The Tour de France - Spectator's guide

If you are lucky enough to be camping near the Tour de France cycle race route this year then here are some handy tips to help you sound like a knowledgeable follower of Cycling !

We went along to watch the race when it left from the small town of Auray in Brittany at the beginning of a stage (or etape as its called in French) and we had a great day out.

The course of the 104th Tour de France (1-23 July, 2017), which was unveiled before an audience of almost 4,000 people at the Palais des Congrès in Paris, stands out for featuring steep mountain stages. There will be fewer climbs but steeper gradients.

30 years after the 1987 Grand Départ in Berlin, the Tour will start with the "Grand Start" in the German city of Düsseldorf and later head to Belgium and Luxembourg. The course of the 2017 Tour de France will feature France's five mountain ranges, the Vosges, Jura, Pyrenees, Central Massif and Alps - in this order. 1992 was the last time all these mountain ranges featured. The route varies each year but always includes some short flat sprint sections and some mountainous sections before culminating in Paris with a sprint.

If you are able to catch the tour then go along to watch about two hours before when you will catch the "Caravane" which is a series of mad looking vehicles and characters who throw lots of freebies to the crowd - great fun!

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tour de france caravane

caravane

Then the race itself will flash past - we nearly missed it after all the waiting ! Either our watches were wrong or they set off two minutes early!!

Watch out for the following jerseys - they all have a meaning !
The YELLOW Jersey is awarded to the overall leader of the race.

The GREEN Jersey is the next most prestigious and is given to the leader of the sprint sections.

The red POLKA-DOT Jersey is awarded to the rider who earns most of the points on the mountainous sections of the race. The wearer of the jersey is known as the "King of the Mountains". Scotland's Robert Millar was King of the Mountains in 1984.
The WHITE Jersey is the newest of the jerseys and was introduced in 1975. It is given to the best young rider (i.e. under 25).
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To impress your friends and family as you are spectating, why not casually mention some of the more famous recent winners of the race !

There was five time winner Miguel Indurain from Spain who won between 1991 and 1995. There were two recent major French winners, Jacques Anquetil, who won five time, in 1957 and from 1961 to 1964 and Bernard Hinault who won five times in 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1985. And there was 5 times winner Eddy Merckx from Belgium who won between 1969 to 1972 and in 1974.

In 2012, Bradley Wiggins was the first British cyclist to win the Tour. Chris Froome then won in 2013, 2015 and 2016.

If you seriously want to follow the progress of the race then the mountain stages can offer you a chance to see the riders separated by a bit of a distance, particularly on the long uphill climbs.  So have a look at the map of the route and see if you will be near the race this year.  Find out more here at the Tour de France website : http://www.letour.fr/le-tour/2017/