The Alps rival any region of France for drama, beauty and excitement and none more so than when the Tour de France arrives.

Over the next week, we watch several stages of the tour which saw us travel along mountain passes that look charming but give you an adrenaline rush where the words ‘wow or oh my god’ are just a normal part of the day, I’m sure some of these mountains should have ‘ do not venture in a motorhome unless you’re bonkers’ signposted. 

We first watched the tour several years ago which saw us chasing our tail around different areas and that was probably due to being “over-enthusiastic” and our poor estimation of what was involved. 

Now though John looks at the route map for several stages that are close to a central location to avoid too much travel and this year there’s a cluster of stages around the Alps.

For the French, the Tour is a national celebration and it is a great honour for one’s town or city to be chosen as a host venue. 

Every year hundreds of thousands of spectators line the streets of villages, hamlets and the roadside to be part of the colourful, noisy atmosphere. And for people like us, it’s a great tourist attraction with fans coming from all over the world. 

There is such a build-up to the race coming through so it’s important to get a good spot or park up where you want to watch it early,  either the night before or at least before the gendarmes close the roads. 

Usually, we look to park up wherever there’s a spare strip of grass or a lay-by along the route and with these stages being in the Alps there’s no shortage of people out to watch the tour pass these magnificent views.

First through is the publicity caravan made up of many of France’s major brands in decorated vehicles advertising their wares and giving away gifts. 

Waiting for the caravan to pasd

The caravan lasts about 45 minutes and sets a great atmosphere along with entertaining the crowds who have waited many hours to catch a glimpse of the riders. 

It’s great fun trying to grab the freebie biscuits, packets of cereal, key rings, race flags or if you’re lucky a t-shirt from the moving vehicles that descend upon us like missiles but then you have to be careful not to get caught in the stampede, because it’s quite amazing at what people will do to get a free gift or what some people refer to as Tour tat.

Some of our haul from this trip

Things go quiet for a while then suddenly the hoovering helicopters appear overhead and the atmosphere comes to life again. Wearing the free polka-dot t-shirt we stand outside of our decorated motorhome as the first of the riders come into sight. 

The speed and noise as the riders hurtle past us makes you realise the sheer endurance needed to ride an average of 100km a day for three weeks in some of the most physically challenging terrains is testimony to the rider’s passion, drive and commitment to the sport.

We pick up the tour after they have had a rest day on Stage 10 where it finishes in Megeve, and then we continue to follow and watch a further four more stages.

Megeve was conceived in the 1920s as a French alternative to St.Moritz by the Rothchilds. Megeve was the first purpose-built resort in the Alps and today it’s one of the most famous and popular ski resorts, John goes for a ride to explore the area.

As for the tour, this is a relatively short race, but it’s a tough one. It’s here the riders get their first taste of the Alps on the roads between Morzine and Megeve then it’s a long gradual climb to the line but before they even reach Saint Gervais the race is stopped due to protesters blocking the course.  

Stage 11 and we have breakfast at the roadside before the race enters the heart of one of the greatest cycling climbing areas of the world, with two of the most famous bike climbs, Alpe d’Huez and Col du Galibier. Lacets de Montevernier is not as well known as other climbs in the area, but it is one of the world’s greatest hairpin climbs.  And it was here 2 years ago that John cycled 2 of these climbs.

Parked up by the side of the road for the night where the horn honking and cheering from the passing traffic continues well into the night 
Stage 11 sees a hard summit finish at the Col du Granon tackling the Lacetes de Montverrier, Col du Télégraphe and Col du Galibier along the way
Stage 12 and it’s Bastille day where the finish is at the infamous climb up Alpe d’Huez. We park at Lac de Grand Maison with amazing views across the lake where we watch the antics of the local shepherd who despite his age and hobble tackles the hillside far better than I can.

Stage 13 of the Tour goes from Bourg d’Oisans to Saint-Etienne and we park up just before you enter the village of Tullin so today there’s not much action as they whizz past and it’s over in a flash.

Stage 14 of the Tour travels from Saint-Étienne to Mende to a demanding finish at Mende Airport so a race is on the cards today to see who gets to the landing strip first. We park in the village of Vaunac to watch this stage where the locals are out in full force setting up. 
We are invited to join the charity lunch in Vaunac
Lunch the french way
Tim and Alison bring us a goodie box from James, Becky, Amelia and Oliver

In Vannac we met the father of one of the  Cochonou drivers in the caravan so there’s lots of cheering when Sven passes by throwing out a big bag of Saucisson (sausages) and we are soon presented with a hat full to share.

For this year its the end of the tour for us, and even though the heat at times has got the better of us, we spend a couple of days with no phone service and however much planning you do you can never foresee see last-minute road closures or deviation which at times has been challenging However it’s been great fun meeting up with old and new friends along the way catching up on their adventures. 

We get to catch up with Sian and Phil
Getting race ready with Tim ,Alison, Phil and Michelle

Coordinates for Aires in France


N 45° 12′ 50

E 5° 40′ 6

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