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©Morzine-Avoriaz.Verity Taylor-Littler @morzineofficiel #morzine

We weren’t all lycra-clad cycling fans last time I checked, and whilst I love the buzz of the world’s toughest road bike race coming to town and catching the freebies that get thrown from the caravans, I am by no means an expert.

So, instead, I caught up with our local road bike mechanic, Alex, on why he thinks it’s a big deal that the Tour is in town for the second time in two years this year. 

What’s your first memory of the Tour de France?

I first learned about the Tour by reading about it in Cycling Weekly back in the 80’s. The tour highlights used to air on Channel 4 for half an hour in an evening, and back home in Doncaster I used to race up to my bedroom to watch it with the door shut so I wouldn’t get disturbed by my two brothers. In my first year watching it, Greg Le Monde beat French favourite Laurent Fignon by 8 seconds and from then I was hooked. 

When did you become a cyclist?

In the 80s in Doncaster, I used to take part in the milk race series. I had a Raleigh Banana, which is a collector’s item now!

Where did you first see the Tour live?

I watched it in Brighton in 1994. Having watched the riders on the course I then drove to the finishing circuit, and after they had come past again, a woman standing next to me said “I live just here, does anyone want to come and watch the finish on TV” So me and about nine other people piled into her living room to watch the end, it was a great laugh! The Tour came to Sheffield in 2014. I stood on Cote d’Outibridge, which just doesn’t have the same ring to it does it?! The writing was on the roads for years after. 

What’s the main difference between watching the tour on TV, and watching it live?

They say that the TV makes you look bigger, well it makes the Alps look smaller! You just can’t appreciate the steepness of the gradients on the telly.

Whilst you see the fans that line the roads watching the Tour on TV, and an idea of the excitement as the peloton flashes by, what you don’t really see is what happens in the hours before seeing the pros. People come from all over the world, setting up camp at the side of the road sometimes days in advance. It becomes a community, with ‘camps’ from different countries and supporting different teams bringing flags, and when the caravans pass before the riders there is a mad scramble for the promotional freebies that get thrown out (catching these is a sport in itself!). The excitement that builds as the riders approach and the helicopters start to hover is unbelievable.

What are your tips for getting the best view of the riders?

Get up on the hill! The riders tend to whizz by and it’s just a couple of frenzied seconds on the flat. If you want to see the last-minute attacks at the top of a climb, head there – but it makes it all faster and harder to work out what’s going on, plus a lot of people do this so this is where you will find the crowds. Still, standing among a crowd on a mountaintop waiting for tour riders… I can think of worse places to be. 

What’s the funniest memory from among the fans of the Tour?

People go crazy with the costumes, there are all sorts to get them noticed on TV and by the riders. There is one group from the UK called the Beefeaters who have attracted quite a following now. Watch their YouTube video and it gives you an idea of why people do it, and how it becomes an addiction.

What does it mean to you when the Tour is in your hometown?

You can ride alongside Peter Sagan! When the Tour was in Morzine in 2022 the pros had a rest day there. In the morning the riders headed out from their hotels on their bikes for a social paced ride. If you were lucky enough, you could say that you rode alongside the likes of Peter that day. The tour buses that are used by the teams were also pretty fascinating, you start to realise just how much organisation goes into the Tour, with trucks loaded with washing machines galore for all the kit, and full kitchens with professional chefs so that the riders get their meals cooked by their teams and not a hotel. 

What would you suggest for a family wanting to get in on the action?

The resort is opening chair lifts to allow people to get to the top this year, so you can go and see it at the top of one of the climbs. If there are younger children involved though, I would probably hang out in the Chalet garden until the riders are getting nearer, and then go and watch it on screen in town. You won’t have to put up with the big crowds, you still get an idea of the atmosphere, and there will be entertainment in the square making it fun for everyone. Whatever you do though, don’t miss it!

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