Set aside at least one day to stand by the roadside and watch the hours-long procession before the racers arrive. The high-speed parade doles out melodrama (as in the Chippendales model wearing nothing but French-flag undies who was tethered, day-in, day-out, to the top of a float) and plenty of freebies (mostly useless trinkets and 13-cent branded cycling caps), all to a blaring soundtrack of Eurotrash techno. That might sound obnoxious, and in some ways it is: One afternoon I watched a 220-pound dude poured into blue zebra-stripe riding shorts and a commemorative maillot jaune literally scrabbling around with a group of 10-year-olds to snatch up trinkets being tossed to the crowd. But it’s also priceless to experience firsthand.
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