have to backtrack the route via D1091 up to Lautaret and up Galibier. That should be do able right? But do y’all think there would be time to also catch them at the Ornon climb???

    For stage 18: Watch the start in Briancon and then head up Izoard at some point. That’s the opposite side, so that should be easy peasy right??? But is car or bike preferred?

    • Dean C

      Hi DC from another DC in Canada — I was hoping to read your insights on Jesper’s question about Stage 18 finishing at Col d’Izouard. I’m wondering if it’s feasible to watch the start of the stage at 12:45h in Briancon and then make it up the Izouard to some decent viewing point at or near the finish for 17:15h. And the biggest unknown for me is how best to get up there — we have a car, but many/most roads would be closed even on the “backside” approach to Izouard, no? I saw a map of seven big parking areas in Arvieux on the front side, but can’t imagine roads would be open on that side. The other idea would be to rent e-bikes if the roads are closed to car traffic and if a family (mom, daughter etc.) can get up there…? Any insights much appreciated..

    • Hi Jesper-

      RE Stage 17: I suspect you should be able to pull that off for Stage 17. If I was you, I’d drive to 1091 to the intersection of the course, and leave my car there (facing the correct direction to eventually get out on). The I’d ride by bike upstream well before the race to/on the Col d’Ornon. Basically, be wherever you want to be 2-3 hours before the caravan comes through. No worries, it’s always a party on the mountain anyway.

      RE Stage 18: Yup, seems doable to me. I’d just do bike. It’ll be more fun, and give you more flexibility. Nothing sucks more than trying to find a spot for a car near the top of any of these places on Tour day.

      I’ll be at the start tomorrow and able to find/pickup the full Road Guide (or PDF link), which means it’s a little easier to sort out exact road closures for cars.

    • RE: Renting bikes/etc… I’d definitely do bikes over cars for that short segment. Given you’ve got 5 hours to get a fairly short distance, my bet is most of your family could also make it work on regular bikes if spread out over time/picnics. But call around that village now and see if you can find a bike shop with rentals. Doing so on Tour day will be impossible (heck, many might even close).

    • Jesper N

      Thanks for the reply Ray. Much appreciated!

      Reason for asking about bike vs car, was because I was worried about “parking” for the bike actually. Not sure how crazy it all gets near the summit? Can one safely leave the bike a little out of the way (locked of cause) and be fairly sure no druk orange man steps all over it or pees on it?? (sorry to all you Dutch reading along)

    • Zero issues at all locking up a bike. I’ve locked up some pretty darn expensive bikes in some pretty weird spots in France, never an issue. I would probably consider locking an expensive bike in a less obvious spot as you noted.

    • Dean C

      Thanks very much for that advice. You mentioned a link to a PDF of the Road Guide, that would be super if possible to obtain…

      Hope you enjoyed Stage 1 today and didn’t get too wet. Too bad for Valverde, the set-up of those barricades didn’t look very good in hindsight…

    • I found a link in the meantime, here’s all the roadbooks: link to drive.google.com

      Then click on 2017, and then from there you’ll see the TdF one in French/English/etc… Keep in mind they’re big – like 320MB!

  68. Rob

    Hi DC,

    Its that time of year again, when I do my tour planning, and this year I want to go down toward Concorde, so we can see the 1km marker, and the lead out. From my screen grab, do you know if the areas I have makes A and B are accessible on the day?

    • Area B is definitely accessible, closest to the building. Area A is accessible, but only closer to the buildings. Fwiw, having shot nearest that in previous years, there isn’t actually much of a difference. The 1KM marker is further down Rivoli to the right, about 300m or so. It’s incredible there (it’s where the banner is).

      You can see the A/B spot in the photo just at the start of this section (link to dcrainmaker.com), it was taken from the building there.

      And you can see the 1KM marker later down in that same section.

  69. Nick

    I am deciding if to get VIP start village or VIP finish tickets- anyone have any experience of either? I’m thinking the stages around Pau…I will only choose one so if there is someone here who reads this that has been to both and can let me know which is best it would be great