Le Tour de France in living color

by Jeana Coleman
Stripes Europe

This year marks the 104th anniversary of the world’s most talked about endurance bicycle race, Tour de France, running July 1 to 23, 2017. During this milestone event, approximately 200 cyclists will push themselves to the edge of exhaustion as they work to win each of the 21 stages of the 3-week race. The grueling stages are comprised of 2,088 miles (3,360 kilometers) atop mountains, on flats, hills, along cliffs and around hairpin curves through the most stunningly beautiful landscapes France has to offer. 

Viewers on five continents and in 190 countries can view the race via television. However, those stationed in Europe near the French border have the opportunity to witness the race live from several locations. Here’s how to make the most of this last-minute, exciting excursion.


There are several locations where you can find accommodations and sideline spots to plan to see the peloton (group of racers) whiz by. First, study the race map at www.letour.com for exact race routes. If you plan on an overnight stay, consider an alternative to hotels, such as B&Bs, small guesthouses or even camp sites that are 30 minutes or an hour away from the race route. Arrive early. Many of the race route roads close several hours before the peloton, so you will want to bring along camping chairs, a cooler of drinks and food. In some locations the fans make a tailgate-like atmosphere out of the wait.

You won’t want to miss the fun publicity caravan that passes by two hours or so ahead of the cyclists. This parade of 250 decorated sponsor cars and wagons entertains while riders toss several thousand pieces of goodies to the crowd. However, it’s very dangerous to go for prizes that land in the street. People have been hit by cars in the caravan.

The peloton passes faster than you think. So, have your camera set on “sport” mode and be on the watch for the specially colored jerseys, such as the yellow (leader), the white with red polka dot (best climber) and red
(most aggressive).


Montpellier - the French Alps: Indeed the most difficult and breathtakingly beautiful stages are those along the awe-inspiring summits of the French Alps. Considered to be quite the “climactic finale,” riders climb three consecutive mountain stages, including the Alpe-d’Huez. This venue is a fan favorite with its hairpin curves and vantage points. 

The Finish - Versailles to Paris: In the final stage of the race, cyclists start at the Palace of Versailles where they will race the last 24 km to Paris’ world-famous L’Avenue des Champs-Élysées, home of the race’s finish line since 1975. Here, fans have the chance to see quite a bit of the race as competitors must pass by this route eight times before they race to the finish. Then, celebrate with the thousands of other fans along the avenue.

So, get the map, figure out where you want to see the race, and start planning. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the race  – and one more item to check off your bucket list. For more information about the race, its updated leaderboard and history, visit www.letour.com.

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