Commencing the 2014 Tour de France
It’s that time of year again. When supermen with calves the size of watermelons take on the streets of France to battle out in one of the best and most famous spectating sports in the world, the Tour de France.
Today, July 5th, riders officially commenced the 101st Tour de France with a 190.5 km first stage from Leeds to Harrogate, England. Riding through the mountains and countryside, overcoming everything from tough weather to just crazy fans, these elite cyclists got their feet wet for the next intense 22 days will bring. If you are one of the lucky ones who gets to be in front of the action, then you are in for a ride. Yet, for us at home, we are still lucky enough to watch these superheroes every step of the way worldwide. The 21 stage event will finish as it always has in Paris at Champs-Elysees. This year, the final stage through the City of Lights will be on Sunday, July 27th and as a first time spectator, I do not plan on missing one moment of the action. My father, is one of the biggest Tour de France fans in the world. I remember watching each stage of the race with him every year probably before I could even walk. If you are like me and have been waiting your whole life to finally be part of the action, here is all the info you need to track every stage of the event. There is also an app available to download, ensuring you keep up to date on stats, riders and spectator information. www.letour.fr
The course which began in England, continues through Belgium towards the eastern countryside of France down to the south and eventually back up to Paris, the whole time encouraging spectators all along the way. If you are visiting Paris during the race and decide you want to see these rockstars up front in the countryside, your best bet is Stage 5 on July 9th. Cyclists will be passing through towns right outside of Lille, which is only a three hour bus ride or one hour train ride from Paris. Depending on which town you want to spectate, either plan on an overnight stay in Lille or IDBus offers late buses back to Paris. When you arrive in Lille, you can rent a bike to ride to the town you want to view from. Bike rentals are available near the station and towns, such as Hem on the stage map, are only 6.84 miles from Lille city center. IDBus is currently running a special, 15 euro each way from Paris to Lille providing several buses per day. See below the links for IDBus and the Lille Tourism center for more information.
Bike Rentals: www.lilletourism.com/info-2-0-212-gb.htm
On July 27th, if you are lucky enough to be in Paris for the big finish then be ready for the ultimate party. Though the already packed Champs-Elysees will be overflowing with spectators and tourists, it will be well worth sticking around for. Stands have already been set up for use on Bastille Day but will continue to stay out until the Tour de France finish. So, how do you get one of these front rows seats and the best view of the action? Just a couple of dollars……like $400! These seats are only available by a high-priced reservation and I don’t know about you but though I love the sport, I will take my chances in the party crowd. If you are a regular Joe like myself, plan on setting up camp for a view of the race towards Grande Palais and get ready for what will be a long but very fun afternoon. From what I have heard the race, of course, creates a huge, lively crowd and as I know now how Parisians party in the streets, that means lots and lots of wine.
The main grand stand is scheduled to be at Grand Palais but other stages will be set along Champs-Elysees and Place de la Concorde. Though timing will be everything this day, here is the estimated schedule for the July 27th Tour de France finish:
6:00pm-Arrival of cyclists in Champs-Elysees
7:15pm-Last cyclists and completion of the race
For more information refer to Thomson Bike Tours, I found them the most helpful out of all the sites.
Thomson Bike Tours: www.thomsonbiketours.com/trips/Tour-de-France-trip-08/index.html
As this will be my first live Tour de France, I can’t wait to finally be one of the crazy spectators I have always seen on TV. This is truly another dream come true to check off the list and I am looking forward to giving back a full report from the Tour de France, especially for the man I wish could have flown out to be here with me, my Dad!