Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Camping the tour de France

Many people choose to spend their summer vacation in France, following the Tour de France as it moves around the beautiful landscape. People tend to choose the camping life, and I don't blame them. In my opinion, there are four ways of really enjoying the tour, for us "regular" folks. a) in a departure city b) in an arrival city c) camping in a mountain side or d) in Paris at the last stage.

These are my picks from a fan perspective. Factors I've considered are fans' possibility to interact with riders and teams, fans' possibility to see the riders, the caravan and the show over time.
If you want to make it a memorable moment, choose a mountain instead of in the middle of a flat stage. Seeing riders zip past you in 50 km/h isn't a good return on investment (ROI), in a blink of an eye, the peloton is gone. That said, I hope you don't run along the riders up the Galibier either, risking to cause a disaster.

Camping it is
Many of the climbs have good accommodations located close by, due to being ski-locations in winter time. However, you can count on teams, press and officials occupying most of these, so if you're not extremely fast when placing an order online as the tour "breaks"; bring your tent. When in France remember plenty of water, a hat, sunscreen and some cycling apparel of some sort. And if you don't wear a big smile on your face, you will.
Controlled chaos..

First rule: Remember that the French police normally close the mountains for non-official cars at around 6 PM on the evening before the stage. Many people have found themselves stuck at the bottom of the mountain on the morning of the stage, presented with a choice to walk up towards the top or cheer at the bottom. On flat stages the police normally stop all traffic 40 minutes before the caravan arrives.

People stay in campers, pitch their tents or stay in nearby hotels, and they really create life to the race. If you choose to camp on Alpe d'Huez and live near "the Dutch corner"on bend seven, expect a sleepless night. They party like it's 1999. They are not all Dutch by the way, but mostly.
Be there or be square

The spectators are a crucial part of the tour. They create the happy mood and there's nothing like the peaceful teasing of other nations, right?

Tourmalet 2009 - Velonews

Photo downloaded here.




  1. Hi, do you have more precise information regarding the location of Dutch Corner?

  2. Anonymous; Hi, sorry for the late reply, been away for the weekend. The Dutch corner can be found on several mountains, both Alpes d'Huez and Ventoux have one. The most famous one is on Alpes d'Huez, the mountain has 21 bends/hairpins, each named after a stage winner. It is called the Dutch corner (which actually is an hairpin and a straight stretch of the road) due to the masses of Dutch people gathered there. Dutch riders have been winning quite often there, not so the recent years, but earlier. In addition to this, there is a church on that stretch, where a Dutch priest ruled, if I remember correctly.

    Anyway, the Dutch, and everybody else, play it hard on the night before the tour hit the stage, so if you have come to relax before the stage, sleep somewhere else...