Anyone can test their mettle on the 21 switchbacks of Alpe d'Huez and surge toward Paris along the Tour de France's winding route through Provence, but working out the logistics for such a trip might prove more exhausting than the pedaling. We respectfully suggest signing up for one of these bike tours, which handle all the mind-numbing details, from schlepping your luggage to manning the sag wagon so you can focus on your race against yourself.
But these tours are notable for more than making riding through the landscape that shaped modern bikes pleasant, since each one ensures that the rider makes it to key points d'observation when the actual Tour de France peloton flies through, meaning you could be watching and – in your own way – participating in the 2014 Tour de France. Book fast for next year's Tour, since these trips begin to fill up as soon as the new champion makes his way down the Champs-Elysées.
DuVine Cycling and Adventure Co.
DuVine is a bike tour behemoth, offering close to 80 different tours in the Americas, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. For the Tour de France, founder Andy DuVine keeps it small (maximum group size 14) and select. He partners with Cannondale to offer a trio of trips targeting elite cyclists able to tackle the Tour de France's toughest stages. This is one of only two tours (Trek is the other) that include not only VIP access to view the race, but time with one of the competing teams – Cannondale, in this case. Choose from Le Grand Départ or Le Grand Finale, depending on whether you want to see the send-off and bike the mountainous island of Corsica, or see the finish and ride in the Alps. There's also a Rustique version of Le Grand Finale, in which you stay in a charming (but less ritzy) chalet owned by a winemaker for a portion of the trip.
The tours are part of DuVine's Pro series, which means participants are treated like professional bike racers, with luxury accommodations and gourmet meals, and a full-time bike mechanic and coach. Bring only your saddle and pedals – a Cannondale SuperSix and a professional bike fit are included. [All-inclusive, starting at $5,295 for 6 days/5 nights; duvine.com]
Credit: Courtesy DuVine Cycling + Adventure Co.