Wimbledon, NZ Lions Series and Tour de France
Big sports events usually take place during the summer and here in the UK it’s momentarily Wimbledon, NZ Lions Series and Tour de France that are taking up people’s attention.
Tour de France
Tour de France is an event that as a child from Dutch soil, I have been in touch with plenty enough during my life. The famous annual cycling event primarily held in France, is always full of excitement, intrigues, but most of all views of the best that France has to offer. Not rarely it happens that you stumble upon a town in France that once was the setting of one of the stages of a Tour de France series. Big signs indicate this fact proudly and I’m sure that inhabitants of these places can tell you all kinds of stories of when ‘Le Grand Boucle’ visited their town.
My favourite stages in the Tour are the ones taking place in the Alps and the Pyrenees, simply because of the beautiful scenery. This year we happened to drive a few of the iconic ‘col’s’, or mountain passes, in the Pyrenees (by car, not by bike. What do you think?!).
Col d’Aspin has been the stage of the Tour de France 71 times, and is located in the French Hautes-Pyrénées. The summit is at 1,498m, and is considered as a relatively easy mountain pass to cycle with ‘only’ 5km being a difficult climb at 8%. To be very honest with you though, I’ll need extra oxygen probably by the end of such a climb. We noticed quite a few French, English and Dutch cyclists taking the challenge, while we were taking pictures from the summit. Needless to say that I’ve a lot of respect for all of them!
Col du Tourmalet
My most favourite of the mountain passes we did this year definitely must have been Col du Tourmalet: the highest paved mountain pass in the French Pyrenees with an elevation of 2,115m. This col has been the setting for a total of 85 stages of the Tour de France since 1910.
We challenged the hairpin curves of this amazing col while it was extremely foggy. Our fear therefore was that we wouldn’t see a thing once we would’ve reached the summit. Luckily for us though, once we reached the summit, we had the most spectacular view you can imagine. A blanket of fluffy clouds was spread out below us, and made for some amazing photography opportunities.
Not only mountain passes form the scene of the Pyrenees stages of the Tour de France. It are also the lovely towns and villages that are the real eye catchers of this sports event. This year we visited Foix, in the upper Ariège valley.
Noticeably from far already, due to its impressive Château de Foix sitting proudly on the top of a hill, this place is definitely worth a visit. The medieval castle is the focal point of the historic town, but the winding streets with their colourful houses, shops and restaurants are not to be missed either.
We had a sit-down on the beautiful market square at a quaint café where we sipped on a cappuccino, while we watched the other visitors and locals walking by. The vibe there is really relaxed. Something different from the bustling London life indeed.
Foix will be the finishing point of the thirteenth stage of this year’s Tour de France on Friday 14th July. I’ll be watching!