At the races
Now that you’ve made it to France, you’ll need to plan how and where you’re going to view the action – plus where you’re going to stay. Follow our guide to get the best out of your experience at the 2014 Tour de France.
Watching the race
Here are our top tips for getting the best view of the main event.
Research: With more than 12million spectators lining the route of the tour, you’ll need to plan where you’ll be watching from. The best advice is to use your hire car and avoid watching the race from town centres. You’ll get a much better view and space to have a picnic if you head into the countryside.
Get there early: Statistics show that most people spend around six hours at the side of the course, so plan to arrive at your chosen location at least four hours before the riders are expected to pass. You’ll need to make it even earlier on mountain stages, because road closures are instigated many hours before the pack arrives.
Publicity caravan: Arriving early will also mean you get to enjoy the legendary Publicity caravan that precedes the riders by around 45 minutes. This is an hour-long precession of floats and individuals throwing sweets, cheese, keychains, hats, and other random tat into the crowd. It’s even got its own Facebook page – check out the photos here https://www.facebook.com/lacaravanedutour
Mountains: Unlike lowland stages where riders will speed past you in seconds, mountain climbs provide a much better opportunity to view the riders and immerse yourself in the Tour ambience. However, some of the passes used for these stages will close the day before the race, or arbitrarily when there are no parking spaces left at the side of the road. A great solution is to camp near the base of the climb, then get up early and hike up the mountain to find a viewing point. Remember many of the stages can go above the tree-line so there’ll be no shade or respite from the hot mountain sun – take plenty of water and suncream.
Ride up: It’s traditional for members of the public to ride up the Tour’s mountain climbs on the race-day morning, making a great way to secure the best vantage point while also experiencing what the riders go through. Once again, remember to take fluids and sunblock.
Get ready for the riders: Make sure you’re ready for the arrival of the peleton by looking out for helicopters. These follow and film the entire race, so make an effective early warning system to alert you to the approaching riders. You should also download a smartphone app to keep you up to date with all the latest live news from the day’s stage. You can download the official Tour app for your phone here www.letour.com. Be aware of data charges, though.
Paris: The best place to watch the final stage of the Tour is not in Paris, but on television. For starters, the final part of the race is no more than an exhibition – where riders do not attempt to race – and you’ll have to pay pots of cash to secure seats in prime locations. We’d certainly advise you stick to rural areas.
Where to stay
Most hotels will be full up or have hugely inflated rates to coincide with the ride, so check out these offers from Airbnb.co.uk, which introduces visitors to home owners who’ll rent anything from a room to an entire apartment or house – at great prices. Here are links to accommodation close to all the various stages. All hosts are vetted by the sites. Please note, links will expire after the date of the stage passes.
4 Tuesday, July 8th: Le Touquet-Paris-Plage > Lille Métropole
5 Wednesday, July 9th: Ypres > Arenberg Porte du Hainaut
6 Thursday, July 10th: Arras > Reims
7 Friday, July 11th: Épernay > Nancy
8 Saturday, July 12th: Tomblaine > Gérardmer La Mauselaine
9 Sunday, July 13th: Gérardmer > Mulhouse:
10 Monday, July 14th: Mulhouse > La Planche des Belles Filles
Rest day Tuesday, July 15th: Besançon – rest day
11 Wednesday, July 16th: Besançon > Oyonnax
12 Thursday, July 17th: Bourg-en-Bresse > Saint-Étienne
13 Friday, July 18th: Saint-Étienne > Chamrousse
14 Friday, July 19th: Grenoble > Risoul
15 Friday, July 20th: Tallard > Nîmes
Rest day Friday, July 21st: Carcassonne – rest day
16 Friday, July 22nd: Carcassonne > Bagnères-de-Luchon
17 Friday, July 23rd: Saint-Gaudens > Saint-Lary Pla d’Adet
18 Friday, July 24th: Pau > Hautacam
19 Friday, July 25th: Maubourguet Pays du Val d’Adour > Bergerac
20 Friday, July 26th: Bergerac > Périgueux
21 Friday, July 27th: Évry > Paris Champs-Élysées