The 2019 Tour de France was an intriguing battle all the way to the Champs-Elysees in Paris. From sweltering temperatures, massive storms in the final stages and a tough final week in the French Alpes the 2019 TDF edition truly was a race of attrition! Our cycling tour group though picked things up in Nice and the first ride crossing Gorges du Verdons and cycling into Provence was a real highlight! There is a lot to like about Provence and cycling through small villages like St Saturnin, Gordes and Roussillon provide excellent contrasts to Le Geant de Provence which is always lurking nearby. Yes, Mt Ventoux was the first serious test and to conquer this Hors Categorie climb is simply put an achievement and a half! But to find out where it all happened around the Tour de France race read below:
[Setting the scene] – Who remembers Stage 19 of the 2019 TDF when the heavens opened up and to everyone’s surpise washed out the summit finish to Tignes? Our tour plan was to watch the peloton pass over Col de l’Iseran (the penultimate climb and Europe’s highest mountain pass at 2770m). The Gendarmarie (French police) were nervous all day and we settled to watch the race from Bessans still 20km from the top of Iseran. With the poor weather hovering we had discussed coming back the next morning to conquer the beast.
As the peloton passed us by we re-assessed the weather conditions and the storm was holding-off on our side of the mountain. So with the support van providing close cover our guests, with only a handful of other cyclists, decided they were keen to give the mighty Iseran a go! At the point where the road becomes a real ‘mountain pass’ the Emergency Service crews had closed all access to vehicles due to the intense storm the TDF was experiencing on the other side. We were also stopped but we put our case forward that we only wanted to ride up to the summit and then back down the same way. And just like that we were given the green light to proceed!
So the climb was obviously great but what was even better was what happened next. A 13km descent to where we had the support van waiting. Not a single car on the road and the chance to feel like a pro rider for 20 minutes descending with only which glacier to look at to worry about! And while all of this was taking place the TDF was experiencing total CHAOS and we were still riding in warm weather and short sleeves!
The Tour de France is arguably, year after year, the world’s biggest sporting event! With that attention brings constant speculation as to where the following year’s route will travel, which climbs will be featured, any new climbs to be revealed, innovations to the race structure, any gravel road finishes like recent editions of the Giro d’Italia or any narrow ‘goat-like tracks’ to lofty summits as rolled out at La Vuelta a España??
When it comes to waiting for the next edition of the Tour de France most cycling enthusiasts resort to keeping an eye on the A.S.O. website (Le Tour race organizers) for the date of the following race route presentation. The 2019 TDF race edition for example was presented just a couple of weeks ago on 25 October 2018 in Paris. This approach seems the most sensible as trying to hunt-down start and finish towns over 21 cycling race stages is a somewhat ‘Mission Impossible’ task.
But surprisingly enough there are cycling fans out there whose curiousity gets the better of them. As soon as the bikes zoom around the Champs d’Elysees for the final Stage 21 sprint finish their attention must quickly turn to the next Tour de France race edition! It was not until we begun our cycling tour business Sierra Sports & Tours that we uncovered an incredible website dedicated to TDF race route rumours which tracks down information piece by piece. The www.velowire.com website in a way takes the small pieces of information it collects to try and create the full Tour de France jigsaw puzzle well before the official presentation in Paris. The website creator is not affiliated with the A.S.O. race organisation, is not a professional or ex professional cyclist nor works for any of the pro cycling teams but just another cycling fan like you or me.
So how does the www.velowire.com website do it?
- When you look at the stage by stage TDF analysis you find that they have been scrolling the local French newspapers with a fine toothcomb looking for details. The Tour de France is a magnet for national and international tourism so the towns and cities are very proud when selected to host a stage start or finish. So broadcasts to the media (print or radio) are excellent ways of finding out TDF race route information.
- The Tour de France is also a moving road show with the professional teams, race organizers, media circus and sponsors all requiring huge amounts of accommodation along the race route. An in-depth analysis of hotel reservations over the ‘July TDF pilgrimage period’ is another way of either finding out or confirming possible stage start or finish towns!
- At times social media plays a part with the A.S.O. organizers uploading a photo or comment to their feeds. Such details are often ambiguous and require further examination and if you are lucky one might uncover some further race information following these avenues.
So did velowire.com hit the mark with the 2019 Tour de France race route?
It wasn’t until 24 September 2018 that velowire.com began to publish its possible 2019 Tour de France race route which was one month before the official race presentation. At this time A.S.O. had already released the first two stages in Belgium. During October 2018 velowire.com made additional modifications as they uncovered more information. At the end of the process it is quite remarkable that 24 hours before the official release velowire.com had 41 of the 42 start and finish locations correctly reported. Only the Stage 15 start in Limoux was erroneous (they reported nearby Foix) which I think we can forgive them for!
To take the analysis back to the first 2019 TDF rumour release on 24 September 2018 and they had 10 stage start and finishes correct out of 19 possible stages (2 stages were already confirmed for the Belgium start). Another 6 stages had either the start or finish town correct which again provides very useful information for a tour operator like Sierra Sports & Tours looking at planning Tour de France cycling tour itineraries!
We would love to know the number of hours spent by velowire.com as they sit and research the highly anticipated Tour de France route every year. They take what seems to be an almost ‘forensic science’ approach to revealing the TDF route for everyone. To take things full circle and you can even watch a livestream of the official TDF presentation in Paris straight from their very own webpage. If only we could find a similar webpage dedicated to Giro d’Italia and La Vuelta a España rumours and race leaks. Chapeau!!