2019 Tour de France route. Three hotels booked.

Saint Flour

ASO and Christian Prudhomme will put on their big shindig in Paris on Thursday, announcing the route of the 2019 Tour de France. Yippee-do-da!

I spent an hour on the Velowire website this morning just working myself into an excitable froth about all the possibilities. There’s a cat-nip quality to the Tour presentation and I’m the cat.

Being an inveterate francophile, I start trembling just looking at the town names and their magical, musical power: Saint Etienne, Albi, Chalon-sur-Saône, Nîmes and Albertville. They’re just Velowire’s educated guesses for the moment but it’s more than enough to raise the heart-rate.

I’ve had the fabulous good fortune to cover the 2010, 2011 and 2013 Tour de France as a credentialed journalist. It’s the coolest, hardest, most exhilarating, most exhausting thing I’ve ever done. The Tour is a circus, a meat grinder, a magic show, a roller coaster, a giant frying pan. I threw myself into that fire and nothing I’ve ever done since required such logistical and improvisational skills. There’s just nothing better, nothing that even compares.

I did ten days of the 2017 Tour de France, just chasing the race on my own. I’m always amazing at the unexpected people I meet and the beautiful places that seem to be around every corner. The landscapes, the little towns, the historical monuments, the food and wine and pastries and chocolate. No matter what direction the Tour heads, you’re in for something fantastic.

One of my photos of Saint Flour from 2011

So I did something bold today — couldn’t help myself, really. The family plan is to spend a week or two in Spain in late June so on the off-chance that I might stay an extra week on my own, I booked three hotels for Le Tour. Based on the best intel from Velowire — and knowing from experience how fast the affordable hotels in the center of towns book up — I got myself a place in Saint Etienne, Albi and near Saint Flour.

In the 2011 Tour, my first day was driving to Saint Flour to pick up the press credential. It was the finish town for stage 9 and Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) had just beaten Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) for the victory, although the Frenchman won, too, slipping on the maillot jaunt. (It was also the terrible day when a French TV media car nearly killed Johnny Hoogerland and Juan Antonio Flecha.)

The town of Saint Flour sits atop a small hill with a panoramic view of the valley below. It’s just a stunning view and I’ve always wanted to go back there someday — In fact, I wrote about it a few years back.  Perhaps, the 2019 Tour de France will be that someday.

 

 

 

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