The Tour de France In-person Experience

Yesterday my wife and I returned from two weeks in France, along with one day in Amsterdam, where we had several interactions with the Tour de France. This entire scheme started when the 2021 route was announced and I noticed that Stage 13 went right by the front gate of a vacation property where my sister and her husband own an apartment. They booked up the first three weeks of July, and we all made plans to be there for sure on July 8 and 9.

I have to tell you, it’s an amazing show. On the 8th we rode along 5 or 6 miles of the stage route running from Neffies, through Pouzolles and toward Magalas. That, in itself with all the directional signage up and official Tour vans out doing advance work, was pretty cool. There was a stretch through Neffies where they would come downhill on a skinny street (ok, they’re almost all skinny), make a hard left onto another skinny street, have it straighten out only to have a permanent chicane thing in the road about 200 meters into the straight before heading out on a beautiful section of road that runs between rows of trees. We scoped out a spot at the crest of a modest climb (3 to 5% over maybe 1500 meters) to watch from the next day. By early afternoon people following the tour in campers were already staking out territory, so I took our rental car up there loaded with blankets, chairs, and other bulky stuff and parked in our spot next to a nice, older couple from the Netherlands. The next day about noon we loaded stuff into backpacks, got on our bikes, and rode the mile up to our spot.

The events really start two to two and a half hours prior to the actual racers arriving. We really were out in the sticks of the Languedoc, but people were gradually coming to line the road all day. About two hours before the racers the Caravan arrives. It’s lots of sponsors’ floats, vans, officials’ cars, team support vans, etc. Loud music is playing and announcers were pumping up the crowd along the way. Then there’s about an hour break. Given that we’d had a lunch featuring nice cheese and a rose from Domain La Sarabande (a small, local winery owned by a truly nice couple that my sister and BIL have befriended over the years of going there), it was a good time for a short nap.

The energy level picks up about 15 to 20 minutes before the riders arrive. Now there are more law enforcement and support vehicles on the road. Then you see the TV coverage helicopters appear over the horizon. We could see a piece of the route about 2 miles out, so we could see when the breakaway of 3 riders was first in view. Three minutes back was the peloton. Watching these athletes come up that climb to where we were was stunning. They made cranking up that climb at what I estimated was about 25 mph look easy. They’re not even breathing hard. (For comparison, when I rode it the day before, and I wasn’t pushing hard by any means, I was probably 12 to 13 mph and my heart rate per my Fitbit got up to around 140.). You are amazingly close to the road (side note: nobody was dumb enough to to have a cardboard sign to hold out any more) as they go by. Three feet maybe. There are TV coverage motorcycles, TdF vehicles, team cars, and at this point about 160 riders packed on these little country roads. The photo I’ve posted includes who I think is Julien Alaphilippe, the current world champion, in the white jersey with a stripe toward the right side. The peloton passed by us over about a 14 second span. All the remaining support vehicles go by, the road reopens in the direction away from the race, and it’s over. A fast, colorful, stunning display.

Without a lot more detail, we had some other interactions that were TdF related throughout our two weeks. Stage 20 ends in Saint-Emilion, and we visited there. Some of you may have heard what former Tour of Utah rider Lachlan Morton just completed riding the entire TdF route plus all the transfers unsupported and camping every night. My BIL met up with him when he rode by on the 7th and rode along with him and talked about what he was doing for 15 to 20 miles. He seems to like to have the company. We also just happened to be staying at the Marriott Courtyard near the Toulouse airport on our way back, and three teams were staying there the second night we were there. That included UAE and GC leader Tadej Pogacar, although we had to turn in real early due to a 4am wake up call to come home and they didn’t arrive until after we went to bed. Oh, well.

This turned out to be an amazing experience. It’s the biggest event in bike racing, and it’s a real spectacle. I hope to be able to do it again sometime.

That sounds incredible. I’ve always wanted to go watch a stage or two from the side of the road.

This is what Lachlan Morton was up to:

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He had to do some pretty creative stuff out there. When my BIL was talking to him Lachlan said he ran out of patches & spare tubes one day and had to tie a knot in his last tube to get it to hold enough air to limp to the next town. He’d get rained on at night, pack his wet gear, and get going again. His bike & gear weighed between 45 and 50 lb. The riders in the race are riding ones close to the 15 lb minimum.

I’ve seen comments from the ignorant poo-pooing this accomplishment with stuff like, “Yeah, but he didn’t have to follow race rules,” and other stuff. In my mind that’s irrelevant. This was a great accomplishment that raised a lot of money for charity.


That looks incredible. And I couldn’t care less about cycling!

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Love it!!! It’s always been a blast to be part of the race, whether as a racer, support, or official. It’s a spectacle at any race, even your local Tues nite worlds, but the Grand Tours are in a place all their own for spectacles.

Mrs CCU and I talk about getting to Europe, similar to you. I would rather see the Spring Classics, preferably with crappy weather, but I would not turn down a chance to see any of the GTs.

I was following Lachlan Morton. He’s got an interesting love/hate relationship with the World Tour. He’s found a good team the EF-Nippo that supports him in his endeavours.

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I think what Lachlan did was at least as enormous a feat as racing the Tour. Did you happen to see any of the distances he was doing? Much further than any of the stages most days. He did similar type rides in the Australian Outback, does the epic gravel races here in the States. He does it, very much like he did his Tour de France.

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In 2006, my wife and I, and our 12 year old son, spent our entire vacation in France, including two days in the Alps watching stages 15 and 16 of the Tour de France, from Alpe d’Huez, and the Col de la Croix de Fer, respectively. I was able to ride several of the climbs on these stages while we were there as well.

We stayed in a small chalet in the high mountain ski village of Saint-Sorlin-d’Arves, right on the climb of the Col de la Croix de Fer, and the scenery and weather were spectacular.

I know cycling is not nearly as popular in the US as it is in Europe, but we had as much fun during this part of the trip as we have ever had on any vacation. We’ll do it again one day, and CCU, I’m with you, I’d love to see any of Spring Classics as well.


Lachlan is amazing. Last year he wanted to set a record for an “Everest,” that is doing climbs the equivavalent to the height of Everest in a day at least. The route he chose is a bear of a climb west of Fort Collins. He did it once, or thought so, but another look at the data had him a little short. So he did it again a few days later. He’s a true stud on a bike.

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Yeah he is, he’s kinda like Phil Gaimon in wanting to be clean while doing amazing feats.

We’ve usually tried to take in part of the Tour of Utah (didn’t take place in 2020 and 2021 and will hopefully return in 2022).

Generally like a spot near Guardsman Pass where they are riding up a steep hill enroute to Park City.
Similar to France, we get the lead cars with race officials and sponsors, then come the TV choppers, then leading racers (amazing how fast they are on those slopes), a large peloton (generally they are pretty spread out on that particular hilly route) and stragglers. Not the quite the spectacle in France, but still a lot of fun and hopefully we’ll see the event again next year.


I’ve got a buddy who lives on 11th Ave just west of the cemetery. Great place to watch the SLC circuits. His wife also had us up to a party at her work on Main St Park City a few years back. That was the year Sepp Kuss from Durango dominated the ToU. I think Kuss could be a TdF HC contender in the future. As he is now he’s done amazing work for Jumbo Visma leading out for their GC guys.


It will be interesting to see how Kuss’s career plays out. I don’t think he will ever be a serious GC contender given his so so (but improving) time trialing. He also seems to struggle in cold weather (last year he benefited from the later start of the tour in the year and the subsequent warmer weather). The few recent times he was given the chance to be a GC guy for Jumbo, like volta Catalunya and criterium du dauphine, he has had at best middling results. He is still young in his career (although pogacar, the soon to be two time winner is four years his younger…side note, I have no proof, but cycling has a history of doping, and the things pogacar is doing on a bike are just silly) , so that can all change, and hopefully he can be more consistent. Ideally, I think he is more suited for stage hunting for wins on mountain stages, or KOM jerseys, but his opportunities will be limited give teams will want him to be a super domestique in the grand tours.

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All good points. Bob Roll put it well today when he said something to the effect that Kuss isn’t the fastest unless he’s going straight up a mountain.

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