As the Tour de France came to an end on Sunday and Chris Froome looks ever comfortable in his yellow jersey, we take a look at another cycle across France that took place this summer. Back in June we caught up with cycling enthusiast Andy Smith and cheese lover Annie Glennie who took on a mammoth cycle tour around France.
So, what is Le Tour de Stades?
Andy Smith: It’s a 1,500 mile (2,500km) cycle tour across France to visit all 10 of the Euro 2016 stadiums!
Tell us more about yourselves. And how did you manage to persuade Annie?
AS: I’m Andy, a lifelong Watford FC and England supporter, and my girlfriend Annie wanted to join me on this adventure despite not being a football fan. But she does love French cheese!
How did you think of the idea?
AS: It originated back in 2013 when I decided to do more than just visit Brazil to watch some World Cup 2014 games; I wanted to better understand the country and especially the cities that were hosting this massive event. So I decided that riding a bicycle to visit all of the tournament’s stadiums would be an amazing way to really experience Brazil. Hence, I’m using the same idea now in France.
What were the highlights of your trip around France?
AS: I loved exploring every host city and discovering each one’s unique geography, history and culture. As for cycling days, it was fascinating going south from Lens tracing the WW1 western front then camping next to the River Somme, the impressive Canal de Garonne between Bordeaux and Toulouse was lovely to follow, whilst the Cote d’Azur coast road towards Cannes and climbing into and over the Alps were both amazing rides.
And the hardest parts?
AS: During that night camping in northern France the temperature dropped to just 2 degrees and the next day there was hail and sleet to cycle through. Also, any uphills are hard work on a fully loaded touring bike, so of course going from sea level at Nice to our highest point (1,261m altitude) at the Col de Carabès involved lots of tough climbing in hot temperatures plus sometimes even against a headwind.
Did you have any favourite stadiums that you visited?
AS: It was fantastic to reach both the first and last stadiums at Lille and Lyon, I enjoyed seeing PSG play at Parc des Princes, but the most exciting was Marseille’s Stade Vélodrome where I’ll return to watch one of the semi finals.
Any plans for Russia 2018 or across Europe in 2020?
AS: Yes! Having done Brazil and France I’m keen to continue these brilliant adventures, so am starting to investigate the options for both those tournaments.
What would you say to others who might want to do similar cycling tours?
AS: Go for it! Hop on a bike and cycle to your local team’s stadium, then to another one nearby, regardless of which league the team play in, and if you’ve never been thee before then why not time it so that you can watch a match while you’re there?