Tous fous du Tour

Sorry for the radio silence, I’ve been in Brazil, of which more soon!

But first I want to write about one of my favourite sporting events of the year. No, not the Olympics, although that will soon be upon us. It’s almost time for the Tour de France!

As a Tour obsessive this is my favourite time of year.

Every year I get the TDF official programme pack, complete with map and DVD highlights of previous races. Last summer, after scanning through the 2011 race route I discovered that the Tour was passing through Normandy, only a few miles from where a ferry from the UK arrives and a plan was formed.

Thanks to a cheap fare on the overnight ferry from Portsmouth I arrived in Caen port around 7.30am and was in Lisieux by 9. Lisieux isn’t a big place but I took a wander around town and did a little shopping until lunchtime, when plenty of restaurants along the route were offering ‘Tour specials’ for less than 10 euros.

Tip: take a walk round to check out the best viewing spots at least a couple of hours before the race arrives. I chose to stand right on the side of a roundabout by the cathedral, on a hill. Being on a hill means you can see the riders from a way off already.

The bonus of this particular spot became clear about half an hour before the leaders of the race arrived, when a torrential cloudburst drenched everything in sight. Luckily the awning of a fast food truck provided a bit of shelter!

I only managed to catch a couple of things flung from the publicity caravane this time – the women to the left of me was far quicker.

You can usually spot when the race is approaching as the TV helicopters appear in the distance. Sure enough 15 minutes later the small bunch of leaders cam steaming up the hill, followed a couple of minutes later by the main peleton, including man of the moment Mark Cavendish. A few minutes later and the cyclists were all gone, off for the final couple of miles to the finish line. The stage was won by the Norwegian, Edvald Boassen Hagen.

This year’s race route is here

I still would love to watch a mountain stage, but I have to admit that next year is the 100th Tour and it visits Corsica for the first time for Le Grand Depart, which looks very tempting…

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