As I write, the 2012 Tour de France is just 14 or so hours away from starting. I’m not going to discuss the fact that this is probably the most important tour for British cycling ever with Bradley Wiggins having a real chance of winning the Yellow Jersey. Nor am I going to discuss what Mark Cavendish may or may not do in France in view of the impending Olympic Road Race. All that has been done to death elsewhere.
The reason for writing this blog post is that this year will be the first time I’ve actually gone out to France to watch the race. Well, not quite as I went over to Paris on the Eurostar in 1996 to see the final stage on the Champs-Élysées, but I’m not counting that as the final stage is something of a procession and quite sterile as an experience.
My friend Paul and myself head out on Thursday 5th July in my car with our bikes strapped on the back and the boot full of cycling and camping gear.
Our first destination is Épernay where, on the Friday, we plan to catch the Stage 6 start before dashing along the A4 to Metz in an attempt to find somewhere near the finish for what will be a bunch sprint. Whether this plan works or not is unknown, so there’s a possibility that we may need to find somewhere else earlier on the route. Luckily it runs pretty parallel to the autoroute.
After the stage finish we drive futher to our base for the following three nights in Saint Maurice Sur Moselle in the Vosges mountains. The campsite is located about 30km away from the mountain-top finish of Stage 7 at Planche des Belle Filles. The theory is to head out early and cycle over to the final climb and claim our spot for the day. The ride out itself involves about 1400m of climbing so whilst it is not the Alps it will be a great first experience of long French climbs.
Hopefully the steep final climb and the mountain top finish (only one of two this year) will see some fireworks on the road as a GC contender makes an early move.
The next day will involve heading out of our base to find a suitable place to watch Stage 8, most likely on the Col de la Croix over the border in Switzerland. This is most likely to see a decent breakaway try and stay off the front of the peloton for victory.
Finally we pack up camp and head to Besançon to see the first Individual Time Trial of the tour. If everything goes to plan this may be where Wiggo takes Yellow for the first time. Straight after the stage it is time to hot-foot it back to Calais in order to get a very early morning ferry home.
The next few days until we go are going to drag, but at least the race starts tomorrow to whet the appetite even further! Data access allowing, I’ll post a daily blog update with how we are getting on.