|Subject: Re: Tour de France/Santiago de Campostela|
Hi Lucy and all other fellow Ziners:
My husband and I went and followed the Tour de France in 1996. Our first stage to watch was in pouring rain the day Lance dropped out with what we would learn later was cancer.
We went with a tour group which was then called Two Wheel Tours. They have since changed their name to, I believe, Velo Tours. They are out of Indiana, and the owners of Chris and Kathy Gutowski (sp?).
It is not cheap to go this way (much more now than it was then), and they fill up long in advance, especially for the mountain stages, but if you are a cyclist it is a fantastic way to go.
The size is limited to 20 people - riders and non-riders. The riders get to ride the actual tour stage the day of the tour. The have a beautiful air-conditioned smaller bus that they take you to a key part of the ride and you get off and go for it. The non-riders remain on the bus where they are taken to a good vantage point and a picnic is served or if in a town shopping or sightseeing is available.
There are other groups which also do the riding, but we saw one that had 85 people per bus and they had numerous buses. We were a small group and therefore stayed at wonderful accomodations. In fact, one night we were at the same chateau as one of the teams. Had breakfast and dinner with them. Watched the mechanics work on their bikes. Lots of pictures.
On the other hand, my friend just returned a couple days ago from following it himself and said he did fine. The key is you have to get there hours ahead of time and be happy with whatever space you can find. Also, he was camping, so his lodging was not an issue.
The Tour consists of literally hundreds (if not thousands) of support vehicles. There are all the team cars and official cars, but there are also LOTS of sponsor cars. The entourage that comes through literally takes an hour or two, so you need to be in spot long before the riders actually get there.
We loved being there for the Tour and would most definitely recommend it as well as do it again. We would probably try it on our own, but that may be because we have some idea of what to expect thanks to the tour we went on.
Tiffany Danville, CA