For us the highlight of 2017 has to be the most amazing adventure to watch Le Tour de France cycle race in the beautiful picturesque setting of the French Alps. It was something we had talked about and planned to do for a few years so to actually plan and see this through to fruition was the most incredible experience. To do this in the year that Chris Froome broke the record books and became the only British man to win Le Tour for a 4th time, absolutely priceless!
As soon as the route was released at the start of the year we researched the best place to base ourselves so that we could see the finish and start of the race the next day. We decided upon the lovely Alpine village setting of La Salle Les Alpes.
We knew that accommodation would go quickly and be at a premium so after a lot of research we took a punt and booked a small ski apartment via the online site Home & Away. A bit of a risk because we hadn’t used this site before and we had a few nervous moments getting things confirmed but it turned out to be a wonderful little place which we booked direct with the French owner. It was just 200 metres from the finish line, we just could not believe our luck.
Getting to La Salle Les Alpes took some planning and certainly took us a bit out of our comfort zone. We travelled to Stanstead Airport and flew out to Turin on the border between Italy & France. Feeling like backpackers, by train and bus we navigated our way to the main train station and boarded a train to Olux. From Olux our final stage was the local Alpine coach to La Salle Les Alpes. The journey took a day but thankfully we got to our destination without any hitches.
Whilst waiting for the race day we enjoyed some lovely treks up into the Alps to experience the most spectacular views at 2500m the highest altitude we have ever walked too. The fauna & flora was amazing and the highlight was a close encounter with a Marmot family who popped out of their burrow just a few metres away from us.
As race day approached our small village started to transform into a major outdoor broadcasting site with the arrival of a whole entourage of media broadcasting units and cycling team support buses and vehicles. Our little quiet village suddenly transformed became a hive of activity almost doubling in size.
As we sat on our balcony with a glass of vino at the end of the day helicopters landed in the field next to our apartment which we found out from our French neighbours were doing a practice run for the arrival of President Macron at the race finish the next day. It was all very exciting to see as the anticipation for the big day was building.
On the day of the race we were up early and just had to walk across the car park with our chairs and Union Jack flags to get our seats 200 metres from the finish line. We were opposite a large screen so that we could see the race unfolding on it’s approach to La Salle in the afternoon.
It was a glorious day and we met some great people. Before the race arrived the crowd was treated to the pre-race “Caravan” which is a float procession/carnival along with the arrival of the team support cars. There was the most amazing atmosphere whilst we waited for the race cyclists. Something we will never forget.
The speed of the cyclists as they came in to the finish was incredible and it was all over in a flash but we managed to get some great shots of Chris Froome and some of our favourite riders. After the event as the crowds managed to disperse an hour later we made our way back out to the finish. We were lucky to bump into Chris Boardman recording an interview and spoke to him. We also discovered we were just around the corner from the Team Sky hotel where they were actually based for the week. So over the next few days we were also able to see their evening interviews being recorded too. Once again we just could not believe our luck.
The day after watching the finish at La Salle after an early start and 8 mile riverside walk we made our way to Briancon to watch the start of the next mountain stage. It was a different experience from the finish the day before because we were able to see the cyclists for longer warming up and lining up on the start. Chris Froome’s face, we can still picture it now 100% focused, absolutely amazing.
So, if you love cycling, France and trekking and amazing scenery plan a trip to watch this iconic race next year. We guarantee you will not be disappointed. We are already thinking about going to watch some more races. We may even get on our bikes next time and position ourselves somewhere out on the course.