July in France ? Well, here are a few of our favourite summer traditions.
People say that Wimbledon Tennis Open is the most prestigious tennis competition in the world. Well, le Tour de France is considered the most prestigious cycling competition in the world.
That 102 year-old race is now more than just a cycling competion, and an advertising circus, it is also a symbol of French culture.
Throughout its numerous decades of history, ‘Le Tour’ has visited hundreds of villages , cities, towns, even neighbour countries. Le Tour has visited Spain, Switzerland, Germany, it even started in the UK last year. This year, it starts in the Netherlands.
It is really a fun moment. If you never lived the experience , you should give it a try.
Arrive early so you can choose your spot. Do not forget your sunblock cream as the wait can be a bit sunny… Especially if you want to see the departure or the arrival.
Apart from the departure and arrival towns, the race path is not so crowded, you can easily find a place somewhere to watch the race. But, remember that the guys cycle faster than ever nowadays, so it can last only 1mn .
Thus, many people go to the mountains to admire the guys cycling on the slopes of our mountains. The most famous segment is always the stage ending with the mythic climb to the Alpe d Huez village.
The Alpe d’Huez’s hairspins road is worldwide famous, they are considered the ultimate challenge. Real cycling champions have to show their guts on these murderous hairspins, to earn their crowns.
Most of the year, the road is a peaceful narrow mountain road, but a few days before the Tour de France, it becomes as crowdy as Paris. Cycling fans from all around Europe rush to the place and camp there in camping vans. Some fans paint the roads with messages, so their idol can read them while sweating blood on their bikes.
The cycling heroes seem to swim across a human tide. The red dotted shirts worn by some fans are to pay a tribute to the Best Climber Jersey.
There are several rankings on the Tour, the General Ranking leader wears a yellow jersey, the Best Climber wears a red dotted jersey, the Best Sprinter wears a green jersey, etc. The last cyclist of the General Ranking is nicknamed the Red Lantern. Nothing sexual though. The brave fellow is often as acclaimed as the winners. Last year the Red Lantern was the only Chinese of the competition, Ji Cheng.
Before the racers themselves, the Caravan will pass by. It is the parade of the sponsors vans and trucks. The passers by are thrown goodies and can buy magazines or bags at cheap prices.
The Caravan Parade last about 90mn. You should arrive 2hrs before the race istself if you want to see it all. 47% of the people come to see the Parade and pick up the goodies.
The sponsors hold a Village of Sponsors at each stopover, for businesspeople to meet. Le Tour is not only a sports event, it is also a huge public relations event. You may be able to see some parts of the Village, such as the TV and radio booths.
Le Tour is a festive advertising circus. Not only a sports event. Le Tour is big business and very festive a moment. That is why doping scandals have not deterred people from acclaiming the cycling racers.
This year, as a charity raising operation against cancer, former winner Lance Armstrong has decided to do le Tour on his side, one day before the official race. Quite weird. Lance has been stripped from all his titles, but he continues to like le Tour…
Apart from the usual stopovers such as Alpe d’Huez or Mont Ventoux ( not far from the lavender fields) , the big event on le Tour is the arrival on the Champs Elysees.
Usually there is no suspense any.more about the Tour winner as the strategic stages are over, but there are always good sprint moments on les Champs.
What is so fun about le Tour ? Well, it is a big moment of popular joy , people of all social origins stand on the side of roads to acclaim the racers.
People love the racers as they are actually very humble and courageous fellows . People think cycling is the hardest sport ever. Cycling 300km every day during 3 weeks, not everyone can do that.
You can quite easily approach the friendly racers during a stopover, if you want an autograph or a picture. Many fans wait for them outside their hotels. It is quite easy to spot them in a village, since their team buses park near their hotels.