Where to Watch the Tour de France
I plotted, schemed and agonized over how and where to watch the Tour de France. With options ranging from organized tours to renting a caravan and parking on the roadside, selecting the perfect experience for the family was serious business. Unable to choose between city and country, I chose the obvious solution: a bit of both.
The Mountains are Calling
The 21-day bike race covers varied geography throughout France, ranging from flat terrain to challenging mountains, including a few mountain-top finishes. On flat sections of the race, the cyclists fly by at incredible speeds and are often bunched together in a large pack. Hoping to see more than a whizzing blur, I searched for a mountain stage where the cyclists would be traveling at a slower speed.
The Tour de France program listed Mont Ventoux as a mountain-top finish. At 1912 m, Mont Ventoux, also known as the Giant of Provence, towers over the region. The climb is an unrelenting 21 km long at an average gradient of 7.5%. Wouldn’t a grueling climb at the end of a long day be a perfect place to see individual cyclists for more than a split second? Already familiar with Hotel Crillon-le-Brave, a luxury hotel in a village near the base of the Mont Ventoux, we knew where to stay and where to watch the Tour de France.
We planned to arrive a few days in advance to soak up the festive atmosphere accompanying the Tour de France and to do some cycling of our own.
Our Crillon-le-Brave location, near the base of the climb, provided an undeniable opportunity to ride the route of legends before the arrival of the Tour. The ride up Mont Ventoux offered me a brief glimpse into the world of a pro cyclist, albeit at a much slower speed. Cyclists dotted the switchbacks, caravans hung off the mountainside and exuberant spectators lined the road. After conquering the Giant, I felt like a legend – at least in my own mind.
On race day, we watched the race from a catered location near the base of the epic climb, courtesy of Crillon-le-Brave. While we weren’t as far up the mountain as I had hoped, the champagne, big-screen TV, and bathroom more than compensated.
Where to Watch the Tour de France Grand Finale
Next stop – Paris. When the Tour de France comes to town, the city of light more than shines – it sparkles. The Champs-Élysées transforms from a world-class shopping destination into a spectacular racecourse for pro cyclists. It ‘s hard to image a finer stage for the conclusion of the Tour de France.
The race includes multiple loops along the Champs-Élysées, offering spectators numerous opportunities to watch the cyclists blast over the cobbled-course at break-neck speed. According to Audrey Hepburn, “Paris is always a good idea” and based on my experience, it gets even better when the Tour is in town.
In 2017, the Tour de France departs on July 1st and concludes in Paris on July 23rd. This year the Tour de France visits the following five main mountain ranges – the Vosges, the Jura, the Pyrenees, the Massif Central and the Alps. A 2017 highlight will be the very first stage finish at the top of the Col d’Izoard.
Where to Watch the Tour de France – Travel Tips
- It ‘s difficult to get in and out of many of the villages at the end of a stage, so plan to arrive early and stay a bit longer to avoid excruciating traffic jams.
- Village hotels book up well in advance so plan ahead. The best option is to stay in a village where the cyclists and officials are not spending the night. You should be able to figure this out by looking at the route map, available approximately nine months before the Tour begins. If the race finishes in one location but starts in another, the teams and officials tend to stay near the beginning of the next stage.
- We arrived at the Champs-Élysées shortly before the cyclists, and it wasn’t too difficult to find a decent spot to view the race. Catered VIP seating at the Paris finish is available for purchase through the official Tour de France tour groups.
- We always stay at the Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris, but there are lots of options throughout the city. Paris is busy during the summer so book your accommodation early.