The Tour de France is widely considered the greatest cycling race in the world. For three weeks each July, the best riders on the planet assemble on the roads of France to determine just who is the absolute best cyclist on the planet. Winning the grueling event requires strength, determination, stamina, and an uncanny ability to block out pain and suffering.
If you've ever watched Le Tour on television, you've probably noticed the amazing French countryside that the peloton passes through.
Focused on the work at hand, the riders seldom take notice of the rolling hills, fields of sunflowers, or the lovely chateaus that dot the landscapes. But as a spectator, it is difficult not be captivated by those environments, and want to see them from the seat of a bicycle too. Lucky for us, there are actually cycling tour companies that can offer that experience, giving us all the opportunity to ride like a Tour pro.
One of the companies that offer several TdF riding packages is Thompson Bike Tours, which gives amateur riders a chance to not only ride the same route as the pros but test their legs on some of the iconic mountain roads as well. The King of the Mountains Cycling Challenge gives fans a chance to earn their own Polka Dot Jersey by riding in the Pyrenees, Alps, and into Paris. This ride is not for the faint of heart, however, as it will take you to the top of some of the most climbs in the history of the Tour, including the famed Tourmalet and Alp d'Huez, the most famous mountain stage in cycling history.
Thompson also offers a VIP Tour de France experience that mixes riding with a behind the scenes spectator opportunity. Travelers will not only get to see the grueling race unfold, but they'll also have the chance to ride behind the peloton on some of the exact same routes.
Their offerings mostly center around assisting spectators to take in the race at various stages, including in Paris for the final stage on the Champs Elysees. But if you'd like to ride a stage, Trek Travel can assist with that too, giving a cyclist a chance to experience sections of the official TdF route while receiving full support out on the road, including rest stops, food breaks, and water resupplies. To find out more about Trek's Tour de France Tours, click here.
BikeStyle Tours also offers quite a selection of TdF rides. Their options include itineraries that range in length from 8 to 16 days, with a good mix of taking in the race, while also riding some of the same stages as the pros too. The BikeStyle rides are fully supported with back-up vehicles assisting cyclists as they make their way around the French countryside. Their professional guides will also help travelers to get the most out of their Tour experience while giving them the opportunity to stay in nice hotels that are close to the Tour routes. For the ultimate Tour de France experience, check out the 16-day GC Classic, which covers the race from the Pyrenees to the Alps, and all the way into Paris itself.
The Brits have done well on Le Tour in recent years, so its no wonder that they'd want to get in on the cycling action for themselves.
A company called Sports Tours specializes in arranging holidays centered around your favorite sports activities, and the Tour de France is no exception. Fit and active travelers looking to ride certain stages will have the opportunity to do so, and can even stand on the podium before the riders arrive on the scene. Then, you can line up at the finish line to catch the exciting end to daily stages, watching the peloton buzz by at high speed.
Of course, it is too late to sign up for one of these tours for this year, as the 2015 TdF is well underway right now. But all of the companies above are already looking ahead to next year, and have started taking reservations for the 2016 race. That not only gives you plenty of time to book and prepare, but to amp up your training schedule too. After all, if you plan on riding through the French countryside, you want to be able to at least look like you belong there.
You may not be as fast as Greipel or Cavendish, nor can you climb like Froome or Quintana, but at least you'll look good in the saddle.