The Tour de France isn't just the world's greatest bike race, it's also an irresistible, three-week travel commercial. It's almost impossible not to start checking flights and hotels after watching the pros roll through fields of sunflowers, past ancient alpine towns, and over breathtaking mountain passes.
"Riding parts of the Tour de France course is just unforgettable. You feel like you're rolling over history," says Meagan Coates, a trip designer for Trek Travel. And because the Tour changes routes every year, there's hardly a road it hasn't touched in its 102-year-long history.
But even if you've never watched a stage of the Tour, planning a cycling trip in France is well worth it. "Cycling is just so ingrained in the lifestyle there; there's no question that cars are used to cyclists on the road," says Coates.
By far the most difficult thing about touring in France is that you have to choose where to go. For super-fit riders looking for adventure, Peter Thompson, the owner of Thompson Bike Tours, recommends the Pyrenees for the, "quiet roads, iconic climbs, picturesque villages, and delicious, authentic food." There's even a soundtrack — the distant ringing of cowbells from the massive white heifers that graze on the mountainsides.
Provence, however, is most cyclists' top choice, says Coates. With gorgeous weather, hard-to-beat views, and more manageable roads than the monster climbs in the Pyrenees, it's easy to understand the draw. Here's one sample itinerary you can use to plan your trip, though a lot of commercial outfitters — including Trek Travel and Thompson Bike Tours — offer fully supported excursions. One more tip: Don't attempt this trip at the height of summer when Provence can get blisteringly hot.