Brittany July 2011

A few weeks back, when the February cold was still biting, a post on La Gazzetta della Bici gave me hope for the future. 24 Hours in Brittany, by Phil Gale who spent 6 seasons in the region racing as a full time elite amateur. This post is as much for my own research purposes as anything, but as Phil points out, race fans in the south of England can get the ferry over to St Malo and have easy access to three Tour de France stages.

I’ll be based in the centre of Ille-et-Villaine for 3 weeks and will be within easy reach of stages 4 and 5. Brittany can be perceived as flat next to the Hors Categorie mountainous ranges of the Pyrenees and Alps but in reality it is rolling, punchy terrain and can be very windy. Breakaways might have a chance to succeed and unusually, stage 4: Lorient-Mûr de Bretagne on Wednesday 5th July has a tough uphill finish. The steep, straight Mur is known as the Breton Alpe-d’Huez.

First stop was to recce stage 4 Lorient – Mur de Bretagne arrival. The finish is on a 2km 15% climb, I’ve race down it at 100kph.

It last featured in the Tour in 2006.

I’ve been building up to this since December, when my mother-in-law sent me a cutting of the route of Stages 4 and 5.

Stage 5 on Thursday 6th is from Carhaix to Cap Frehel. Prudhomme’s hope is for crosswinds to split the peloton on the winding coastal roads of the run-in. It’s my father-in-law’s birthday so I’ll probably be rushing back to base to feast on barbecued côte de boeuf or merguez that day.

Morning Light on Cap Fréhel (France)

Stage 6 on Friday 7th starts in Dinan, and heads 226km over to Normandy, but will be ideal for me to take in the atmosphere of the beginning of race day. Check out Inner Ring’s guide to watching a bike race– loafing around the start area is one of his recommendations.


Another dilemma here- my daughter’s birthday- but I’m sure I can rush back in time for cake. Might be pushing my luck. Le Tour is intertwined with her life (in my mind anyway) – she was born on the day the race passed through her mother’s home town, and took her first steps minutes after the arrivée on the Champs Elyseés two years ago.