Tour de France: Key facts to know before you travel
We’ve taken a sample stage and costed an itinerary that should ... leave you breathless
Simon Yates descending the Col du Galibier during the 2017 Tour de France. File photograph: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images
The Tour de France holds many fond memories from an Irish perspective, not least Stephen Roche’s overall victory in 1987 and Sean Kelly winning the Green jersey given to the leader of the Points’ Classification four times alongside five stage wins.
The last Irish man to win a stage was Dan Martin in 2018 at Mur de Bretagne, the second time he managed that feat, joining a select list of Roche, Kelly, Shay Elliott (1963) and Martin Earley (1989). The 2019 Tour de France begins this Saturday and concludes on Sunday, July 28th, starting in Brussels and taking in 21 stages.
By way of illustration in terms of attending the tour, we’ve plumped for one of the Alpine mountain stages, specifically, stage 18 from Embrun to Valloire (207km) on July 25th. It is a gruelling stage that takes in the Col de Vars, Col d’Izoard and Col du Galibier before a finish in the town of Valloire.
Flights: The most direct way to get there from Dublin is to fly with Aer Lingus to Marseille, a schedule that runs five days a week. A return flight going out Wednesday and coming back on Sunday costs €278.
Buses, trains and automobiles: In following a stage of the Tour de France having a car is the most straightforward method. Car hire at Marseille airport is plentiful and the cheapest option after a quick scan, based on a four-day hire and opting for a small car, was €152. The distance from Marseille to Embrun is 231km and should take about 2½ hours.
For those who prefer public transport it is possible to catch a train (€30-€50) which takes just shy of four hours, while a bus is not that much cheaper (€36-€48) and takes five hours and 20 minutes.
Accommodation: A single room at the Hotel de la Marie costs €84 per night while at the other end of the stage the Condo Hotel in Valloire will set you back €76 per night; both offering breakfast to go with the bed.
Stage 18, Embrun to Valloire: Cycling weekly magazine notes that stage 18 “will see the first decisive Alpine stage, with a savage looking 207km that finishes in the town of Valloire, which sits between the top of the Col du Télégraph and the foot of the Col du Galibier.
“To get there, riders will have to climb from Embrun to the top of the Col de Vars (2,109m) and the Col d’Izoard (2,360m) before dropping down to the town of Briançon. They will then climb to the summit of the Galibier (2,642m) via the passage of the Col du Lautaret, before a final descent to the finish in Valloire.”
Things to note: Check prior to arriving or with the local tourist office as soon as you arrive to see which roads are going to be closed and when. You also need to find out what time the stage will be coming through at the place in which you hope to see it.
It’s advisable to bring as much water as possible as it will generally be hot and sunny, particularly the further south you go. It is be wise to take a small packed lunch with you as the French are very strict on when they serve food, generally 12-2pm and it may be difficult to find anything outside those hours, particularly if you are in a rural village.
Curb your enthusiasm: Cyclists in the upper echelons of their endurance sometimes don’t take kindly to those who run alongside for a few metres or when they risk being entangled by flags waved in their faces.