The Tour de France is a multiple stage bicycle race that was first organized in 1903. Witnessing the Tour de France was an item on my cousin’s bucket list, and we were able to do just that on July 11th. The 2014 Tour de France honored the centennial anniversary of World War I. The race started in Leeds, UK and ended in Paris.
On July 11th, the race route went from Épernay to Nancy during one of the flat stages of the race. We picked the town of Flirey (about 30-45 minute drive from Metz), as the spot to watch the tour come through.
Planning to attend your self? Here are a few tips to make the most of watching the tour in person.
Have a Plan and Be Early
Once you decide which stage you want to watch, scope out the route and decide on the town you want to watch the race come through. All of this information can be found on the Tour de France website to help. You definitely want to show up a few hours before the race is scheduled to come through your spot, as the roads close before and after the rides making it more difficult to travel. Since you are arriving early, be sure to pack snacks and games to keep you entertained as you hang out and wait for the cyclists.
We opted to park along the side of the road into Flirey so we could see the race in action as opposed to the finish line.
Look Out for the Caravan and Helicopters
The caravan usually comes through 30-45 minutes before the riders. All the caravan is a parade of sponsors of the Tour de France in which many throw pelt you with treats from their floats or cars, so be on the lookout for flying objects, or you will get hit in the face (trust me!). The goodies include candies, keychains and other souvenir trinkets from the race. Some are extremely sought after (like the cycle caps) so make sure you keep your eyes open for those.
When you start to see helicopters, keep on an eye on them. They’ll give you a great idea of where the majority of the riders are located as they wind down the road towards you.
Don't Get in the Way
There usually aren’t any barriers to keep you from the riders on the mountain passes or the small roads, but it is really important to stay out of the way of the racers. Your selfie with professional cyclers hurling towards you is not worth the road burn. And make sure you keep your toes off the road as the riders will take up every inch of asphalt. Your job is to watch the race and cheer them on – not for 15 minutes of fame.
If you ever in France during the Tour, I highly recommend trying to witness this annual event in person – it is pretty spectacular.