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Tour de France 2013 – What to expect - Al Fresco Holidays

What to look out for

The Tour is, of course, famous for its relentless, punishing mountain stages. But this year they’re going to be twice as arduous…One of the most eagerly anticipated highlights of the 2013 race is the ‘brutal’ double ascent of L’Alpe d’Huez (1,860m) with its legendary 21 bends. This will prove a gruelling test of character indeed, sure to sort the ‘men out from the boys’ towards the end of the riders’ epic journey on Day 18 (July 18th).

 

As well the calf-blasting, lung-bursting hill-climbs, the event is equally renowned for its colourful ‘caravan’ – a wonderful spectacle that has preceded the race since 1930. In fact, it’s thought that almost half of the many, many millions of spectators who flock to the Tour come especially to see this 20km long jamboree. This is all about creating ‘brand awareness’, but on a giant scale. Expect to see at least 160 enormous floats, elaborately decorated, designed to advertise the various big, French names, like Michelin, Peugeot, Laughing Cow (cheese) and many, many more. Make sure you take a bag – free gifts are lavished in abundance, which is great fun for all ages.

 

Keep an eye out for the voiture balai too – the ‘sweep wagon’, which until recently was an old Citroen van with a real broom on top. This follows the riders along the route, collecting stragglers at the back of the peloton (‘little ball’ of riders). If it catches anyone up, or if they are simply too slow and tired to finish, they are ‘swept up’ (i.e. given a lift) and their race is over.

 

 

Who to look out for

There will be 22 professional teams, each with nine riders. They come from all over the world, including the Netherlands, Russia, Italy, United States, Great Britain and, naturellement, La belle France. As well as ‘the usual suspects’ Sir Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish, it’s worth watching Chris Froome, Alberto Contador, Joaquim Rodriguez (if his bicep repairs in time), Andy Schleck and the Slovakian superstar Peter Sagan (The Terminator) – all candidates for donning the ‘maillot jeune’ at some stage, if not the end.

 

The longest stage (Day 15/July 14th) will be Givors to Mont Ventoux (242km) whilst the shortest stage (Day 4/July 2nd) is the team time trial around Nice (25km).

 

Mind your toes ­– the race will be policed by 12,000 gendarmes, 9,000 CRS men and closely protected by 45 Garde Republicaine motorcyclists, experts at weaving alongside rider traffic at speeds of up to 25mph uphill and 60mph downhill!

 

 

 

Where is different

To begin with, literally, the first thing different about this particular Tour is that it takes in the glorious, Mediterranean island of Corsica. It’s not only where the race starts (The Grand Départ), from Porto Vecchio on the south east tip of the island, it is also the first time in the event’s history that Corsica has been on the route. The race involves a host of new stage towns too, including Bastia, Ajaccio, Caha, Cagnes-sur-Mer, Saint-Gildas-des-Bois, Saint-Pourcin-sur-Sioule, Givors, Chorges and Annecy-Semnoz, which is set to deliver a superb summit finish.

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