The Tour de France logistics are simply staggering: a 3,500 km race involving 219 cyclists, 1100 vehicles, 1200 hotel rooms a night and watched on TV by 3.5 billion people…
For me, one of the highlights of the Tour de France was following its progress from the first stages in the UK and seeing it travel to France. The logistics of moving this huge outfit from one country to another are quite remarkable. Many people think it is just the cyclists and their bikes but it is in fact a quite enormous convoy of vehicles and personnel which are involved in moving from one stage to another.
As my friend Brian Rees, head of Press and Public Relations at P&O Ferries said, nothing says Tour de France for the UK stages more than the sight of French motorcycle cops on UK roads and when the blue jacketed gendarmes arrived at Dover with P&O Ferries they were met by their yellow jacketed counterparts from Yorkshire and Humberside Police.
There are around 1,100 vehicles involved in the Tour de France including 600 carnival style promotional vehicles, support cars, media transport, catering trucks and official team cars carrying bikes, spare tyres and spare bikes. Incredibly, the organisers of Le Tour book 1200 hotel rooms each night as they pass along the stages.
After a fabulous time in the UK with millions of people turning out to cheer the heroic riders on, the Tour moved to France. VIPs including French cycling legend Bernard Hinault (five times winner) and Tour Director Christian Prudhomme travelled on P&O Ferries’ Spirit of France on 7th July as the Tour headed back to France for Stage four from Le Touquet. Bernard Hinault is one of only five cyclists to have won all three Grand Tours, and the only cyclist to have won each more than once. He won the Tour de France in 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982 and 1985. He remains the last French winner of the Tour de France.
Meanwhile the 1,100 vehicles and bikes were ferried to France via P&O over several sailings – “a lively day” I’m told by Brian Rees at P&O, who also managed to sort out passage for several hundred people who had been stuck on a Eurotunnel train that had broken down on its way to France.
The check-ins at Dover on 7th July for the transfer to the UK were an incredible sight as during the course of the afternoon and evening the 1,100 Tour vehicles that comprise the caravanne boarded ferries for France.
The Tour team were entertained in Club Class where they were introduced to Capt Paul Barret and First Officer Jenny Grove, whilst the precious bikes were stowed safely below.
Arriving at Calais, the vehicles made their way to Le Touquet on the Opal Coast to start the French leg of their 3,500 km race, thrilling the crowds and watched by 3.5 billion people on TV.