Being a Tour de France Fan Is as Grueling as the Race Itself

Lots of wine, baguettes and very few bicycles.

Everybody’s aware of what happens on the serpentine mountain roads that make up the course for the Tour de France—and how difficult the annual event is. Whether you’re a live spectator or watching from the comfort of your own home, it’s clear that this isn’t some luxury bike tour; it’s a grueling, body-punishing slog only the best of the best can accomplish. One Polish cyclist even posted a picture on Instagram of the toll the race has taken on his legs.

A post shared by Paweł Poljański (@p.poljanski) on

But it’s not all doom and gloom—at least for those live spectators. As The New York Times explains, to protect the course from an onslaught of would-be spectators, mountain roads are blocked off in the days before the race starts. So some spectators camp out in the mountains for days—or weeks—to land the perfect vantage point.

The tour attracts a diverse mixture of fans. There are the young ones, young enough to enjoy an extended camping trip, as well as weeks of hard partying. One young camper/spectator told the Times, “If the cyclists never came up on Sunday, we’d still be O.K.”

There are also older ones—as the Times found, in their 50s and 60s—who set up a makeshift dining room table in the mountain woods, drank wine all night, talked politics, and the tradition of watching the Tour de France.

The camper-spectators even had the services of a local woman, who went from camper to camper, serving them fresh, warm baguettes.

And then it’s a waiting game until the first cyclists start making their way uphill—which allows for longer, sustained spectating versus them flying by on flat ground.

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