Tour de France

For cycling fans July means only one thing each year, the Tour de France.  This year the Tour runs from 3rd July to 25th July and takes the riders from the prologue in Rotterdam through 20 stages to the finish in Paris.


My friend from Boston was due to be in France this summer for a family holiday and she contacted me to find out if there was any chance I would want to meet up with her to do some traveling.  Knowing that she is a huge cycling fan, I wondered whether she was thinking of trying to catch a stage of the Tour.  She jumped at the idea and we planned a long weekend in the Alps to see stage 8 Station des Rousses > Morzine-Avoriaz.

I left London Friday after work and flew from Heathrow to Geneva (1 hour flight) to make it to Switzerland by 10 pm (amazing).  We planned to head up into the mountains on Saturday morning via a shuttle ride to the Morzine-Avoriaz ski areas in France and hoped to camp along the route.  The ride from Geneva to the Alps was beautiful and we saw amazing chalets, cyclists and Tour paraphenalia all along the route.  I particularly enjoyed these cyclists with their baguettes on their backs.


We got dropped off at the very top of the mountain in Avoriaz and site of the finish line for stage 8.  As we drove up the mountain where the cyclists would be riding on Sunday, some big black clouds rolled in.  We passed caravans and tents all along the road and rain started pouring down.  Fortunately, we took shelter in the visitor centre (decorated like the maillot à pois rouges the polka dot jersey for the King of the Mountains) and figured out our plan.


When there was a break in the clouds we popped across the street for some wine and olives to watch the end of stage 7, Tournus -> Station des Rousses.  Once the rain stopped we walked back down the cycle route, past the finish line and staked out a spot to pitch our tent for the weekend.  We had a lovely picnic dinner (the first of many) of cheese, bread and wine.  We were about 2 km from the finish line.

Needless to say, camping on the side of one of largest cycling events in the world is quite an experience.  All night long there were vehicles traveling up to the finish honking horns and people up to all hours celebrating.  We woke up on Sunday eagerly awaiting the arrival of the cyclists.  We walked back up to town to get some more food for the day and had a breakfast of crepes!  Miraculously, overnight the barriers, advertisements, finish line and road markers had been set-up.  That explained all the noise on the road keeping us awake.  It was amazing to see how much goes into the logistics of the Tour and how many vehicles are necessary – lots and lots of petrol being used for a cycle race.


Sunday was very very hot and sunny so we found a shady spot for another picnic and waited for the riders.  They were expected at the finish about 5:30 pm.  We met other cycling fans from all over the world while we waited – England, France, America, New Zealand, Holland, Germany and many more.  We also were visited by French cows with very melodious bells around their necks.
picnic1.jpg  cows.jpg
About an hour ahead of the cyclists, the caravan comes through.  The caravan is essentially a parade of many of the advertisers involved with the tour coming through and tossing out a bunch of free stuff to the fans on the side of the rode.  It was a very bizarre experience but I ended up with a polka dot hat so was happy.

caravan.JPG caravan2.jpg

Finally, the riders started to make there way past us on the mountain.  Although they were tackling a significant climb and were only kilometers away from the finish, I was still amazed by how quickly they went past.  Just as I was figuring out who was going by they were gone.  The first group came through including eventual stage winner Andy Schleck.  As we watched more and more cyclists go by the big news was where was Lance Armstrong?  And we still hadn’t seen the yellow jersey wearer or the polka dot jersey wearer.  It turned out Lance had had a very rough day including 2 falls.
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I was surprised to see how spread out the groups were and who was in each group.  After the main groups went by we walked back up to the finish area to get some dinner and see if we could see any of the cyclist up close.  Amazingly, many of them started cycling back down the hill to Morzine before all the others had even finished the climb.  We made it up to the finish area and they were pretty much already starting to take it down in preparation for moving on to the next stage.  As we made our way around the back of all the set-up we literaly ran into Phil Ligget and Bob Roll.  They are television announcers for cycling and the Tour and my friend was literally star struck to have the chance to meet them.  She has some photos of us with them so maybe I will add those later.  As we made our way around all the semis and cables we saw a small group gathering and were told some of the winners were just finishing up interviews.  We saw Cadel Evans ride off in the yellow jersey and Andy Schleck meeting with the media.  Little did we know that Evans had suffered an elbow injury meaning trouble in the next stage.

After such a long day you would think we would be heading straight off to bed but now.  But no, 11 July was the World Cup Final so after a picnic dinner of takeaway pizza we headed back down the mountain as the sun set.  Near our campsite a small chalet had set-up televisions in a tent on the side of the road and we were able to watch Espana finally become campeaones – World Cup Champions!  It was great to be apart of an international crowd watching the match even if it was a rough and tumble final.

sunset.jpg  worldcup.JPG

Monday was a rest day for the Tour so we had a leisurely morning packing up the campsite.  We headed back down the mountain via ski lift and cable car into the town of Morzine.  Apparently Annecy, France including Morzine/Avorinaz area are bidding for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

chairlift.jpg  morzine.jpg

I spent the day wandering around town watching all the cyclists and cycling fans.  It was super hot and my pack full of tent and sleeping bags was weighing me down but I saw some Quick Step cyclists and a former top tier cyclist.  The Tour would be leaving from Morzine on Tuesday but unfortunately, I had to head back to Geneva on Monday night to get back to London and work for Tuesday.  All in all, it was an amazing weekend in a beautiful setting that I will never forget.  I have always enjoyed the Tour de France but I think I may be a convert to a true fan now.  I will be watching over the next few weeks to see how these amazing athletes finish out the route.

Addendum:  Julia shared our photos with Phil Ligget and Bob Roll so here they are.

philandc.jpg bobandj.jpg

3 Responses to “Tour de France”

  1. Kate Says:

    I cannot believe you met PHIL LIGGET (and Bobke)–legendary!!

  2. Carolyn Says:

    Amazing huh? I didn’t know much about them before the weekend but now I do and have been watching the highlights with Phil every night since i have been back.

  3. Mehreen Says:

    Who knew you had cycling friends? GREAT summary. What a great weekend (camping included). Your Britishness is coming out in your writing. You are writing your dates the weird way (number first). And least you forget, you are a Jersey Girl. Its gas, not petrol. Can’t wait for the summary of the music festival.