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Hello...

I know alot of you have done the big pilgramage to the TDF so i was hoping to pick your brains and ask for any advice that you may have. My new wife and i will be attempting to take in stage 11, july 13th, while we are on our honeymoon. the trip is semi planned. we have a few nice nights booked in some posh places.. but we are also leaving many nights open to whatever... backpacking and railing along the southern coast of spain/france/italy

however there are a few key days that i think we should have planned out..
On the 10th.. i will be taking part in the Etape du Tour ... then shipping my bike home. that leaves the 11th and 12th to make our way from the Alps (Grenoble) to the Pyreenees. we are leaning towards renting a car.


i am picturing sleeping over on one of the mountains the night of the 12th. (perhaps the tourmalet)

so to all those savvy travellers out there, any advice on:
-bring my bike to the Etape from paris on the TGV (i have not found any final word re: bikes and the TGV-i have arranged to rent a bike case)
-shipping a bike home
-renting a car
-getting near the top of a tour mountain..
-surviving for a night near the top of a tour mountain
-getting off of a very crowded/congested tour mountain when you are knackered from screaming and partying near the top of a tour mountain for 24 hrs

also... not so cycling...any favourite spots that you may have enjoyed in you travels.. lil' B&B's .. hidden ultra romantic spots..neat ideas i can spring that she won't stop bragging about to her office friends at work upon return. we will have another 2 weeks to spend together and it is our honeymoon!! (as for the "evening honeymoon" tips... i'll take it from there boys ha ha )

much thanks to teotoe who has already been very helpful!

safe riding everyone...i gotta go train for the etape!

joe
 

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joebyrne72 said:
Hello...

I My new wife and i will be attempting to take in stage 11, july 13th, while we are on our honeymoon. the trip is semi planned. we have a few nice nights booked in some posh places.. but we are also leaving many nights open to whatever... backpacking and railing along the southern coast of spain/france/italy

however there are a few key days that i think we should have planned out..
On the 10th.. i will be taking part in the Etape du Tour ... then shipping my bike home. that leaves the 11th and 12th to make our way from the Alps (Grenoble) to the Pyreenees. we are leaning towards renting a car.


i am picturing sleeping over on one of the mountains the night of the 12th. (perhaps the tourmalet)



joe
Joe:

First, if you don't have a one, you should get a copy of teoteoteo's Self-Guided Tour de France. http://www.velotainment.com/

Second, if you have not looked at it yet, the unofficial UK etape website is a good place for information about the etape, training, etc. http://www.etape.org.uk/ I have done the Etape three times (2002, 2004 and 2005). I am not a racer. The hardest thing for me in the etape is not freaking out when people come a little too close during the early kms -- there can be some touching of handlebars near the start and I was brushed by a rider last year -- I didn't fall, but I definitely wobbled for a second or two. Be alert and careful. If you are not used to riding closely packed at high speeds, try to get some experience before July. The other thing you need to plan for is nutrition and hydration. There are rest stops on the etape, but they are not very close or very many. The hordes swarm into them at the same time. When you get to a rest stop go to the far side of the tables -- most people jam things up at the beginning of the tables. The same things are at each table from one end to the other.

I don't have any experience with bikes on French trains, but teo or philippe may have some insights. Insofar as auto rentals are concerned, I have had good luck with rentals through autoeurope.com (a US-based broker) and europcar.com Be prepared to pay a significant premium for an automatic transmission if you want/need one. You definitely will need a car to explore the mountain passes and more picturesque parts of the Pyrenees.

I took a look at Stage 11 on July 13, The Tourmalet is the first climb in the race. Usually things are more interesting at the later climbs in a stage. I watched a stage in 2003 on the Col de Portillon when the race was going in the other direction. This col is not as storied as the Tourmalet, but it is a good one. I drove through Spain from the Portillon, I don't know exactly what the last climb on Stage 11 will be like, but my recollection is that the part of Spain near the Portillon is fairly desolate. I have not spent the night on a col. I get the impression that one does not get much sleep on the night before a tour stage.

I have some recommendations for your visit to the Pyrenees. If you are in the eastern Pyrenees, I would recommend visiting the Ariege region. This is not a frequently visited region of France, but it is quite beautiful. Here is a link to a report that philippec posted from last year. http://forums.roadbikereview.com/showthread.php?t=42718&highlight=ariege The early photos are from the western part of the Pyrenees, the latter ones are from the Ariege. The place in one of the later photos, the auberge with a terrace by the river seemed like a nice place. Philippe and I did not stay there, but we had a good dinner there. If I ever were back in the region, I would consider staying there. http://www.ariege.com/auberge2rivieres/info.html A favorite town for the Tour in the region is St. Girons, which is not too far away. Although St. Girons is not that great, there is a town a few KM above it, St. Lizier, which was an ancient seat of a bishop and has both a renown cathedral and the bishop's palace is a museum.

steephill, who posts here, also did several reports on his visit to the Pyrenees last year. Here is a link to his report on the Ariege. http://www.steephill.tv/galleries/2005/col-d-agnes/ You should check out his other reports, too.

The place that is in Philippe's early photos is a gite about 20 km south of Pau. http://www.ferme-dague.com/ I have stayed there three times and thoroughly enjoyed it each time. Jean-Pierre, the proprietor, is the consummate entertainer and host. The gite does not serve dinner, but there is an excellent restaurant in the village. The place is within driving distance of Pau, the col d'Aubisque and places in the Pays Basque, such as St. Jean pied du Port -- one of the famous cities on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella. Pamplona, the place where the bulls run in early July, is just over the mountain pass from St. Jean.

If you are taking the autoroute across southwest France, you will go through most of the major cities. If you and/or your bride need a break from quaint little towns and wonderful scenery, there are two places that I would recommend that you visit. Toulouse is the largest city in the southwest. It has many famous buildings and museums. If you only have an hour or two, you definitely should see either St. Sernin or the Jacobins. St. Sernin is the largest surviving Romanesque church in the world; the Pope Urban II traveled from Rome for its dedication in 1096. The Jacobins not only is the final resting place of St. Thomas Aquinas, but has an incredible fan vaulted ceiling. Pau is another major city in the Southwest. It has execellent shopping and restaurants. It is smaller than Toulouse and kind of touristy, but my wife and daughters needed a shopping break when we were in the Pyrenees and Pau satisfied them.

Enjoy your trip.

Mark
 

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what Mark said....

Mark's got most of the pointers dpown and with Teo's guide you should be set to go. What is your dossard # for the Etape? We might be in the same start pen.

Bikes on TGV's are not a problem -- however, the bike must be in a bike bag (" housse") that you can buy at either the Decathlon or GoSport bigbox sports stores. It will set you back about 50 euros -- my own preference is for the Decathlon one that fits neatly into a small backpack when not in use. (pic below). You will be hating life if you try to lug a hard-shell bike box on the TGV! The bike in its housse will fit nicely on the luggage racks at either end og the TGV wagons -- one side is better than the other so check out both the forward and rear luggage racks before lying your bike housse down.

Check out www.gites-de-france.fr for nice B&B's, you will want one with 3 or 4 "epis" (stars) also, thisa place is great: I just stayed there last w-end, it's right at the base of the Ventoux and has a pool -- http://www.masdebonnety.com/ -- you will want a car though....

Maybe I'll run into you this summer!

A+

Philippe
 

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You need a soft bike bag on the TGV, not a hardshell case, as it is probably too big to fit in the luggage racks - meaning that you have to book it into the luggage wagon, or even leave it to be carried seperately. With a soft bag, it will fit into the normal racks at the end of the carriage and so you cankeep an eye on it. Get your booking agent to check out the details on maximum permissable luggage sizes - never had a problem with a soft bag.

In terms of stopping over on the Tourmalet, the road will be closed on the morning of the race and will only allow one-way traffic i.e. east-west after the race has been through - if you want down quick, leave the car at the bottom and ride up otherwise it can take a few hours for the traffic to get past all the people who have walked up the hill. Although it can be very hot in the day, you are still in the mountains and it's not unusual to have rain at night and blazing sunshine the next day - dress for all eventualities.

There's very little on the top of the Col de Tourmalet - just a cafe - so you may be better stopping in La Mongie or Sante Marie de Campin, both on the seastern side.
 

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I've done this for a few years now...I haven't taken my bike but have followed the Tour on my own without guide. Just PM me any q's that you might have outside of riding the route and I'll see if I can help.
 
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