"Thanks so much for our exhilarating few days with you at the Tour de France. We had never imagined that we would get so close to the riders or such great views of the climbs. The idea of going to a stage start too, really made the trip. Being able to chat to some of the pros - especially with an Aussie having won the previous day's stage - was a real bonus."
(Mr & Mrs T.H - Tour de France 2015)
For any follower of cycle sport, an opportunity to witness the drama and pageantry of the Tour de France at close quarters will probably be on the 'bucket list' of cycling experiences.
Whilst the finalé on the Champs Elysées or a wind-blown stage in the flatlands can each provide a worthwhile spectating experience, for us the best way to see the racing at its very best is to head to the mountains.
Ride a key climb for yourself, choose a vantage point with an extended view of the road, set up camp and wait for the fireworks. You'll enjoy the roadside party atmosphere generated by thousands of other enthusiasts, all the colour and energy of the promotional caravan, then the brooding sense of anticipation as the first TV helicopters come into view (often below you). Soon, there's your first glimpse (maybe 2-3km away) of the breakaway as they hove into view on a lower slope. How far adrift are the GC contenders and their super-domestiques? Is race radio reporting that any of the significant players have already been dropped? Then the lead police motorcycles and commissaire vehicles pass by and finally the race is right there in front of you - within touching distance.
The crowds roar on the breakaways and their GC favourites, then turn their attention to a more 'consoling' level of support for the burnt-out domestiques sacrificed on the lower slopes and for the sprinters' 'gruppetto'. Perhaps 20-30 minutes after the first rider came into view the voiture balai (broom wagon) rolls by and the crowds collectively exhale. Who grabbed the best photographs? Did you get to see the whites of Froome/Quintana/Nibali/Porte/Contador's (delete as applicable) eyes? Who looked the strongest?
And the experience doesn't end there. For the cyclists there remains the exhilarating thrill of descending back down to the valley floor in what is always a surprisingly orderly 'peloton' of thousands of other riders.
For 2017 we will be concentrating our tour on the stages in the Dordogne and the Pyrenees to give guests a compelling mix of decisive racing, stunning scenery and authentic French cuisine. There will be guided rides to some of the best vantage points on Stages 10, 11, 12 & 13, with highlights coming on the Col de Peyresourde (Stage 12) and the frighteningly steep Bastille Day climb of the Mur de Peguère on Stage 13. Outside of race days, there will be opportunities to tackle any of dozens of other famous Tour climbs or to relax and take in the local tourist sites.
Accommodation will be in cyclist-friendly 3-star and 2-star hotels providing comfortable rooms, good food and easy access to the race route.