Paris: Worth a trip to see Tour de France

Debra Hanley
Contributing writer

Lance Armstrong wins for seventh time in French capital

***image1***Very few events will cause me to willingly get out of a warm, dry bed at 6 a.m. to sit out in the rain for nine hours.

However, the opportunity to see Lance Armstrong ride down the Champs Elysées in Paris as the only person in history to win the Tour de France for the seventh time in a row is one of those rare times.

My husband and I were not the only ones there showing support for Lance Armstrong and the Discovery team. A sea of yellow clad spectators lined both sides of the road. Many held round yellow signs proclaiming their loyalty: “Lance Fan.”

After waiting all day, the riders finally arrived in Paris. They were over an hour later than then scheduled time due to the rain. The sun broke through the clouds as Lance led the first lap. Then the sprinters went to work and made last minute dashes for the finish.

The riders looped around us eight times before the race was finished. We didn’t have the advantage of seeing Lance on the podium but when the “Star Spangled Banner” played we knew America was proud. One of the most endearing moments for us was at the very end as each team took their victory lap. Lance in the yellow jersey was surrounded by his Discovery teammates each displaying a yellow shoulder and sleeve on their jerseys. They rode toward the Arc de Triomphe with George Hincapie waving the American flag. Thousands of fans stood cheering for a man who overcame cancer before winning his first tour and then went on to win seven in a row. Even dozens of riders from other teams wore the yellow wristband in support of the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

Here are a few suggestions for those who would like to attend the 2006 tour finish. We stayed at the Hotel Royal Elysées, which was approximately two blocks from the Champs Elysées.

***image3***We actually had a partial view of the Arc de Triomphe from our window! We booked that hotel in February but I overheard they had had last minute cancellations on race day. Due to limited and expensive parking we opted to park our car outside of the city near the Ibis hotel in Noisy-le-Grand Mont d’Est. It’s right off A4 and has public and private parking.

We rode the RER (regional train) into the city from the Noisy-le-Grande Mont d’Est station located in a shopping mall right across from the hotel.
Paris has a great train system and using it avoided the stress of finding parking and fighting traffic after the race ended. It costs about €5 to ride to the Charles de Gaulle Etoile station where the Arc de Triomphe is located. You can buy a return ticket right away to avoid the crowds after the event.
On race day, we arrived on the Champs Elysées at 7 a.m. to stake out our vantage point from which to watch the race. My husband and I are avid photographers so we picked a spot a couple of blocks down from the Arc de Triomphe with views of the riders heading towards the arc then turning and riding away from it.

Many U.S. fans surrounded us thus making it a very enjoyable day. We came prepared with drinks and food but there are also numerous vendors selling food items throughout the day.

We were glad we made the trip to see history being made in the professional cycling world.

Paris on its own is a great city to explore but being there for the Tour de France definitely put icing on the cake.