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.
Gourmet Cycling Travel
A small bike tour company run by a South African bike racer and an American chef, Gourmet Cycling Travel conducts five tours in France and Italy, including two during Le Tour. The co-founders personally lead each tour, for a fusion of world-class cycling and haute cuisine. In the Côte d'Azur tour, you'll bike 20-70 miles a day on coastal routes and watch three stages of the tour. On the Final Week tour, you'll ride 20-70 miles on rolling climbs and watch four stages of the tour, including the finish in Paris. These are the best tours to bring your girlfriend, since the itinerary includes Michelin-starred restaurants, visits to local markets, wine tastings, cooking classes, and a generous helping of culture. Renting a carbon-fiber road bike will cost you an extra $400 for the trip. [All-inclusive, starting at $4,295 for 6 days/5 nights; gourmetcyclingtravel.com]