Caen Stories and Tips

Le Tour De France

The Caravan of Le Tour Photo, Caen, France

I was brought up in a household that loved cycling and every year we avidly watched the Tour de France on the television (once it started to be shown on Channel 4). I spent my 20s lusting after Miguel Indurain who had the best legs I had ever seen. I could not believe my luck when a few years ago I found that we were visiting France at the same time as the tour was on and it would be in an area not far from where we were staying.

Le Tour runs for three weeks and is possibly the most gruelling race in the world and the cyclists are amazing. We checked where the tour would be and made a point of planning it into our holiday. If ever you are around where the tour will be, even if you are not a cycling fan, then it is still worth seeing as it is an amazing spectacle but you will have to plan ahead.

Using a local road map have a good look for an accessible place to view. If you can view on the upward part of a hill then you get to see the cyclists for longer. If you stand near a corner it can be exciting but there is a danger of crashes so ensure you don’t stand in the firing line as you can get injured. Long straight roads give you a great feeling of speed so really the choice is yours.

Once you have chosen your spot plan to arrive very early. The roads in the area can be closed four hours before the Tour is due to arrive so you will have to make sure that your route will not cross the Tour routes or you may not be able to go the way you have planned.

Take plenty of food and drink with you and folding chairs are also a good idea. You will be able to "stake out" your plot and people seem less inclined to encroach on your space if you have seats and they don’t tend to stand in front of you either. It is worth taking a book or magazine to pass the time and children will need something to keep them occupied.

You will soon find that you are surrounded by cycling fans and it is great to chat and meet people from literally all over the globe. We ended up chatting to a French journalist and had our photograph in the online account of the day.

About an hour before the race is due to arrive you will see Le Caravan. This is the parade of all the sponsors vehicles of the Tour. There are giant Lions and Cows, people throwing sweets and momentos of the day and all sorts of sponsors items. The atmosphere is brilliant and there is lots of cheering and music. The caravan can take 20 minutes or so to go past and then there is a real buzz of excitement as everyone waits for the race. A radio announcement is broadcast by one of the leading cars to let everyone know what is happening.

Before you know it the race is approaching. We watched it on a sunny day and the bright colours of the team shirts seemed to glow as they whizzed past us. The noise of over one hundred bikes en masse was staggering and the cheering from the crowd was deafening. As soon as the race has passed there is a collective sigh as everyone felt like they had been holding their breath!

We have now been lucky enough to see le Tour twice in England as well and my ambition is to get to a mountain stage but for those you really need to be prepared to camp out on your spot for several days.

If you ever get the chance to see the tour then, with the cry of the seasoned cycling fan, Allez,Allez Allez!

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