How to watch the Tour de France
Allez allez! The 103rd Tour de France has begun at Mont St Michel and we’re all geared up for three weeks of cycling action and stunning French scenery.
If you’re new to the Tour it can be a confusing blur of French jargon and coloured jerseys. But never fear – whether you’re an armchair fan or lucky enough to be close to the action on a Canvas holiday – our spectators guide is here to translate.
The Tour has 21 stages over three weeks, with 22 teams of nine riders. Each team has a leader, who is supported by his team mates (domestiques) in his quest to finish the race in the lowest accumulated time and win the famous Yellow jersey.
As well as the overall competition there are also several sub-contests happening, such as the sprinters and mountains classifications. This means there’s always plenty of action and intrigue to watch.
The race has a different route each year, designed to challenge the riders across a variety of terrain, from the bone-rattling cobblestones of the north to the soaring mountains (and gruelling climbs) of the Alps and Pyrenees. This year’s 3,519km route starts in Normandy at Mont-St-Michel and features nine mountains stages, before finishing on the Champs-Élysées on 24th July.
Yellow, green, white… and what’s that spotty one all about? These jerseys indicate the current leader of each classification. The jersey holder can change throughout the race based on current standings of points and times.
Yellow jersey – General
The rider with the least overall accumulated time at the end of the race wins the general classification and takes home yellow jersey. Among the favourites this year are Britain’s Chris Froome, Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali and recent Giro d’Italia winner Alberto Contador.
Green jersey – Points
The Points classification is the competition for sprinters. Spring points are awarded at both at intermediate points throughout the race and at finishes. Whoever has the most points in Paris wins the coveted Green jersey. Look out for Britain’s Mark Cavendish who is looking to add to his incredible list of stage wins.
Polka dot jersey – Mountains
Also known as the “King of the Mountains,” the polka dot jersey is awarded to the rider with the most points for mountaintop wins at intermediate points and finishes.
White jersey – Best young rider
This is given to the rider under 26 years of age with the least overall accumulated time.
Peloton: The main field of riders in the race. They work together by riding closely to save power and energy.
Breakaway: A rider or small group of riders who ride off the front of the peloton to form a gap between them and the main field.
Chase: A rider or group of riders who zoom off from the peloton and try to bridge the gap to the breakaway.
Domestique: This is a rider whose only job is to support their team, from getting water bottles for other team riders to working for them in the peloton.
Time trial: An individual ride where the winner is determined by the fastest time.
Lantern rouge: The rider who finishes the Tour in last place.
Watching the Tour in France
If you’re lucky enough to be in France over the next three weeks on a Canvas holiday, many of our sites are well-placed to get close to the action. Don’t forget that the Tour draws huge crowds, so you’ll need to get there early to bag a great spot. Check beforehand for road closures and diversions. Take a picnic and plenty of water and sunscreen!
Saturday 2 July
The action stars at Grand Depart as the cyclists head off from Mont-St- Michel towards Utah beach on day one of the Tour.
Sunday 3 July – Monday 4 July
Over the first few days the tour goes around the north coast of France before heading away from the coast and into the heart of France.
Wednesday 13 July
As the tour approaches the south of France, the race sets off from the beautiful city of Carcassonne before heading along the coast to Montpellier.
Campsites nearby: Les Mediterannees – Beach Garden (123km)
Thursday 14 July
The day’s action starts in Montpellier before heading inland again.
Campsites nearby: Camping le Palavas
Friday 15 July
Today the tour’s first time trial takes place from Bourg Saint –Andéol to La Caverne du Pont d’Arc in the Ardèche. This region is beautiful and will provide a stunning back drop for the time trial.
Campsites nearby: Camping la Plage Fleurie (available to book from mid-January) & Camping Château de Boisson
Sunday 17 July
As the tour starts to make its way towards the mountains, stage 15 makes its way from Bourg-en-Bresse to Culoz.
Campsites nearby: French Alps, Culoz is 63km the campsites at Lake Annecy.
Tuesday 19 and Wednesday 20 July
The 19th is a rest day in Berne, Switzerland. It’s fascinating to see all of the vehicles and work that goes into the Tour de France. You can normally wander around the tour village and maybe even spot a few famous faces. On Wednesday Berne is the starting point to the race.
Campsites nearby: Camping Manor Farm, Interlaken
Thursday 21 July
The 21st sees the second time trial of the tour with the cyclists sprinting into Megève.
Campsites nearby: French Alps, Lake Annecy
Friday 22 July
The stage between Albertville and Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc will take the cyclists through some of the most mountainous terrain of the tour. Mont Blanc will provide the backdrop for most of the stage.
Campsites nearby: To wave the cyclists off into the mountains, the sites at Lake Annecy are closest.
Saturday 23 July
The penultimate stage sees the cyclists take on a short but intense stage as the race heats up for the yellow jersey. The stage starts in Megève and powers through to Morzine.
To catch the grand finale in Paris on Saturday July 24, Camping la Croix du Vieux Pont and Camping les Etangs Fleuris are within driving distance. Check out our previous blog post on catching the Tour in Paris.
If you’d like to watch at a more leisurely pace, most campsites have televisions in their bars and restaurants and will no doubt be tuned in to the Tour!