July 2009 Archives

It's that time of year again, - Le Tour de France is on, and has been for the last week or so. This coming Sunday it's going to be visiting Switzerland with a stage finish in Verbier, a ski resort in the southwestern canton of Valais.

Information about travel is a little disjoined and hard to find, so I figured I'd collect some of it here for English-speakers coming from other parts of Switzerland who want to be at least near the final climb or at the finish. (If you just want to see the race go by, check the stage information for the map of the stage, and choose the place nearest you. Being on or around the climb will be a bit more spectacular, though.) There's general information about the event on this special website, In particular, there's a flyer you can download with the summary information.

Firstly, come by train. It's usually a given that if you come by car to something like this parking will be a nightmare. You won't be able to drive on the course itself for several hours before the race passes, traffic will be hellish anyway, and the road closures will be strictly enforced. Even if you get there early enough it's likely you won't be able to find anywhere to stop by the road as the road from Le Châble to Verbier is likely to be lined with motorhomes occupied by Belgians following the Tour who've been there since yesterday and have been getting merrily smashed on Jupiler ever since. So, do the Swiss thing and use public transport. Your life will be better for it - plus, you can join the Belgians getting smashed on Jupiler without having to worry about having to drive home! (You'll probably need to bring your own Jupiler.)

The good news is that unlike Britain (where the train companies legendarily banned bicycles from their London-Brighton services on the day of the London-Brighton bike ride) the public transport operators have noticed that the Tour is coming and have made arrangements for special services.

Firstly, you need to get yourself to Martigny. This is on the SBB (CFF if you're Francophone) main line between Lausanne and Brig, so is served by direct trains from various places. The SBB online journey planner will be happy to help you out with this bit. It'll take you either slightly under or slightly over three hours from Zürich HB.

Once you've done that, you need to get a train to Le Châble, which is the closest railway station to Verbier. It's more or less at the base of the last climb. This service is run by Regionalps, who are running a special service next Sunday. It's fairly simple - trains are running every half hour between 0600 and 2300, so just wait for the next one. The usual service is timed to take about 26 minutes.

Now you're in Le Châble. Here you can decide whether you want to just find somewhere in the town to watch the race pass by, if you want to walk up the climb a bit from there, or whether you want to try and head to Verbier. If you want to head for the finish, your best bet is the cable car from Le Châble to Verbier, although it's sure going to be busy, so expect a wait. This will be running from 0600-2300, and the fare is CHF10.

Other than that, have fun - be sure to be in place an hour or more before the race passes by in order to catch the bizarre spectacle of the caravane publicitaire, don't get in the way of the riders on the climb like the idiots you see on the telly, and please don't wear a mankini.

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