Where to watch the Tour de France in the Alps

The Tour de France, arguably the world’s greatest sporting event, has had a fascination with the mountains for more than 100 years. In the third edition of the fledgling sporting event in 1905, the mountains made their first appearance, leading one competitor to call the race organisers ‘murderers’ at the top of one brutal climb. In those days the mountain cols were no more than dirt tracks, not the smooth surfaced affairs they are today. The bikes were heavy and gears didn’t exist, so the accuser wasn’t far off the mark. Climbing those cols in those days must have been an horrendous experience.

This year the Alps figure heavily, as always. Tour watchers will have a feast as three of the stages take in some fearsome climbs. Stage 18 kicks things off with a 17km individual time trail from Sallanches to Megeve. Megeve is arguably one of the Alps most well kept resorts and is a fabulous destination in summer as well as in winter. Megeve Tourism was the first tourism office in Europe to obtain the ISO 14001 environmental management standard. Apart from taking sustainable development very seriously, Megeve prides itself on looking the business. It really is a pretty resort, well manicured and bursting with civic pride. Anywhere along the route will be a fine place to watch each rider do his best to beat the clock.

Stage 19 rolls out of Albertville and passes through Megeve as it wends it’s way to the finish in Saint Gervais Mont Blanc. Passing through the stunningly beautiful town of Annecy, the stage takes in the Col de Forclaz de Montmin. This is a difficult climb and a leg softener for the two other brutal climbs to come later in the stage. I’ve climbed the Col de Forclaz many times, from both sides. The view from the top is out of this world, looking down at the turquoise waters of Lac Annecy is a sight to behold, of course the riders won’t be sightseeing and will plunge down the other side with hardly a glance. It’s a very technical and difficult descent and it will be heart in mouth time for some of the riders, especially the ones who don’t like the dangerous descents so much.

Megeve Tour De France

Amateur cyclists usually stop for a breather and congregate at the summit of the Forclaz to take in the view and watch the Parrapenters launch themselves into the abyss. On one memorable occasion, I actually witnessed a Dutch lady crest the summit on a shopping bike, with basket, to boot. If there were provisions in the basket she ate them on the way up. Finishing at Saint Gervais, Mont Blanc will be in full view. The resort of Saint Gervais is situated in the midst of two ski domains, the Evasion Mont Blanc and Les Houches-Saint-Gervais which boast a total of 500km of ski slopes. It’s a wonderful area with spectacular scenery, a worthy theatre for the world’s greatest bike race.

The climb up to Morzine

Stage 20 starts in Megeve and finishes in Morzine taking in the Col de Joux Plane on the way. Morzine is another of my favourite resorts. A traditional French market town in the heart of the Portes du Soleil ski domain. Morzine is dominated by some stunning luxury ski chalets spread across the river gorge, bordered by partially wooded slopes allowing skiing in poor weather conditions. Situated at an altitude of 1000 m, it is one of the most northerly of the French Alpine resorts, and weather wise benefits from the Mont Blanc microclimate.

Megeve or Morzine will both make fabulous bases to get out on the route for the Tour’s three day visit to the Alps, that’s if you can get a room at this late stage. The Tour attracts thousands if not close to a million tourists on the alpine stages every year. It’ not surprise really, the importance of the Tour De France is more than matched by the grandeur of the mountains and is a rolling show that’s inspiring and exciting. Catch it if you can.

Rebecca Taylor is Director at SkiBoutique.

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