Yesterday, I drove from Barcelona to Lourdes, France. I'll be staying here for the next 3 nights to follow stages 12-14 in the Pyrenees. Lourdes is centrally located for stages 12 and 13. I'll be able to ride most of the route (and certainly the climbs) and then loop back at the end of the day.
This is the first time I have seen the TDF in person. For stage 12, I left my hotel at 8am and rode 30km with Luis, a Spaniard, to Luz-Saint-Saveur, a small town down in the valley that is jammed between two hors categorie climbs - Col du Tourmalet and Luz Ardiden. I climbed Tourmalet (19km in distance and 1,400 meters in elevation) from the west, the site of last year's final battle between Contador and Schleck. This year's route climbs from the east and descends the west, but I was running short of time. I was able to descend ~4km down the east side and then re-ascend.
The east side was packed with caravans and people from all over the world. Besides the many Europeans were a lot of Aussies (why are they always on vacation?), and a good handful of Kiwis. There was a surprising absence of Americans. I only saw about 5 the entire day.
I began climbing Luz Ardiden at about 2pm, just before the French Gendarmes closed the roads. Every meter of the 12km climb was packed with people. Many had been camping for several days as a way to secure the best spots. Thousands of Basques stood on the higher slopes of Luz Ardiden. They are easy to identify in their orange (and hard to confuse with the Dutch).
Luz Ardiden is famous for Lance Armstrong's crash in the 2003 tour. Armstrong was attacking, with Iban Mayo hot on his wheel, when a fan's bag strap caught his handlebars. He fell, caught the group (they slowed for him), attacked again, and won the stage.
Anyway, here is some footage from my stage 12.