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In August 2013, Living Poitou-Charentes magazine evolved into Living Magazine incorporating the Dordogne, Haute-Vienne and Vendée, heralded by Brantôme on the front cover.

 

Le Tour de France 2014 heads to Dordogne

Le Tour de France 2014 heads to Dordogne

On 25-26 July the Dordogne will host two key stages of this year's Tour de France – here's how to get in on the action. 

Tour-de-France-dordogne

It's the ultimate sporting roadshow snaking its way around France, bringing with it colour, excitement and more than a dash of panache. It is, of course, the Tour de France, the world's largest annual spectator event, and a uniquely French spectacle that combines kitsche with cool. Even if you don't know your pedals from your peloton, you'll find France's annual feast of Lycra hard to resist.

You won't be the only one. The Tour de France draws millions of people to the roads of France every year, with millions more glued to TV screens and live-streams around the world, and it all translates into lucrative tourism dollars for the towns and cities savvy enough to secure ville étape du Tour status

 

La Grande Boucle

Coinciding with what is now routinely described as a Golden Age of British Cycling, the 2014 Tour will start with much fanfare in Leeds on 5 July, and head south towards London. It will finally cross the Channel on 8 July, for its first French stage –from Le Touquet to Lille. But it's the later stages which will decide the ultimate outcome, with two key stages taking place in Aquitaine. After three gruelling days in the Pyrénées, Stage 19 on 25 July will see the peloton head north from Maubourguet, through Gers and Lot-et-Garonne, and into the heart of the Dordogne. Riders will follow the D933 through Eymet before taking a detour around the vineyards of Monbazillac – and if the stars align for Briton Mark Cavendish and his Green Jersey rivals, there will be a sprint finish in Bergerac, some 208km after leaving Maubourguet.

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It's been some time...

This will be the first time since 1995 that the Tour has visited the Dordogne, having also featured in 1961, 1964, 1985 and 1994. That last year is significant because the Individual Time Trial stage set down for 26 July is loosely based on the same one ridden 20 years ago. This time, however, riders will race the clock in reverse, starting the 54km stage in Bergerac instead of Périgueux.
If the General Classification is tight coming out of the Pyrénées, the leading contenders will be looking to put as many seconds into their opponents as possible on the way out of Bergerac, meaning this penultimate stage could be crucial in deciding who wins the Tour. Twenty years ago, the great Miguel Indurain won the Dordogne Time Trial on his way to wearing the Yellow Jersey in Paris. This year, whoever claims Yellow in Périgueux will almost certainly ride into Paris the following day as the winner of the 2014 Tour de France.

Fancy watching the Tour?

For the uninitiated, watching a professional bike race generally involves hours of standing around in order to see a few bikes take a split second – two if you're lucky – to pass by. Where you watch the Tour is largely a matter of personal preference, because anywhere is essentially a good place to be. The great thing is that it's free and the course is long, which means there's plenty of room for everyone. That said, you want to get it right, because the peloton only passes once (unless, as with the Bergerac-Périgueux stage, it's a Time Trial, in which case you get to see every rider go by, one-by-one).

But, be warned: you still need to arrive early to get the best spot. This is especially true for prime positions near the start and finish lines, where it can get very crowded. Many people prefer to watch from villages or rural roadsides, where the crowds are sparser and the chances of engaging with the locals are higher.

In the Dordogne, anywhere along the D933 should be a good place to set up on the Friday. There are lots of smaller feeder roads linking into the route here, so it shouldn't be too difficult to access, even after the D933 itself has closed. The roads around Monbazillac may be more problematic, but the contours of the hills and the vines should make this section one of the most spectacular, and well worth the effort of arriving early. The Saturday provides an opportunity to see each rider in action as they race against the clock, departing one-by-one from Bergerac. The route follows the D709 and then the D4 up through Villamblard.

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"Route Barré.." (everything stops for the Tour)

The route may close to traffic several hours before the Publicity Caravan – a procession of garishly decorated vehicles representing sponsors and advertisers – comes through, some two hours before the riders themselves set out. Road closure information is usually available from local mairies and tourist offices prior to the event. But no matter where you're watching, be prepared to park up and walk if you're arriving by car; alternatively, cycle in, as this can make getting around a lot easier.

What to take

• Camera
• Food, water, wine (once you find that perfect spot, you won't want to leave to search for lunch)
• Sunscreen and hat (or poncho/rain coat if the Meteo forecast is bleak)
• Lightweight fold-up chair or blanket

Official Tour de France site: www.letour.fr

Words by Lynette Eyb who is editor of www.freewheelingfrance.com, France's leading English ­language cycle tourism website. It has a dedicated Tour de France section with more advice for watching the Tour, including a beginner's guide, Tour history and advice.