10 Things You Should Know about the Tour de France

10 Things You Should Know about the Tour de France

Going to the Tour de France for the first time this year? Or keen to impress others with your knowledge of La Grande Boucle? Afraid of missing out on something important? Read the best tips that you won’t hear on TV.

9. 7. 2018 Lifestyle SPORTS



When you watch the race on television, you have a perfect overview of how it is unfolding, you can see who’s leading, you count the spacing, and you know about every puncture and duel. Stuck in a crowd by the track somewhere in France, however, you know nothing about the race. The situation has changed with smartphones and high-speed internet, but honestly – who wants to be staring at their phone in a crowd of hyped-up spectators? On the other hand, besides soaking up the inimitable atmosphere, you will witness things the TV can never convey. For example, you will see how fascinatingly fast the leading cyclists are. That hill on the route that you rode up sweating like crazy yesterday? You’ll see the cyclists tackle it at the speed of a motorcycle. The energy they put into the race is contagious. Only here will you understand that professional cyclists are an explosive cocktail of self-flagellation, renunciation and euphoria.




Anyone who has been to the Tour de France knows that no matter how big a flag they take to France, there will always be someone else right by with a bigger one. At the beginning, the audience is split into hardcore fans, who wear special costumes that they’ve been preparing for at least half a year, and civilian spectators who could easily be mistaken for visitors to the Louvre. Yet as the day wears on, the difference blurs. Everyone who comes along gets sucked in by the atmosphere and wants to join the vortex of excitement. This is crowned by the caravan of advertising floats, transforming the people along the official route into a thousand-headed cheering audience of cyclist ultras.




Who would not want to bring home a trophy from the Tour de France to display on the mantelpiece? Well, we will sadly have to disappoint all eager collectors. A tossed water bottle is a rarity, and even if one of the racers does drop one, you’d have to be very lucky to get there first. Getting your hands on any other authentic collectible is just wishful thinking. Don’t count on taking home a torn jersey, a wet raincoat or a crooked wheel rim cast off by the roadside; nothing like that happens. Fortunately, most of the audience’s thirst for such objects is slated by the caravan of floats passing through the route before the actual race.




One survey confirmed that up to 39% of spectators look forward to the caravan of floats more than the race. The caravan is as important to the Tour de France as the Alpine passes. It passes the route of each stage a few hours before the peloton. Sponsors fall over each other to see who can come up with a creatively dressed-up car that will attract most spectators. The convoy is accompanied by music and dancers and can easily be compared to Love Parade. Merchandise rains on the spectators, leaving no one without a jersey, cap, key ring, stuffed toy, chocolate, shopping bag, parade stick with the name of a favourite rider, bidon, protein stick or other similar gifts.




The presence of the French police is often infuriating. Regardless of whether you’re driving or walking, the police will often block your way and not let you through. Sometimes they close entire neighbourhoods without any evident reason. Worse, it seems that the police refuse to accept the fact that languages other than French are spoken in the world. But don’t judge them too harshly. As a beetle in the crowd, you have no idea how tough it is to control dozens, or even hundreds of thousands of spectators so that paramedics can make their way through whatever the situation and no one poses a risk to the race itself. This would not be possible without the police. You just have to accept it.




You’re in France, so food paradise – like Eden just before the snake descended from the tree and tempted Eve with the apple. Taking food with you, then, might sound like a deadly sin... Wrong! In big cities this might not be a problem, but in small mountain villages, the shops and restaurants are designed to accommodate a few hundred locals, not hordes of thousands. On top of that, they’re strict about their opening hours and on Sunday everything is closed. Anyone who wants to survive the hours of waiting for the arrival of the peloton should pack as if they were on an expedition to the South Pole. Experienced Tour de France fans know that, besides having the itinerary on them, they also need large supplies of food, drinks, toiletries, a chair, a blanket, a raincoat, a parasol...


Black-lineTHE WAIT


Consider yourself warned – you will wait for absolutely everything. You will wait in traffic jams and just to get into the car park. You will slowly be moved along by the crowd until you find somewhere to anchor yourselves by the road and wait for ages until anything happens. The most spectacular places to watch the race, such as the Col du Tourmalet pass and the Col du Galibier pass, the Mont Ventoux climb, and the famous Mur de Bretagne “wall", will become impregnable fortresses during the races. Even if the peloton does not pass until late afternoon, you must get there early in the morning. You can forget about comfort, taking toddlers with you could lead to a visit from the social, and the loo is au naturel in the nearby forest. On the other hand, the atmosphere is thrilling. Even those who are here for the first time, and perhaps dragged along with the family, often get swallowed up by it. People are entranced, and although they come from different countries and often can’t understand each other, they are always able to communicate, simply because they want to. The Pyrenees, the doglegs leading to Alpe d’Huez, and the final straight on the Champs-Élysées will captivate you.




Camper vans are just as much a symbol of the Tour de France as fans holding flags and painting their faces in their national colours. Anyone who owns a camper van is king. However, it is necessary to arrive well in advance of the itinerary. An experienced traveller and his house on wheels will have to get to their spot three or four days before the contestants to find a decent place to park. The time left before the race is spent barbequing, downing cans of beer, opening wine bottles and watching the race on a large-screen television positioned in front of the vehicle. On the day of the race, they turn it round so that everyone who comes along can watch as they surround the camper vans on all sides. As soon as the whizz of the peloton is gone, they quickly toss the folding chairs into the camper van, pack up the TV and grill, and hurry to the next destination, which is usually a stage that takes place at least four more days in advance. Two hours after the race, you would hardly know that thousands of people had been there just a short while ago.




The Tour de France is an extraordinary opportunity to try out what it is like to ride the routes of the stages where the professionals battle it out. Even a couple of hours before the expected peloton arrives you can jump on your bike and pedal away. If you’re athletic, you’ll enjoy the same spectator reception during heavy climbs as the big stars. Excited fans will act as if they had no idea you’re not Chris Froome climbing on your bike.




The Tour de France is a massive national holiday in France. Suddenly, they turn a blind eye – you can leave your car almost anywhere, and if the camps are full, locals will even look the other way if you decide to camp at the roundabout or on their front lawn. Some might even come to offer you a glass of their homemade wine.


15 years of partnership between
the Tour de France and ŠKODA



This is carmaker ŠKODA’s 15th year as the general sponsor of the Tour de France, the legendary annual cycling race. Besides laying on a large fleet of cars, ŠKODA also designs the winners’ trophies. This year, the designers have teamed up with Bohemian glassmakers to produce 60 cm tall trophies weighing in at 4 kg for the champions of the 105th Tour de France. In the 2018 event, the racers have to surmount 3,351 extremely tough kilometres over 21 stages.

ŠKODA cars at the Tour de France


ŠKODA, as an official partner, will supply 250 cars for the race. In addition to ŠKODA OCTAVIAs, the fleet also includes the SUVs ŠKODA KAROQ and KODIAQ and the ŠKODA SUPERB sedan. A ŠKODA service team will prep all the cars so that they are in perfect condition before each stage.

RED-ENone ŠKODA SUPERB in Corrida Red will be used as a mobile office for the

YELLOW-EN ready to assist any cyclist in trouble, with mechanics able to help in case of a breakdown or provide a replacement bike or refreshments.

BLUE-EN each team will have two cars following the peloton. The order of these vehicles depends where the team’s leading cyclist is positioned in the field of racers.

ORANGE-EN race organisers’ vehicles used to transport VIP guests and journalists, giving them a front-row seat to enjoy the atmosphere of the Tour de France.

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