Posted by: Jennifer Sage | October 20, 2008

Official Tour de France route announcement this Wednesday

This Wednesday the 22nd the official route of the 2009 Tour de France will be unveiled in Paris. This “momentous” day had lost some of its allure and secrecy due to the leaking of much of the route and the posting of this unofficial route on websites such as this one.  This information has been great for tour operators like me as we plan our attack, but it’s also made it difficult to find hotels, because how many other tour operators like me have found the same leaked material? Lots I would gather, as strangely, a huge amount of hotels are already booked! Typically one expects the tour officials, media and teams to take up a lot of hotel rooms in the arrival and departure cities, but not everything!

Then you have a place like the huge ski resort of Verbier, Switzerland, where one would expect to find many, many hotels with availability. That would be a great place to watch an uphill finish, and to ride around on the rest day, but there is not ONE hotel room available. Some hotels say they aren’t making their reservations for next summer until after January or February, and no amount of begging (“please, tour operators must be able to start promoting their tours in November!”) will change their minds. But the biggest problem is that the arrival of the Tour de France coincides with the beginning of their huge summer festival season, and they couldn’t be bothered reserving you 12 rooms for 2 nights when they will have absolutely no problem booking each room for a week at a time to long time customers. To hotels in a resort like Verbier, the Tour de France is a pain in their butts! They’d rather not have it.

Typically I wake at 4 am on Tour route announcement day, to be ready for the noontime announcement in Paris, and this Wednesday will be no different. I am hoping that we find out we’ve been duped by some of this early route guessing! Maybe some false “leakage” occurred, intentionally? If that’s the case, there will be a race for hotels in other towns not previously thought to be close to the route.

It does seem certain that Mont Ventoux will figure on the penultimate day of the Tour, which is a huge departure from standard Tour routes. It seems like the big climbs will be spread out all over the place. It also appears that the route will start in Provence and then double back like a lariat to arrive at Mont Ventoux the day before Paris. For Tour de France teams, this will mean a long bus or train ride to their hotel that night for the final stage into Paris. For participants in tours like mine, it will mean making a decision between seeing this history making mountaintop finish on Ventoux, and seeing the finish in Paris.

Oh, I guess there will be tour operators who will do both, but not me. There’s nothing less appealing to me than a long late night bus ride to Paris (or a very, very crowded train). Seeing the finish in Paris is ok, but experiencing Ventoux on one day, then riding through the Provence vineyards and medieval villages the next day and watching the finish on TV while sipping a fine vintage of Chateauneuf du Pape on a sun-filled terrace in the afternoon is far, far more appealing!

Check back soon for details on my tours to the Tour. It’s a fascinating and fun challenge and this is the week when it all happens. To read more about how tour operators put this puzzle together, read my last year’s post on the 2008 Tour de France.

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