www.chechurubiera.info - an online magazine for fans of Chechu Rubiera



Christine at the start ramp, Vuelta a Espana 2009. Photograph © Team Astana

My husband I are among those one would call loyal and devoted fans. Being retired, and enjoying travelling and discovering new places whether in France or further afield, we try to get to as many races as possible where our favourite team and riders are taking part.

This requires some careful advance planning and organisation. We start establishing our schedules a long time ahead, practically as soon as the race calenders are disclosed.

For the Tour de France, we make our arrangements mid-October, that is to say 9 months ahead. But most of the time, apart from the big Tours, the circuits and most of all the rosters are made up shortly before the start of the race.

Mont Ventoux, Tour de France 2009. Photograph © Christine and Roger Kahane

Therefore, we often book hotel rooms weeks or months in advance, knowing that, in 50% of the cases, we will probably have to cancel the reservations at the last minute because the riders we support are not part of the team at all, or withdraw very late. Besides, the cyclists themselves don't know their precise planning long beforehand, and even so, can be designated to another race at the last minute.

For this reason, when looking for a hotel room, one must be very careful to select a place where cancellation is allowed until the last day without any penalty.

Monte Carlo, Tour de France 2009. Photograph © Christine and Roger Kahane

But, on the other hand, it's always very difficult to find, at the last minute, a reasonably priced hotel room in a precise place where a race is taking place, so the precaution of booking long ahead is absolutely necessary.

Most of the time we travel with our own car from Paris where we live.

But when the place is too far away, like Venice for the departure of the Giro this year, or Granada for the departure of the Vuelta 2008, we surf on the internet to find a low cost airline (e.g. Myair or Volare for Italy, Transavia, Clickair or Vueling for Spain - but not Ryanair if we can avoid them!).

Venice, Giro d'Italia 2009. Photograph © Christine and Roger Kahane

We tend to avoid flying on weekends when the fares are systematically higher than on weekdays.

The disadvantage with these cheap flights is that if the trip is cancelled, the tickets cannot be modified nor reimbursed. So, even if there is a last minute change in the team, we carry on and attend the race nevertheless.

This happened to us recently when a sick Chechu had to drop out in the middle of the Vuelta, just before our planned trip to Cordoba. But, over the years, we have become friends with numerous riders, staff members, journalists, and regular fans, and are always happy to get to see them again. Until today, we've only lost one ticket.

Verona, Giro d'Italia 2009. Photograph © Christine and Roger Kahane

For car rental we use www.autoreurope.com which offers the best value for money.

When travelling in France by car, we avoid as far as possible the toll motorways/highways which are expensive, and select, when speed is not critical, the more scenic alternative routes recommnended by the www.bison-futé.gouv.fr website.

We do the same when travelling abroad with a rented car, having planned our itinerary in advance. This allows us to do some sightseeing and learn more about the country’s lifestyle.

Travelling by train is another solution: www.voyages-sncf.com/billet-train. In France, under-26s and over-60s get a special rate as well as families with three or more children.

Children under 4 travel free and those aged 4 to 12 pay half fare. There is also the very cheap « Prem’s » ticket when the reservation is made from two months ahead of time, but which cannot be modified nor reimbursed, although there is a special website: www.trocdestrains.com where one can exchange/sell/buy tickets with private individuals.

As we contribute to two internet websites, we want to attend a maximum number of races and we must plan our trips as economically as possible. Nevertheless, we have some requirements. Although we are a resourceful and dynamic retired couple, we avoid options such as camping or even a shared bathroom. We need a minimum of comfort.

We look for hotel accommodation which combines private shower and toilet, free parking, buffet breakfast, and a fast internet connection. We aim to send daily reports with photos to the two websites which operate from the UK and USA and address mainly an English speaking public.

The best and most reliable hotel reservation website is, in our opinion, www.booking.com which covers the whole world.

In France, we also favour specific hotel chains like «B&Bhotel» (a Franco-German chain with very good value for money), the «Louvrehotel» group with the «Campanile», «Kyriad» or «Première Classe» hotels (which offer good deals when the booking is made through their central reservation system and long ahead, and is cancellable up to the day of arrival) or the «Accor» group of hotels and its budget «Etap» chain.

Nancy Palace Stanislas, Dauphine 2009. Photograph © Christine and Roger Kahane

Our aim is, if possible, to not exceed 45€ to 50€ per night for the room for two including a buffet breakfast, that is to say with a wide enough range of choice for a very solid breakfast.

Younger people may choose cheaper hotels like the «Formule 1» chain (belonging to the Accord group) which offer very competitive rates and allow up to three people in one room but where one must often share the bathroom facilities.

We have also heard of the www.couchsurfing.org website where one can find cheap lodging all over the world and even share a car with other young people for a precise destination, but this type of arrangement probably doesn’t offer the flexibility to be able to change plans at the last minute.

Year after year, you make new friends among the fans you regularly meet at races, and this creates a kind of solidarity. As the supporters come from all over the world, they will invite you to stay at their place when you visit their city, and you would do the same. This saves hotel expenses, provides the great pleasure of sharing your love for cycling and your tips, and allows you to get acquainted with new teams. And it’s a very good way to cure shyness because the atmosphere is pleasant, free and easy.

Galibier pass, Dauphine 2009. Photograph © Christine and Roger Kahane

However, fans who want to follow races must know that it involves long hours of waiting in the cold, in the rain, or in hot sunshine. A lot of patience is required to sometimes not see very much. A friend of ours waited 8 hours in the burning sun without moving, because she would have lost her spot, to take a picture of Alberto Contador in Monaco before the ITT. She was awarded by Faustino, Alberto's mechanic, the title of «best fan».

Last but not least, we try to get the maximum benefit from our trips, mixing sports and tourism. While the riders are competing on the road, or on race rest or transfer days, there are long periods of inactivity which we take advantage of to visit the area. Thus, every year we discover new places and take a lot of pleasure combining our love of cycling with broadening our minds.