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Experience the Tour: Get Close

Just back from following Le Tour, our writer explains why every cyclist should book next year’s ticket to France now and offers up some tips for making the most of it

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Fans and journalists crowd Alberto Contador for comments and autographs at the start of Stage 20 in Annecy.     Photo: #iamspecialized and #itsmytour

Unlike many sports that keep their pros cordoned off from the public, cycling provides opportunities to get up close with your favorite riders. (No, not by chasing alongside in a day-glow mankini.) Pre and post-stage, you can wander around among the team buses, watch the guys warm-up, and sometimes even catch a quick conversation and autograph. I managed a word with Contador and Richie Porte before the stage at Annecy.

Specialized upped the ante, though, by arranging for breakfast with Omega Pharma-Quickstep at their team hotel in Chambéry. Mark Cavendish told us that even though he’s already won 25 Tour stages in his career he still has plenty to accomplish. Sylvain Chavanel said he loves his custom Tarmac SL4, though the orange paint job—color-matched to his beloved Camaro—was making it tough for him to get into breaks because he’s so easily marked. And Niki Terpstra said that even though he’s mostly a classics rider, he doesn’t mind coming to the Tour. “It’s the biggest race in the world,” he said. “I’ll never win here. Most of us won’t. But you still want to be here.”

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