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Tour de France  2012 stage - 2
Thomson Bike Tours: Don’t Miss These TDF Stages
Alpe d’Huez, Galibier, Tourmalet, Luz-Ardiden – the classic climbs are back and with some innovative itineraries that will ensure maximum suspense till the final switchback. The 2011 TDF celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Alps with a couple of fascinating Alpine stages and, not to be outdone, the Pyrenees also have their fair share of classic stages. Peter Thomson, co-founder of Thomson Bike Tours, takes an in-depth look at the 3 critical mountain stages you won’t want to miss next July…

- Special Travel Feature by Peter Thomson of Thomson Bike Tours -

July 14: Cugnaux to LUZ-ARDIDEN
Luz-Ardiden was last climbed in 2003 when Lance Armstrong sensationally crashed after catching his handlebars on a spectator’s bag strap. This famous climb returns in 2011 as the grand finale of a spectacular Pyrenean stage that will see the riders tackle 3 major climbs, including the Col du Tourmalet, in the last 75km of the stage.

One of my all-time favorites, I’m excited to see Luz-Ardiden back on the Tour route. With its numerous switchbacks and clear views for several km down the valley, Luz-Ardiden offers some of the top race-viewing opportunities in France. Just imagine the above picture on race day…

This is the first big mountain stage of the Tour and it could well prove to be one of those early race-defining stages. With 3 major climbs in the last 75km it’s really going to hurt and I would expect to see the top riders make substantial gains.

Hourquette d’Ancizan has been included in Thomson Bike Tour itineraries for the past 5 or 6 years and I’m really glad to see it finally included in the TDF route. It’s really tough and the narrow, single-track road will force the GC contenders to fight for a spot at the front of the peloton so expect some fierce competition up this climb.

Next up is the HC Col du Tourmalet which, coming immediately after the Hourquette, will inflict some serious hurt on the peloton. The final climb of the day, Luz-Ardiden, starts immediately after the riders descend Tourmalet. By this point in the stage I’d expect a small lead-group to have formed which should quickly break up on the lower slopes of the climb. Any rider that doesn’t have the legs today could well see any chance of a top GC placement wiped out on this first day in the mountains!

Road-side Viewing
Being July 14 (Bastille Day) we can expect huge crowds especially on the final climb to Luz-Ardiden. We’ll have our crews out several days in advance to make sure we get a prime race-viewing spot close to the finish line. Luz-Ardiden is the perfect climb for a great race-viewing experience. There are lots of switch-backs and the last 4 to 5km are above the treeline making for spectacular views of the race coming up the climb.

Our race viewing stations get you close to the action at key points of the race. Enjoy the comfort of our marquis tents and keep track of the race as it develops on our satellite TV feed.

July 21: Pinerolo to COL DU GALIBIER
The first of the 2 decisive stages in the Alps sees the first-ever summit finish on the Col du Galibier. The stage also includes 2 other HC climbs – the massive 50km Col d’Agnel and the Col d’Izoard – making it the toughest stage of the 2011 TDF.

The above picture shows the view from the summit looking down towards the Col du Lautaret. The riders will be ascending Galibier from this side. The building on the bottom-right marks the start of the final km which averages over 10%.

A huge stage with 3 HC climbs and approximately 16,000ft of climbing! Of course, how the riders approach today’s stage will depend on the overall classification, but I think the main GC contenders will wait until the final 9km climb to the Galibier finish before launching any serious attacks. The massive +50km Col d’Agnel and the Col d’Izoard will have made the initial selection and only the top riders will be left to fight out the first-ever win on Galibier. Should make for a great afternoon of racing!

Road-side Viewing
As mentioned we expect the main attacks to come on the final 9km climb from the Col du Lautaret to the summit finish on top of the Galibier – so that’s where we’ll be setting up our race-viewing station. Of course the final 9km to the Galibier will be jam-packed so we’ll have our race-viewing logistics team out several days in advance to secure a great spot as close as possible to the Galibier summit.

July 22: Modane to ALPE d’HUEZ
After a 2 year absence the Alpe is back! And it’s nice to see the Tour organizers experiment with a short stage which should make for a super-fast, super-aggressive race with lots of attacks.

With a little bit of luck the GC standings will still be quite close – in which case we’ll be in for a fantastic day of racing. The stage is short, just 109km, so it will be fast and fiercely competitive.

The attacks should start right from the start on the Col du Telegraphe and, on such a short stage, the GC contenders will have to be attentive and not let anyone get too far up the road. From the Telegraphe it’s on to the Galibier where the top teams will want to hold the race together before the 45km descent to Bourg d’Oisans and the start of the climb to the finish line in Alpe d’Huez.

Road-side Viewing
Of course, nothing beats a stage finish up the famous 21 switchbacks to Alpe d’Huez. We’ll enjoy a catered lunch and watch the stage from the comfort of our hotel balcony which is situated directly on the race course just 1km from the finish line.

What our riders have to say…
Here are just a few comments from riders who participated in Thomson Bike Tours KOM trips to the TDF in 2010:

• “This trip was the trip of a lifetime for me. It was so well organized with a very knowledgeable staff. They took care of all our needs so all we needed to do was ride. It doesn’t get any better than that! I cannot wait to do it again. See you in the Pyrenees in 2 years!”
Lisa Frick – California, USA

• “From the time I signed up, Thomson Bike Tours were totally professional. Great communication, great rider support and a massive amount of work behind the scenes to make our trip great. I would and have recommended Thomson to other people. We are planning to return next year maybe the Trans Pyrenees. Peter and all the team were fantastic and great fun to be with.”
Neil Rees – South Australia

• “A superior trip from start to finish. Run by true professionals with a passion for cycling. They go above and beyond all expectations to provide each cyclist with the trip of a lifetime. A true value for the expense when you consider the services provided. I’m sold on Thomson bike tours and would not consider to ride with anyone else.”
John Spieker – Delaware, USA

• “Excellent , A+ cycling trip. Probably the best cycling trip I’ve ever taken. So high in quality and value I’m afraid to book any other cycling tours as they will likely pale in comparison. As Melanie my climbing partner said, Thomson Tours is “Living the Dream.””
Tim Crum – Washington, USA

For more information…

For more information on the Thomson Bike Tours series of King of the Mountains trips can be found on their website:
• KOM Pyrenees Trip:
• KOM Alps Centenary Trip:
• KOM Alps Extreme Trip:
• KOM Alps Performance Trip:


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