It’s not long now until the Tour de France, the biggest sporting event on earth – and this year it’s an all France route.
Starting at the lovely Noirmoutier-en-Ile on July 7, famous for its gorgeous sunsets, the first day ends in the Vendée in the floral town of Fontenay-le-Comte. It’s a flat but windy route which will make for some exciting riding! From here the route takes in more of the most stunning areas of France via Brittany, the Loire and Hautes de France. There are the mountainous routes of Annecy and the local resorts, fabulous Carcassonne and divine Lourdes plus loads of other wonderful locations before this thrilling race ends as always in the Champs-Elysées in Paris (29 July).
The Tour de France is one of the most watched events on TV, it’s estimated 3.5 billion people tune in, and it draws huge crowds along the route. Before the riders arrive, the Tour de France parade gets the whole thing going with quirky vehicles, and the chucking of souvenirs! From bottles of water to key rings and cakes, this is one of the most fun aspects for onlookers. Helicopters hover above filming for the world’s TV, the atmosphere is one of joy and excitement and when the riders whizz by the cheer of the crowds is at fever pitch!
We look at some of the spectacular areas the 2018 Tour de France will pass through:
Fontenay Le Comte, Vendée
The race will zoom through the renaissance market town of Fontenay le Comte in the Vendée. It stretches in a gloriously straight line from a lofty, green square at the top of the town, across the River Vendée and then up again. It’s a sleepy sort of place except on market day. Head up to the Donjon des Cimes where there are amazing views across the roof tops as well as huge enclosed nets up in the trees for the kids to play on. It’s in Fontenay that you first start to get a taste of the south and it’s a good base for exploring the Vendée area.
The Tour de France will have 4 stages in beautiful Brittany, northwest France – and who can blame them! The loop will pass through Sarzeau, Lorient, Quimper, Brest, Mur de Bretagne and Fougeres. It’s an area that’s blessed with a long coastline, glorious countryside, picturesque villages and wonderful gastronomy. Truly tempting to taste buds, resistance is futile when it comes to crepes in Britany, the famous pancakes are so moreish. Washed down with local cider, accompanied by fresh seafood, this is one region where you can forget all about dieting.
Annecy and its resorts
The famous Lake of Annecy, the cleanest in Europe, with blue-green waters and canals that run through the old town gave Annecy the nickname “Venice of the Alps”. This stunning little city surrounded by mountains, boasting cobbled streets and half-timbered buildings just oozes charm. The cyclists will pass through here and up into the mountains of lovely Le Grand Bornand, with those steep hills, they’ll have to work hard on the way up and be able to enjoy the most stunning views on the way down!
Carcassonne, Aude, Occitanie
Perched high on a rocky hilltop, the citadel town of Carcassonne has its origins in the Gallo-Roman era dating back to the 1st century BC and has a colourful past. Today the fabulously restored hill top castle and beautiful medieval town ensure it is one of the most visited places in the South of France. The lower town of Carcassonne hosts a fabulous market and the Canal du Midi runs through the town. This is a most stunning part of France.
One of the final stages of the tour will go through Lourdes in southwestern France, in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains. It’s known as a major Catholic pilgrimage site. Each year millions visit the Grotto of Massabielle (Grotto of the Apparitions) where, in 1858, the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to a local woman. In the grotto, pilgrims can drink or bathe in water flowing from a spring.
See the entire route and details on the official Tour de France website