What a month! Thomson Bike Tours staff have just finished delivering our most ambitious Tour de France offering to date: two major routes, five different itineraries featuring three difficulty levels each, and all of it served up to eager guests from across the world. To top if off, Le Tour delivered some of the closest, hardest-fought racing action in years. And just as always, TBT guests were there to witness some of the most spectacular moments, with VIP access both behind the scenes and in the thick of the action…and often enough to matter, close enough to reach out and touch the racers.
Here’s What We Saw at the Tour de France
In addition to spectacular French countryside, historic lodging and towering Alpine and Pyrenees summits (more about those in a minute), Thomson guests were in the heart of the TDF racing action.
For Stage 11, a flat 200+kms monster, flat as a skillet but ripped by crosswinds that threatened to tear the peloton apart. From our VIP seats at the finish in Pau, we saw Marcel Kittel make it look easy—coming off Michael Matthews’ wheel, blowing past Edvald Boasson Hagen and arriving at the finish line meters ahead of young Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen. Brilliant finish, and two in a row for Kittel.
Next day, the heart-stopping climb from Pau to the ski station in Peyragudes (we know it was heart-stopping because we’d climbed it ourselves earlier that day). As expected, Team Sky dictates terms of engagement at the head of the peloton (which we saw on TV from our VIP viewing tents on the final summit), but then the unthinkable happens. Tour leader Gerard Froome grinds almost to a halt as the gradient tips to near 20 per cent in the finishing straight. Froome ultimately surrenders the yellow jersey that day, to Astana’s Fabio Aru, and Thomson guests witness a bit of Tour history.
Fast-forward a week to Stage 17 and TBT guests are there as LottoNL-Jumbo’s Primoz Roglic solos to his first-ever Tour de France stage victory with a long-range attack earlier on and another on the final climb of the Col du Galibier, defying the Tour leaders and holding off the entire combined might of peloton by over a minute in a spectacular display of grit and guile.
Next day, Thomson guests had behind-the-velvet-rope access to the Departure Village, with opportunities to get close to the riders and a first-hand view of the inner workings of the bike and team areas. After the race start, we moved to the top of the Col d’Izoard and watched the stage finish from the luxury of the Official VIP tribune as Frenchman Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb) attacks with Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) near the foot of the climb, then drops Contador and picks off the remaining riders one by one to finish with 20 seconds in hand. Brilliant.
Into the home stretch now, we take in the penultimate Stage 20 individual time trial from the exclusive VIP area directly in the Marseille stadium with cocktails and finger buffet while watching the riders come by one at a time. Maciej Bodnar of Bora-Hansgrohe takes the stage by a second, and Froome’s fourth tour is almost ready for the history books.
At the final stage, 21, it’s all about the sprinters again and Dylan Groenewegen—who we remember being outfoxed by Marcel Kittel back on Stage 11—takes the sprint. Thomson guests take it all in from grandstand seats directly opposite the Grande Arrive on the Champs-Elysées.
Here’s What We Rode at the Tour de France
You say you have a bucket list? You’re going to need a bigger bucket. Between the five sessions, Thomson guests can challenge themselves with almost a dozen Hors Catégorie climbs on the various Tour de France routes, along with other classic cols too numerous to mention. And just to make it more fun, we often tackle two or more in a single day.
Here are some highlights:
In the Pyrenees, on offer are the HC Port de Bales; the Cat.1 Col de Peyresourde; the exquisite but little-known Route des Lacs (click for video); the Col de Val Louron-Azet followed by the climb to the Col de Peyresourde. Plus Mt Ventoux (we wrote a whole blog post about that one). And of course, the Tourmalet. Only, Thomson-style, we bookend it with the Col d’Aspin on the way there and the Hourquette d’Ancizan on the way back.
Approaching from the AlFrevarpine side of things, there’s the Cat.1 climb to the Col de Marocaz. We do it the same day you arrive in Lyon. Semnoz, preceded by the HC climb to Mont Revar. The Lacets de Montvernier switchbacks to the start of the Col du Telegraphe followed by the climb to the famous Col du Galibier. The Col d’Izoard. The iconic Alpe d’Huez and the lesser-known Col de Sarenne. And finally, The Col de la Croix de Fer.
Thomson guides and staff have a very busy July. And so can you.
Risk-Free Tour de France Advance Reservations Now Open For 2018
Best of all, we’re going back again next year, just like always. And you’re invited.
if you’d like to join us for one of next year’s Tour de France packages, you can make no-obligation advance reservations ($100 deposit, fully refundable) for our 218 tours now. As you can imagine, space fills up fast, so advance reservations will make it more likely you’ll get your top choice of dates and itinerary.
See you there!
PS: Want more of this year’s Tour de France highlights?
- Our main Tour de France blog page has hundreds of additional images, including lots more of our guests having a great time riding bikes, conquering mountains, and enjoying the Tour.
- Videos from our 2017 (and previous) adventures are available on our YouTube channel.
- Finally, there are thousands of images from this year’s Tour alone on our Flickr feed. It’s the definitive source for All Things Thomson.