Reader Q&A: Seeing the Tour de France for the first time

Published by Lyn on 21 April 2015

Kate emailed to ask about watching the Tour de France in the Pyrenees. It will be the first time she's seen the race live.

George Hincapie is cheered up the mountain in 2004. Photo: bryan88

George Hincapie is cheered up the mountain in 2004. Photo: bryan88

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Hi Lyn,

I came across your very informative website in the course of researching our trip to (hopefully) see the Tour de France this year. I was hoping you might be able to assist me with my research into seeing the TDF 2015. I have so many questions and I am having a lot of trouble finding detailed information on the web to allow me to confidently plan our trip.

We are planning to be in Pamplona and then in San Sebastian for a few days between 8 and 12 July. We would like to then travel on to see the TDF either directly to a town in southern France or via Biarritz.

Being a TDF beginner, it looks to me from the official map like there is a rest day in Pau on the 13th July, stage 10 on the 14th from Tarbes to Pierre St Martin and then stage 11 will start in Pau on 15 July and finish in Cauterets on that day. Is this correct?

My first question is whether it is worth being in the town of Pau on the rest day on the 13th?

At this stage, we are considering coming to Pau from Biarritz to watch the start of stage 11 starting on the 15th July and/or watching from a convenient view point that day. Do you think this is a good plan and do you think we will be able to see much?

I have chose Pau as it looks to me like the easiest to get to from Biarritz. Are there any other towns that the TDF 2015 will stop through and are easy to get to from Biarritz? Tarbes looks like it might be a good one too.

Are there any maps on the web that are more detailed than the official TDF map and show what roads exactly the TDF 2015 will ride along?

Also, do you know of any bus services in Pau or Tarbes that transport spectators to ideal viewing spots? (I have a feeling that hiring a car would be a nightmare!).

Finally, do you have any other tips for viewing the TDF 2015?

As you can no doubt tell, I am very much a beginner with this and really appreciate any information you can provide about the plans and my research thus far! I would be very grateful to hear from you.


I wrote back:

Hi Kate

So great to hear from someone who's wanting to watch the Tour for the first time!

A few quick questions so I can give you the best advice.

1) How will you be getting to Pau/Tarbes/wherever? Train?
2) Are you cyclists? Would you want to do any riding while there?
3) How many are you?
4) How long do you want to stay in the area? / Where do you need to go after?


Kate wrote back:

Hi Lyn,

Thanks for getting back to me so very quickly!

Question 1 - we will be travelling by train. My "feeling" is that avoiding car hire is probably best given the road closures around TDF time. Do you agree?

Question 2 - My husband is a cyclist. I can cycle but only about 20kms at a time. We would certainly consider doing some cycling while we are there if there was that opportunity.

Question 3 - There is just two of us.

Question 4 - Probably only a few days. We are still planning our next stop after TDF but likely Morocco or Portugal from Toulouse airport.

Thanks again for your quick reply and I look forward to hearing from you.

I wrote back:

Hey Kate

I'd consider staying at a bike-friendly B&B somewhere near the Tourmalet. Your hubby can do some day rides and you can potter on some gentler routes - there will be hills ! - but it IS possible to get a few rides in around the villages. You could then see the Tour in the mountains where there atmosphere is so much greater than in a city.

If you don't have a car, most B&Bs in that area are geared up to collect you from Tarbes if you wish, though this would limit you to one stage.

If you are quick and CAN secure car hire in Tarbes or Pau, you could drive to somewhere like Bagneres-de-Bigorre or Sainte Marie de Campan, and from there you'd be in reach of two or three stages over 3 days.

I just did a quick search on the Carrentals search engine and Holiday Autos still has cars available from Tarbes.

It would mean extra flexibility and with a few early starts you could be at the next stage before the roads close for the peloton. Plus you'd get to view from a mountaintop if you want - which is just super.

That would mean any of the places listed here for stages 10-12, for example, would be suitable.

They could also help arrange bike hire for your husband but he needs to be QUICK otherwise they'll all be gone.

Maybe let me know your thoughts (and checkout the car hire) and then I can help further once I know if you do or don't have a car.

In answer to your previous question, I don't see much point in being in Pau specifically for the rest day. It's more a day you can use to get to the next stage. 

There are direct trains from Tarbes to Toulouse, so if you could get a car and drop it back to tarbes, you can shoot straight through to Toulouse by train.

PS Bear in mind July 14 is Bastille Day - a public holiday - so you need to plan ahead for this as many things will be closed for the celebrations. A SUPER SUPER day to be at the Tour de France (especially in the mountains). See also here for more on the Tour de France, including this spectators' guide.

Kate wrote back:

Hi Lyn,

Thanks again for your emails yesterday.

After doing some more research, we are looking at hiring a car from Biarritz for four to five days and staying at Lae de Haut in Aramits. Margaret has a room left luckily! She also hires bikes out.

lae de haut

Margaret from the Lae de Haut in Aramits has self-catering accommodation, B&B and camp spots.

I understand there is a charity ride on 13th through the stage 10 route at which Lance Armstrong is suppose to be cycling.

Many thanks for your help with my research on this. We couldn't have done it without you!

I offer lots of free advice on Freewheeling France. If you find it useful, please share it with your cycling friends on Facebook and Twitter.

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