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Before I shell out big bucks to a tour guide, I'd really like to hear from any of you who have done something like this. Advice? Recommendations? Warnings?
Basing yourself in the Alps is great. The fixed point of reference is nice as you always know what to expect and can set yourself up for your rides well ahead of time.
I would say that a camper if within reach financially is definitely the best option but only if you can share the driving with other people. I say within reach as during July they can cost a small fortune but the flexibility to move ahead of the Tour is fantastic.
Failing those I would suggest looking up http://www.alpcycles.com/ as they have been responsible for my most memorable trip where the only thing I had to worry about was getting myself and my bike to the airport and they took care of the rest - even nursing me through a bad day on the bike.
Whatever you do it will be a huge amount of fun. I dont write off the spectacle of the start either as its a good opportunity to get up close and personal with the riders when the sign on.
We would camp with a tent in a proper Camping which was not too far from either of the finishes. Each day we drove 50-100km to close to the stage finish, then rode a bit and up the last climb as far we could.
What I found out that you either follow the Tour like this, or you ride your bike.
We were severely limited to ride the bike on the climbs, every 2nd or 3rd gendarme asking to unmount. Of course there are too many riding up, so it's just pushing for 20 meters, and remounting, but if I want to ride up Ventoux then I don't want to stop.
The best day I had was when we left the Tour from the Pyrenees, heading home through the Alps (that Tour was Alps first), and I rode some there. l'Alpe was almost empty, maybe met 2 other cyclists.
I guess the best way to do it would be with a full service "Tour tour".
Unless you want to spend a lot of money on a packaged tour from one of the best, high-end companies (there are only a few that allow you to do the amount of riding you'd likely be interested in), then I would highly recommend the camper option. Finding hotels around the Tour de France stages is always near impossible, and the process would likely make you hate the idea of the trip before it's even begun!
Taking advantage of the freedom offered by a camper-van will allow you to do exactly the amount of riding you want, with the flexibility to make last-minute adjustments with no penalty.
Whatever you decide, you're sure to have a great time. It really is an awesome experience!
My wife and kids really weren't up for chasing the TdF around for a week or two. So I am going by myself. They are joining me in paris on the 20th so we can watch the finale together, then spend a week sightseeing in and around Paris.
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