The 2013 Tour De France
The Tour route changes year on year and is usually announced in the autumn preceding the Tour de France. The 2013 Tour de France includes two stages in the Midi Pyrenees region; stages 8 and 9.
Tour de France 2013 Stage 8: Castres to Ax-Trois-Domaines
Stage 8 starts in the town of Castres (in the Tarn department) and ends 194km south in the ski resort of Ax-Trois-Domaines (in the Ariege department).
The stage begins in the low-lying countryside of the Midi Pyrenees region, so the first 160km will be steady and fast. However, 150km in, the riders will have to pull on their reserves and months of training as they attack a 15-kilometer climb up to the Col de Pailheres (a gradient of 8 per cent). If that weren’t enough of a test of their mettle, the final ten kilometers of the ride include an eight-kilometer climb towards the finishing line at Ax-Trois-Domaines.
- At 165.5km - Col de Pailhères (a 15.3km climb at 8 per cent)
- At 193km - Ax 3 Domaines (a 7.8km climb at 8.2 per cent)
View Tour de France 2013 Stage 8 route in a larger map
Tour de France 2013 Stage 9: St Girons to Bagneres de Bigorre
Stage 9 is 165km of pure climbs and descents; as the riders cross some of the toughest climbs in the Pyrenees. The ride takes the Tour de France riders from the town of Saint Girons, (in the Ariege department) to the mountain spa town of Bagneres de Bigorre, (in the Haute Pyrenees department). The stage takes in the Col de Portet d’Aspet, the Col de Mente, the Col de Peyresourde, the Col de Louron-Azet and La Hourquette d’Ancizan.
- At 28.5km - Col de Portet-d’Aspet (a 5.4km climb at 7%)
- At 44km - Col de Menté (a 7km climb at 8.1%)
- At 87km - Col de Peyresourde (a 13.1km long climb at 7.1%)
- At 107.5km - Col de Val Louron-Azet (7.4km climb at 8.3%)
- At 135km - La Hourquette d’Ancizan (9.9km climb at 7.5%)
Image copyright: Stage profiles courtesy of Le Tour de France.
View Tour de France route Stage 9 in a larger map
Watching the Tour in The Pyrenees
The Pyrenees during Tour de France week is chaotic, buzzing, exciting and busy. Don’t expect to get anywhere fast in the hours preceding or following the caravan and peloton passing through.
Many people pitch up camp on open mountainsides, sometimes, days in advance of the tour coming through. Tents, campervans and caravans line the roadsides. Locals rock up a few hours before the roads are closed with picnics, parasols and camping chairs.
Find a good spot and the atmosphere is festival-like. Tousles have been known when it comes to bagging the freebies they throw from the caravan (procession of Tour de France official sponsor floats). But on the whole, spirits are high and convivial.
Finding a good viewing point requires a combination of local knowledge, careful study of the route, thoughtful reading of Google maps and luck. But it’s all part of the fun. And what you don’t get right one year can always be put right when you come back the following year! Okay, so you might only want to do it once.
So here are our TOP FIVE TIPS for finding the right spot:
- Roads generally close between 4 and 5 hours before the caravan is due to pass through
- Climbs and corners good places to watch. Stand on a straight flat and you’ll be waiting four hours for 15 seconds of peloton.
- Look for areas of open mountain side. Tree covered areas will provide no room for crowds to gather.
- Buy the local paper the day before Even if you don’t speak French, you’ll be able to spot the timetable they publish showing start and finish times.
- Check the official tour site for the exact route and start times, cross reference with Google maps and finally ask your accommodation host if they have any pointers.