Spectating tips for a Grand Tour or any other bike race

November 04, 2021

Lublin start Tour de Pologne

Every cycling enthusiast, who follows the professional road racing scene, dreams about spectating one of the World Tour events, seeing their idols in person, and experiencing the organization of such a race. In 2021 I was lucky enough to get an opportunity to visit Tour de Pologne, which is a World-Tour race held in, you guessed it- Poland. In this article, I will share my planning process and give some tips on how to get the most out of your trip. Doesn’t matter if the pro cycling event you are attending is a Grand Tour, or a lower category one, these tips work the same, the only difference is that it is much easier to implement them during a less crowded bike race.

Arriving a day before race

Arriving early gives you a handful of benefits:

  1. You can scout the area around the start arc and find a spot that you would like to spectate from. This is much harder when there are thousands of eager spectators like yourself.
  2. You get an opportunity to look into places, that will have restricted access on race day, such as tents or the start arc itself.
  3. There might be an opportunity to chat with riders or organizers. It is highly unlikely to happen on a race day.
  4. There is time to visit tourist attractions. Hosting city usually has something to offer so you can dive into historical aspects or whatever rocks your boat. Also, keep an eye out for cycling fans’ discounts, some cities offer those.
  5. Grab a supper! Cycling encourages people to get into local cuisine, don’t miss out on that.

Getting decent accommodation within walking distance might be challenging, therefore I highly encourage you to plan your trip as soon as possible. In Lublin, I paid less than $30 for a night with breakfast, which was 900m. from the start arc, but I booked that two months before my trip.

AG2R Citroën Team preparing for team presentation at Tour de Pologne
Alpecin-Fenix riders sitting around the table before team presentation at Tour de Pologne
EF Education - Nippo riders relaxing before team presentation at Tour de Pologne

Don’t miss out on team presentations

Another great thing about arriving early is that the team presentations are usually held a day before the race. I recommend not missing out on that, these race presentations usually allow spectators to get a glimpse into professional cyclists and their support teams. During pre-COVID times, mechanics and team managers were always eager to chat and show their equipment to cycling fans. This is also a great chance to snap some pictures of athletes you like, but don’t do that without approval, riders are usually happy to take a picture if you are not intrusive.

Groupama - FDJ preparing for team presentation at Tour de Pologne
Polish national team on stage during team presentation at Tour de Pologne
Alpecin-Fenix riders on stage during team presentation at Tour de Pologne

On a race day: wake up early for the best experience

On the morning of the race start, you should be aware of the race schedule, find the best spot to spectate from, and find a place where team buses will be stationed. The last step might not be something you are interested in, but in my case, I wanted to see all the tech. Once again, the early bird takes a worm, because of Covid restrictions, parking was closed once all the teams were in it, so if you want to see bikes from close-up, you must do it before they close it.

Team DSM bike display at Tour de Pologne
Slowenian champion Matej Mohoric's bike at Tour de Pologne
EF Education - Nippo team bike at Tour de Pologne
EF Education - Nippo team car at Tour de Pologne
INTERMARCHÉ - WANTY - GOBERT MATÉRIAUX team car at Tour de Pologne
Alpecin-Fenix team car at Tour de Pologne

Being proactive and paying attention to details is important if you want to get as close to the race as possible. Don’t be intrusive, but prepare beforehand and you will be awarded an experience that is hard to forget!

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