Reader Q&A: Watching the Tour de France in the mountains

Published by Lyn on 19 May 2014

Derek has emailed to ask about watching the Tour de France in the mountains of the Pyrenees. Here's our email Q&A.

Locals making their Tour de France inspections at the top of Port de Bales. Photo: Simon James

Locals making their Tour de France inspections at the top of Port de Bales.
Photo: Simon James

Hello Lyn,

You previously helped me with some advice on watching the Tour de France this year and I was hoping you could help with another couple of questions.

As part of my tour across France, I am going to stay at Bagnères-de-Luchon and nearby for a few days to hopefully watch three stages of the Tour de France. I will be reliant on my bike to get around from stage to stage and it seems possible but a few logistics come to mind.

At the mountain tops, do people sell food and drinks, burger vans or such like? I would be good not to have to carry enough food and water for riding up there and a whole day/night on the mountain?

Also is it OK to ride up the mountain to my chosen viewing point using the route the riders will ride on the day of the stage (on stage 16 this will involve riding up to Port de Bales on the road the riders will come down in the afternoon)? Watching races you don’t tend to see many vehicles parked up on the downhills so I am guessing they might shut them to traffic very early.

I am thinking of riding up very early in the morning (6am) to Port De Bales and then the next day another early start to Azet. Both days will be on the roads the riders will be using later in day. If it’s OK to do this, around what time before the arrival of tour riders do they tend to close the roads to cyclists?

Thanks,
Derek.

Lyn writes:

Hi Derek,

Great to hear from you – it sounds like your planning is coming along nicely.

You should be fine if you set out at 6am - the route usually closes to general a few hours before the publicity caravan comes through but this is very much depending on individual local authorities as closure times do differ from region to region.

To be sure about this for the Pyrenees and also with reference to the food enquiry, I posted your question on our Facebook page to gauge some local input.

Marianne and Brian at Pyreneesgite Le Fournil responded with the following:

"Our best advice would be to take food and drink with him. There is an eatery at the top of the Tourmalet, but the top is likely to be absolutely rammed with people, so could be a challenge to get food there. No cafes etc on the Port de Bales, so definitely bring your own there :-)

"Re road closures: on a bike he should be OK to get up the cols up to two hours before the Caravan du Tour goes through, for cars the road closures would take effect a lot earlier. Then of course it also depends on the mood of the gendarmes on the day, we've seen some of them make cyclists get off their bikes and walk!"

Caroline at Allez Pyrenees at Bagneres-de-Bigorre emailed me this:

"Hi Lyn

I would just add that on the eastern approach to Tourmalet, the resort of La Mongie is only 4km from the summit and has a selection of restaurants, bars, and small food outlets. It’s mainly a ski resort but many are open during the summer and more will do so for the Tour undoubtedly.

Hope all’s well with you,

Caroline."

I hope that helps.

If you get stuck for somewhere to stay, there are some Tour de France accommodation options here, plus I've included our bike-friendly accommodation map for the Pyrenees below.

Any more queries, please just shout!

Cheers,
Lyn.

Derek writes:

Thanks for that, Lyn – great advice. I went to the Tour of Britain a couple of times but I know that the Tour de France is so much bigger so it is great to get local advice on the set up. Really looking forward to it now.

Thanks,
Derek

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