The Tour de France effect

Saint Jean de Sixt during the 2013 Tour de France
The Tour de France races through Manigod, La Clusaz, St Jean de Sixt and ends at Le Grand Bornand later today. I took this photo this morning while the course is being set up. Traffic is only allowed to flow until midday, and already the crowds are building on both sides of the road to ensure a good viewpoint as the cyclists race past.

The actual bike race goes past in a flash: a few blinks and the majority of cyclists have already sped past. There’s a lot more to the Tour de France than just the cyclists. For the spectators, there’s the hour-long procession of floats with freebies that the public go crazy for. Anyone for a plastic blow-up stick? Yes? How about this spotty hat with a supermarket name on the front? I’ve written before about the rather odd behaviour of the spectators during the Tour de France, and I try to stand back to avoid the carnage.

Route to La Clusaz from St Jean de SixtBefore the floats, there’s a lot of local preparation that isn’t obvious to anyone visiting or watching on TV. The Tour de France is a chance for every village involved to show off their assets, so the work begins a few weeks before the race arrives. Work starts with signs, such as these ones, which have appeared on the road from St Jean de Sixt to La Clusaz even though the race goes in the opposite direction. These posts aren’t for the riders’ information: they’re a marketing tool to remind arriving visitors that the Tour de France is coming though!

About a week before the race, the road gets fixed up. Pot holes and cracks are mended, overly large speed humps are flattened so the cyclists don’t bounce in the air at high speed as they hit them, and sections of road are resurfaced as required. A few days later, the roads get repainted so they look their best. For the past few months, the roads around the Aravis have been devoid of all white paint, making night driving a bit more challenging. We all knew we’d need to wait until just before the race arrives for the new markings to appear, and sure enough, we now have fresh paint. For a week, we’ve also had signs reminding locals that the roads will be closed from midday until 6pm. Some businesses close for the day because their clients have no access, and the locals have been avoiding needing to go anywhere by car today.

But the work doesn’t stop there. Last week, I noticed that the sides of the main access road from Annecy were also being mowed in preparation for the big day. It seems that all the villages further from the action are as keen to look their best too.

So, if you want some pleasant driving, follow the route from the Tour de France: you’re guaranteed to have great road markings and a smooth ride.

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I’m a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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5 comments on “The Tour de France effect
  1. Ron Rundle says:

    Wen, I can really understand that if you live amongst it, the whole spectacle may be a major annoyance. But, for us on the other side of the world, it is a chance to see the wonderful scenery of France. Even though I have had the opportunity to tour most of France, I still really love the coverage of the tour just for the cinematography. And, if your village gets a bit of a spruce up, that’s got to be good, n’est ce pas?

  2. Wendy says:

    Indeed, Ron. We *love* it when the Tour de France comes through because there are so many improvements around town! It’s a great atmosphere too. It’s the busiest it ever gets here!

  3. Lesley says:

    Which side of the road were you? Can you be more exact as we’d like to spot the lady head to toe in Team colours , waving an Aussie flag?
    We are split between The Tour and The Ashes – we watch the cycling live and record it to relive the best bits.

  4. Wendy says:

    Lesley, I was on the right of the cyclists, at the 3km mark right before the roundabout in St Jean de Sixt. I was shaking the Aussie flag in clear view of the camera and made it onto the TV if you recorded it (not fancy dress) 🙂

  5. Lesley says:

    Did the corner frame by frame but missed you.
    Maybe next time when the show is in your neighbourhood!
    Next year they are starting in Yorkshire and we shall be looking out for our old stamping ground and the pothole-free roads.

About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced technical writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Drop by, my other site.

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