The short answer, unless you happen to a member of Team Sky, is almost certainly no, or even non monsieur. However, if you re-phrase the question like so: can you pretend to be in the Tour de France and relive your favourite moments from past tours by cycling the same roads and regions as your heroes? Then the answer becomes a resounding mais oiu!
France has a long and illustrious cycling history and the country and its culture is steeped in a tradition of cycling. Be it past Tour legends such as five-time winners Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault or simply everyday journeys made on a bike by normal people all over the land, cycling and France enjoy a fine love affair.
All of that makes it a wonderful destination for a cycling holiday as the many purpose-built cycling trails and pathways, the positive attitudes towards cyclists and even the weather make cycling in France far more enjoyable than the equivalent experience in the United Kingdom.
At www.headwater.com you will find a number of great options that span the length and breadth of the country, from the Emerald Coast in the north to Provence in the south and many of holidays cover routes and regions that have been used in previous Tours.
Of course, the 2014 Tour de France will have its Grand Depart in Yorkshire but if you want to follow in Chris Froome’s 2013 footsteps then the north of France is a great place to start. Brittany’s Emerald Coast offers largely flat, traffic-free trails with breathtaking views of the rugged coastline to lift your soul and spirits should the legs tire.
The 2013 Tour had a couple of stages in this region, with stage 10 travelling from Saint-Gildas-des-Bois to Saint-Malo and the stage 11 being a time trial from Avranches to Mont-Saint-Michel.
Stage 13 would be another great option to work into a trip as it went from Tours to Saint-Amand-Montrond. The Loire valley and the magnificent chateaux at Blois, Chambord and Amboise are all within easy reach and given the region – known as France’s larder – is well known for its superb food, made with amazingly tasty fresh ingredients, you will certainly enjoy replenishing the energy levels after a hard day’s cycling. And the wine there is pretty darn good too.
Heading further south and 2013 Tour anoraks will know that stages five, six and seven were all in the south of France, with stage six travelling 176.5km from Aix-en-Provence itself to Montpellier. Like the Loire, Provence produces wines of very good quality that don’t generate quite the excitement of other regions such as Chablis, Bordeaux or Burgundy (all of which, incidentally for any oenophiles out there are superb cycling – and drinking – destinations). However, throw in a little sunshine – and Provence boasts in the region of 300 days a year of that – and a chilled glass of local rose takes some beating.
Provence’s famous lavender fields scent the way, whilst the bright purple of the flowers seems almost preternatural in the famed Provencal light that inspired artists such as Van Gogh, Cezanne and Matisse, among others. The cycling here is slightly more challenging than the coastal trails of the north, especially on warmer days but then Wiggo didn’t become Sir Brad without overcoming a few challenges, did he?
Wherever you choose to explore in France you will find marvellous food, fine wines, welcoming people and jaw-dropping scenery. Be it the rugged coastal outcrops of the north, the rolling hills of Provence or the sun-dappled forests and river valleys of the Loire, France offers so much beauty that the miles in the saddle fly by in an idyllic cycling paradise. You might not ever win the Tour de France but you’ll ride the same roads, breathe the same warm air and, thankfully, you can have ice-cold wine rather than ice-cold baths after a day in the saddle!