Okay, let’s be honest here – I pretty much bribed Matt into this trip to Europe by saying we could see the FIFA World Cup and watch Le Tour de France live. Don’t get me wrong; I was super excited to see the soccer (or football for you non-Australians), but the cycling? Not so much. There is nothing riveting about watching grown, skinny men in lycra, whizzing past in approximately .0003 of a second. BUT it got me to France, so no complaints.
HOW WE DID IT:
So we decided on 3 locations, which we could then do day trips from to get us to the race. Once there we could also check out the local area and do non-tour stuff. Our 3 locations for Tour de France 2018 were Nantes, Annecy and Paris.
In Nantes we saw 3 Tour de France stages, including the Grand Depart. We hired a car from Sixt and was severely ripped off.
Stage 1 – Noirmoutier
Here we watched the Grand Depart. We had to get up super early, arrive about 3 hours prior to the Caravan scheduled start to beat the road closures, secure a position near the starting line about 1.5 hours before the Caravan scheduled start and then wait another 2 hours for the actual race to start. The Caravan was cool, and broke up the monotony. The French go insane for free stuff. I got a salami thrown into my face. I later ate that salami. We also got a couple of free hats, and other free food. My kinda event.
Stage 2 – Bouffere & La Roche-Sur-Yon
In this Tour de France stage we were lucky enough to see the race pass in 2 locations! First was a 90 degree bend (where I was secretly hoping to see a stack), and then at the finish line. We were able to do this because the way the stage course looped around – the road closures didn’t affect the route between the two places! Also, got the caravan twice! More free stuff!
Stage 3 – La Senguibiere
This was my favourite Tour de France stage. Matt and I set up shop outside a little pub, drank lots of beer and watched the time trial teams go round and round. No need to chase the riders, and it lasted longer that a millisecond. Winning! Also, the caravan still goes past! I got hit in the face with a madeleine that day. Once again, it was eaten.
Annecy is basically the best. Full stop. I wrote a blog post about it here, but I suppose you’re here for Tour de France live info. We were lucky here; we dropped into the info centre and got some good tips. We hired a scooter to get to all the locations, and thought we got a good price… but then got ripped off again. What the hell France.
Stage 10 – Montee du Plateau des Glieres
This was a very good stage. Matt and I rode our scooter to a pick up point, and then jumped on a bus with a bunch of Tour de France enthusiasts. Up, up, up we went to Plateau des Glieres, where there was a huge setup of the history of the area, food, drinks and other Tour de France paraphernalia. This was lucky, because there was no caravan here. Matt and I got in some hiking before the riders came through, and it was just gorgeous. When the bikes did come through, we were at the top of a HC climb, so they were moving pretty slowly. Also, a helicopter did some low flying, so that was pretty damn cool. It was nice afterwards to just jump on the bus and let them sort out how to get home.
Stage 11 – Les Saisies
Up the winding pass we went, weaving around the bends and climbing mountains on a ridiculous 3 wheeler piaggio scooter. The drive was glorious, and would’ve been much more fun on a motorbike, but beggers can’t be choosers. Once we got to Les Saisies, Matt convinced me that the top of the HC climb was less than 1km away, so we started walking along the course. And walking. And walking…. it was about 3km up hill away. Don’t trust the map on the Tour de France website to give you accurate distances. This stage was less exciting and more crowded, and was over in a minute. Also, the caravan couldn’t get up this mountain either.
Stage 21 – Champs Elysees
Ok, by this time I was entirely over le Tour. Luckily there was plenty of beer available. The problem was that if you moved from your spot next to the fence, someone else squeezed into it, and after drinking all that beer, I was heading off to the toilet every 15 mins, haha. Matt and I had to do some major leg spreading to keep it saved. We got a spot along the Champs Elysees so we got to see the Caravan pass, but unfortunately, there were no more free things. On the positive side, we got to see the riders pass multiple times, so that was good.
Get a French SIM card for your phone, or have a decent roaming package. You’ll want to know the race is on time and where the stage runs through.
Get the official Tour de France phone app. It shows exact time predictions of when the race will pass through wherever you’ve set up shop, as well as progress of the race while you wait.
Freewheeling France is the best resource we found on the internet. They even provided road closure info when the actual Tour didn’t.
Use a combination of the Tour app, Google Maps and road closure times to figure out where you want to be, how you’re going to get there and when you’re going to get there by.
Slip, slop, slap and slide. It’s freaking hot in France. I loved my umbrella.
Be prepared with snacks, water, beer, wine… whatever you need to get you through the couple hour wait. We had a little cooler bag to keep our snacks fresh!
Not every place we went to had amenities, so just bear that in mind.
Talk to the local tourist information center, just in case they know of any pre-organised activities, transport, or road blockages.
If you’re into it, cycle to your desired view point. Bicycles are allowed on the closed roads, and even cheered on by the crowds.
If you’re not into cycling, get a scooter or motorbike. It’ll make parking so much easier.
Do you have any tips for watching Tour de France live? Share them in the comments below!