Any other year, we’d just tell you to head straight to L’Alpe d’Huez, but for 2012, the race will bypass the iconic climb for only the third time since 1976. Instead, the toughest climb looks to be the ascent to Peyragudes, on stage 17 (Thursday, July 19, 2012). Either way, if you’re looking for a raucous day of bike racing and boozing, you won’t go wrong by pointing yourself toward any of the major mountain stages. The most dedicated partiers—often wearing costumes—arrive three or four days before the race comes through, staking out territory along the steepest pitches or sharpest switchbacks. Crowds on flat stages can get rambunctious, but the climbs are particularly rowdy. In 1999, Giuseppe Guerini was knocked from his bike by a spectator on L’Alpe, then won the stage; and in 2001, Lance Armstrong sealed his sixth tour victory there after racing through crushing crowds. Need help traveling to France? There are several tour operators, but Custom Getaways is the Tour’s official travel agency. June 30 through July 22, 2012
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