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Going down to watch the Tour

Aug 3, 2009
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Hi.

Next year I'll travel down to the Pyrenees to watch the Tour live. This is the first time I'll see it live, and I'm very excited. I'll think I'll go to Luz-Saint-Sauveur, as it's in the heart of the action and close to some fine mountains. I think spending a week in Luz-Saint-Sauveur, before spending another week in San Sebastian. (clashes with Clasica San Sebastian :eek:)

As I first-time traveller, I could need some help in my planning:

- I want to have a bicycle accessable, so what's the best option: Renting a bike, or bring my own with me on the plane?

- When will the roads close for trafficking before the stages?

- When should I book a hotelroom? Is it likely that the hotels will be full-booked early?

- Is there better options than Luz-Saint-Sauveur?

In advance, thanks for the help. :)
 
May 6, 2009
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Depending on money/budget, why not get on a Tour group? For a novice it is a great way to get to know the roads (no idea if you have ever beendown there before), and what to do in the future, and besides, you can bring your bike along and have some fun in the mountains. Plus it is a great way to meet some people and you will have plenty of stories to tell. For me, experiences > money.

A tour group will cover everything, from a place to sleep, meals, transport, maps, advice etc. There are plenty of options for whatever you want to do. Google is your friend on this. I also don't know if you can speak French or not. BTW where are you from? if you are from Britian for example (it shouldn't be a problem no matter where you are from), you can get on a Graham Baxter tour group and they have loads of different options for you to choose from. You will find something for you.

Or you could go DIY and disregard what I said :p
 
Dec 4, 2009
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I agree that a tour group would be a good first timer option. My first time at the TDF the wife and I did it on our own. We had a blast, but saw some and spoke to some tour groups, and they seemed to be set up way better than we were. I think they saw more. Just an opinion.:D
 
MrContador said:
Hi.

As I first-time traveller, I could need some help in my planning:

- I want to have a bicycle accessable, so what's the best option: Renting a bike, or bring my own with me on the plane?

- When will the roads close for trafficking before the stages?

- When should I book a hotelroom? Is it likely that the hotels will be full-booked early?

- Is there better options than Luz-Saint-Sauveur?

In advance, thanks for the help. :)

I went last year for the first time and stayed in Lourdes. I have already booked my hotels for next year and I strongly suggest you do the same....NOW! Most of Pau is already booked.As soon as the Tour route was announced people (like me) started booking. Lourdes is an under 1 hr ride to Luz-Saint-Sauveur and for me was the perfect starting/finishing point for my days....more restaurants, great market ect. It´s a lendary pigrimage scence so be prepared for massive crowds within the town, but I think it´s worth it.
Luz-Saint-Sauveur is a tiny town at the very base of the Tormalet, so not a bad spot, but I like to have a minimum of 1 hr before takling a major climb.

About renting, you´ll have to research about getting a nice road bike. I don´t know what is available around there. Certainly lots of places rent mtn bikes. The cost of flying your own bike can be a lot depending on the airline, where you´re coming from and even the ticket counter person. I once had to pay $300 so I don´t do it anymore.

If there´s a way to contact me directly I´d be happy to help in any way I can and perhaps we can try and meet up. I´ll be in the area for one week until after the Pau stage. I´m hoping to climb the Tormalet stage and one of the stages before, but I´ll be riding around the whole time.

First thing for you to do is start looking for a hotel. I´d book the first one that has a room (just in case) then try to find one you really like in a location you prefer.

Good luck and hopefully we´ll be able to hook up.
 
This might not be much help but here goes, last year 2008 I went to see the Tour in the Pyrenees. I was on a Tour of Europe in my car and had my bikes with me. I was camping and stayed in a camp-site in Argeles-Gazost about 16km outside of Lourdes at the foot of the Hautacam and Col du Soulor/Aubisque climbs and not far from the Tourmalet.

I got there a few days before the Tour arrived and I cycled up the Soulor/Tourmalet, helped me get to know the area. I tried to cycle up Hautacam the day of the stage but it was Bastille day, I got halfway up the climb but was then stopped by the police, this was about 2-3 hours before the race arrived. It is very busy that time of year as all of France seems to be on holiday so I would advise booking a Hotel now.

I would also bring your own bike, if its a once in a lifetime experience and if you can afford it, totally worth the effort to have your own bike and cycle the big climbs. Might be going myself, not sure yet. Anyways, enjoy.
 
pmcg76 is correct about getting to the stages early. I arrived for last years Tormalet stage 2 hours before the race and they stopped me at Argeles-Gazost which is quite a ways before the mtn. I expect if planning to climb one of these mtn top finishes one would need to hit the bottom some 4-5 hours before the Tour comes through.
 
Would just like to add that it depends on whether the climb is the final climb/finishing climb. The police seem to be more strict if the climb is a stage finish.

I also went around to the Aspin for a stage and it wasnt half as bad as Hautacam as the stage didnt finish at the top, however I agree with previous poster, give yourself plenty of time.

It is so much better to get to or onto the climbs if you have your own bicycle. I met an Aussie guy at the campsite I was staying at, he didnt have a bike so was restricted to seeing the stage that finished at Hautacam as the climb begins at Argeles-Gazost, everything else was too far and bringing the car was not possible or involved getting on the climb the day before. He was trying desperately to find a bike anywhere, I think he was eyeing up my bike. Aussies, eh.

Argeles-Gazost is about 16km/10 miles from the base of the west side of the Tourmalet and as I mentioned before, right at the base of the Soulor/Aubisque and the race goes over all these climbs this year, the Tourmalet both ways I think. Not the most exciting place but great access to many climbs, Hautacam, Luz Ardiden are also nearby so plenty of challenges to choose from.
 
May 6, 2009
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Actually know that I think of it, Bagneres-de-Bigorre would not be a bad place to stay. The Tourmalet is not too far away, and you will get there in less then an hour by bike, you can't miss it really, once you get on the road, it will take you to Sainte-Marie-de-Campan which is the base of the Tourmalet, so the only way to not climb it would be to turn around and not ride up the mountain. There is also a bike store in town and I'm sure rental would not be a problem, but you would have to do some research. Not only is the Tourmalet not too far away, neither is the Col d'Aspin (you can also do the Tourmalet if you want, this is howthe Tour does it). After the Tourmalet is Luz-Ardiden is you make a left hand turn at Luz-Saint-Sauveur. If you keep going straight, then you will have some very beautiful roads to ride and and some stunning scenery. Lourdes and Tarbes are not far away either, and neither is the Hautacam. Pau is a 67km bike ride away (I should know, our group did it in less then two hours) and you won't have to go over any big mountains to get there (you can if you want, but it will take longer and it is harder :p).

Although you would need to check a map, but the Col d'Aubisque and Col de Peyresourde are not far away either and both would be in riding distance. Seriously if I won enough money in lotto, I would move to Bagneres-de-Bigorre. It's great. You have flat roads, mountains, and Spain would not be far away either.
 
Aug 3, 2009
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Thanks for the tips guys, it sure has helped me a lot. :)

I think Bagneres-de-Bigorre or Luz-Saint-Sauveur will be the best place, as it's not far from the Tour-mountains. But how is the two villages compared to each other from a cultural view? And if you arrive at the mountain 2hrs before the pack get's there, what do you do to kill some time up there?

Sorry for the constant wave of questions, but I would like to have everything figured out. :eek:
 
Mar 18, 2009
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Lonely Planet publishes a guide - Cycling France, It includes maps, gps coordinates, where to hire bikes, along with accomodation options and transport options. Basically as it says on the cover 119 days/6000km of rides. It may be worth having a look for it in the local bookshop, and seeing if it will be of use to you.

I have used quite a few of their guides for traveling and found them quite useful. They usually cost around $30 and have in my opinion been a worthwhile investment, just for finding accommodation alone.:)
 
Apr 12, 2009
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About the roads closing for traficking: depends an where and how. A mountain (finish) is closed for cars very early, an ordinary road is op much longer.
When you're on your bike, roads are open until the caravane passes.
 
Mar 11, 2009
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Argeles-Gazost would be my recommendation. However I think you will find that all the hotels are fully book this last 2 months.

Bring your own bike.

Camping may be your only option now.

Get up the Tourmalet as early as possible. It will be closed on Sunday 18th for the Etape and I have heard a rumor that it will no reopen to traffic until Thursday evening, you should be able to cycle up there until 1 hour before the caravan on Tuesday. I know someone in the Gendarme in Argeles-Gazost and he said that depending on numbers up there it may be completely closed and no more people will be allowed up on Thursday. Also it is probable that there will be no access to the summit from La Mongie which is being used for the finish village. 1,000,000+ people are expected.

Some good info about cycling in the area here.

http://www.velopeloton.com/cycling/

http://www.velopeloton.com/blog/
 

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