All about the Tour de France

The Tour de France is a cycling race that has taken place every year in France since 1903. For cycling fans, it’s one of the most prestigious cycling races in the world and one of the three Grand Tours, along with the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España. The bicycle race usually lasts three weeks and covers around 3,500 kilometers (2,200 mi). The riders, sometimes alone or in a peloton, have to make their way through difficult terrain and steep climbs, as well as flat sections and sprints.

Birth of the Tour de France

The Tour de France is an annual cycling race that takes place in France. The first edition took place in 1903 and it has since been the oldest cycling race in the world still in progress. Over the years, the Tour de France has become one of the most prestigious cycling races in the world. Also known as the Grand Loop, the famous bicycle race is structured around 21 stages covering approximately 3500 kilometers.

The owners and managers of the race

The Tour de France is organized by the ASO, a public limited company with variable capital. The ASO is 100% owned by Amaury Sport Organisation, itself 66% owned by the Amaury family and 34% by the Lagardère group. The first owners and managers of the big loop in the past were Henri Desgrange, Léon Hourticq and Philippe Pélissier.

Arrival of the Tour de France on the Champs-Elysées in Paris
Arrival of the Tour de France on the Champs-Elysées in Paris

The course of the great loop

The tour course is very varied and includes flat sections, steep climbs, fast descents and sprints. Depending on the stage, riders must navigate their way through the winding roads of France while at times battling extreme weather conditions. The race usually takes place over three weeks. Stage after stage, the Tour de France takes the riders through different regions of France, from the steep Mediterranean coast to the snowy mountains of the Pyrenees.

The tour during the first world war…

The bicycle race continued to take place during the First World War, despite the events. The bike race takes place in July and August, allowing riders to be present without having to make difficult choices. The stages of the Tour de France mainly cross our country, which allows soldiers and cycling enthusiasts to watch the races while cheering on the riders during the different stages.

… and during the second world war

The Tour de France continued to take place during the Second World War, despite the restrictions and difficulties imposed by the conflict. The Germans had taken control of the race in 1940, which allowed the troops of the Third Reich to show their power. The stages of the big loop were organized in such a way that the Germans could achieve victory and the French participated only as spectators. However, in 1944, as the Allies approached, the Germans called off the race.

The heroes of the great loop

The Tour de France is a prestigious event that has seen the greatest cyclists in the world pass. Among the heroes of this mythical race, we can mention Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain. These riders have won the tour several times and have marked the history of the great loop. The historical winners of the Tour de France are listed on the official website of the tour. The first winner was Maurice Garin, an Italian cyclist naturalized in France in 1901.

The distinctive jerseys of the Tour de France

Riders wear distinctive jerseys to differentiate between teams. The best-known jerseys are the yellow jersey, which is won by the rider who has accumulated the most points during the stages, and the polka dot jersey, which is worn by the rider arriving second in a stage. These jerseys were created at the beginning of the 20th century and are still in use today. The jersey for the best sprinter is green, the jersey for the best climber is red and the jersey for the best young cyclist is white.

The historical teams

The Tour de France has seen the greatest cycling teams in the world. Among the most famous teams, we can mention the Française des Jeux (FDJ), the Lotto-Belisol team, Groupama or the Sky team. These teams have won many victories in their history and continue to compete in the race. The famous Festina team was dissolved after the 1998 scandal concerning the doping of certain runners, but it returned in 2010 under the name of the Geox-TMC team.

Start of the Tour de France from Mont-Saint-Michel
Start of the Tour de France from Mont-Saint-Michel

Doping at the heart of the Grand Loop

The Tour de France has also been marked by numerous doping-related scandals. Runners have been accused of using prohibited products to improve their performance and some have even been suspended for life. These scandals, which tarnish the image of the Tour de France and cycling, have led to the loss of many sponsors.

The Tour de France and France Television

France Television was the first channel to broadcast live images of the tour. The collaboration between the channel and the race dates back to the 1960s, when runners were filmed from helicopters. Today, France Television continues to broadcast live images of the bike race and provides a dedicated website that allows spectators to follow the race in real time.

The winners and records of the Tour de France

The record for most victories is held by Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault, who have both won the Tour de France five times. Among the other records, we can cite the greatest number of stages won (22) or the youngest winner (Lance Armstrong, at 21). Rankings, stages and results can be consulted on the official website of the tour.

The stages of the Tour de France in the mountains

The competition takes place mainly in France, but it also crosses the neighboring countries like Spain, Italy and Belgium. The start of the Tour de France was organized 23 times outside France (Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, England, Switzerland…). The most difficult stages take place in the mountains and allow the riders to accumulate important points for the final victory. Among the most famous passes of the tour, we can mention the Alpe d’Huez stage or the Col du Galibier stage. The best climber wins the polka dot jersey and is considered the true mountain champion. The Tour de France also includes races against the clock, which pit riders against each other. These races allow the fastest to accumulate points and get closer to the yellow jersey to move up the rankings. Among the most famous races against the clock, we can cite the Marseille time trial stage or the Paris time trial stage.

A worldwide distribution

The Tour de France is a prestigious and international race. Many foreign riders participate and the competition is tough. The most represented countries are Spain, Italy and Belgium, where the most difficult passes of the Tour are located. The final is traditionally held in Paris, on the Champs-Élysées, at the foot of the Arch of Triumph and a few metres from the Place de la Concorde. Many fans around the world watch this legendary race by following the riders on television each year.

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