Chances are, you have seen some part of the Tour de France, at some point in time. It would be hard not to. It is the most popular annual sporting event on the planet and is televised the world over.
It’s been around for more than 115 years, and it is always held in France. Does it ever get old?
Is the Tour de France always the same route? No, the route of the Tour de France changes from year-to-year, though the number of stages remains the same at 21. With nearly 950,000 km (590,000 miles) of road in French Territory, there is ample opportunity to develop unique routes each year, though the Tour de France will certainly repeat sections of the old routes from time to time.
As the most popular and televised annual sporting event in the world, the Tour de France is a spectacular and grueling race that requires endurance, perseverance, and determination to cross the finish.
We’re going to take a look at the Tour de France; what makes this bicycle race so special?
Read Also: Are Bicycle Pedals Universal?
How Does the Tour de France Route Change Each Year?
It takes a lot of work to set up the Tour de France. Actually, so much preparation goes into the 23-day long event that the cities that are going to host the sporting event are selected years in advance after immense planning and consideration.
The route is determined by an organization that we are going to shed some light on shortly.
The individual who currently makes the decision for which city is going to host the top cyclist of the event in July is Jean-Louis Pagês. However, when it comes to which city is going to host the sporting event, there are a few steps that are taken to determine that.
How is the Tour de France Route Determined?
The Amaury Sports Organization (ASO) is the organization that determines the route that is going to be taken that year and what city is going to be the host of the “Great Depart.”
When cities are applying to host the start of the event, Jean-Louis Pagês actually visits each city to determine that they are capable of handling the Tour de France.
Cities that are selected to host the start of the event must pay a pretty hefty fee of no less than $50,000 USD but the actual cost tends to be quite a bit higher, and when it comes to hosting the final destination of the sporting event, if selected, that cost will easily be twice the amount that it is to host the start of the event.
For example, London paid the ASO $2 million USD just to host the Grand Depart!
Before the start of the event, the ASO reviews applications from about 200 cities to determine the city to host the Grand Depart.
What are the Mountain Locations That Cyclists go Through on the Tour de France Route?
The Tour de France regularly utilizes iconic mountain locations in the 21-stage event.
Here are some of the locations that are commonly featured as well as some for the 2019 Tour de France:
- Alpe d’Huez
- Mont Ventoux
- Col du Galibier
- Col du Tourmalet
What Other Countries Does the Tour de France Cross Into?
As mentioned before, the Tour de France does not stay in France. The demanding routes are designed to provide cyclists with multiple challenges to their biking prowess and to dip in and out of neighboring countries.
The 2019 Tour de France took place in and out of two countries, Belgium and France. It also took cyclists to 3 different regions in Belgium, as well.
Below is a list of other countries that the Tour de France has taken riders through since its inception:
- Germany (and former West Germany)
- United Kingdom
All of these countries have hosted the Grand Depart or a section of the Tour de France as riders have passed through them. The race organizer in 1980, Feliz Levitan, wanted to have a Tour de France hosted in the United States, and there have been talks of this, unfortunately, however, there was never much headway made in regard to this happening.
Where Can I Find Maps of Different Tour de France Routes?
The current year’s map is available (and even downloadable) on the official website. With a little research, you can find a map or poster of almost any year of the Tour.
This book has the “unofficial” history of the routes.
More cool historical information can be found on the official Tour de France website.
The 21 Different Stages of the Tour de France
The Tour de France offers multiple challenges to cyclists during the event as they attempt to complete the grueling race. Within the 21 stages, there are 4 separate categories that the particular stage may focus on. Take a look below:
- The Prologue: During the prologue, racers will race against the clock to complete a shorter leg of the race, which is about 6 miles in length.
- The Flat: This name of this stage is a bit deceiving in that all areas of this stage are not flat and can have altering terrain for the cyclists to maneuver through. This is one of the longer stretches of the Tour de France and spans across 125 miles and is usually a pack of cyclists riding together through this long stretch of cycling.
Sometimes riders will ride together as a team while others will ride it out solo. Towards the end of this stretch, there is a breakaway, and cyclists tend to attempt to finish this stretch in a sprint.
- The Time Trial: This is similar to the prologue in that the racers are racing against the clock to complete this leg of the race. The main difference is that this time trial is a bit longer than the prologue in that it is about 30 miles long as opposed to the prologue’s 6 miles. Cyclists will either complete this leg as a team or as an individual.
- The Mountain Stages: The mountain stages are particularly grueling in that it takes an insane amount of leg strength and cardiovascular endurance to complete this leg of the event. Cyclists will continuously maneuver through terrain that is at sea level and go as high as 2,000 meters about sea level throughout this part of the event. That’s a lot of leg power!
A Further Glimpse into the Stages of the Tour de France
The July 2019 Tour de France was an exciting and adrenaline-fueled event of endurance and determination that took cyclists across a lot of interesting areas that we might not have have seen before the event.
The route for the 2020 event is still under wraps, but if you missed it or didn’t know where the cross-country race took cyclists, you’re about to find out!
- The first stage was a flat stage held in Bruxelle and went to Brussels. Sprinter Dylan Groenewegen was substituted by Mike Teunissen, who ended up winning the first stage, effectively ending the Netherlands 30-year drought bringing home a yellow jersey!
- The second stage took us to Bruxelles Palais Royal to Brussel Atomium with a time trial. Mike Teunissen and his team maintained a 20 second lead on the Team Ineos. This led to Mike Teunissen maintaining the coveted yellow jersey and helping keep the Dutch in the lead.
- Stage 3 was a hilly one, taking the riders from Binche out to Épernay. This was a great victory for the French as well, seeing their own Julian Alaphilippe take the yellow jersey from Mike Teunissen and being the first Frenchman to lead the Tour de France since 2014.
- Stage 4 was another flat challenge taking us from Reims to Nancy. In this stage, going through Italy, Elia Viviani kept his team on the winning side along with Julian Alaphilippe to keep Team France in the lead.
- In the hills again, stage five led riders through Saint-Dié-des-Vosges all the way out to Colmar. Peter Sagan secured his 12th victory in the Tour de France by taking the win in an all-out sprint at the end of this arduous stage, and Julian Alaphilippe maintained his yellow jersey.
To get a more detailed description of the July 2019 Tour de France stages and their results, check out this website.
Despite the Name, the Tour de France Isn’t Just in France.
It seems pretty misleading because of the name given to this sporting event, but the Tour de France often takes riders outside of the country in this challenging cross-country race. During the race, cyclists will regularly pass through neighboring countries, and it doesn’t even always start in France.
The first 2 days of the race are referred to as The Grand Depart, and its start location changes regularly every two years. As a matter of fact, in 2007 The Grand Depart was held in London, and in 2014 it was held in Yorkshire.
Yorkshire has since started its own annual cycling event called Tour De Yorkshire. It’s great that they were motivated by hosting the event, but the name is a little derivative, don’t you think?
The Tour de France’s Event Distances Can Vary Greatly
The first Tour de France that started it all in 1903 ran an impressing length of 1500 miles. Since its creation, it seems that people don’t think that was long enough.
In 2017, riders had to bike an additional 700 miles during the race, totaling 2200 miles!
That’s not even the longest distance that cyclists have had to overcome in the Tour de France. 1936 holds the distance record of 3570 miles! Doesn’t that make you tired just thinking about that?
9 Facts on Tour de France
While it is the most popular annual sporting event in the world, there are a lot of things that some people don’t know about or aren’t aware of when it comes to this event. Don’t worry, by the time we’re done, you’ll be an expert on the Tour de France!
1. The Tour de France Event is 23 Days Long
The Tour de France is a cycling event that occurs annually but lasts for 23 days. Over the course of 23 days, cyclists undergo 21 different stages that will test various aspects of the cyclists’ abilities to complete the race. What makes this race even more grueling is that the racers only get two days to rest throughout the entire event.
2. The Tour de France is a Team Event!
Competitors that arrive to compete in the Tour de France are not competing as individuals but as teams of up to nine cyclists. These teams show up from various countries from around the world to compete in this event.
- All teams have a team leader who is going to be their strongest rider and typically excels in all areas like sprinting, climbing, and time trials. For this reason, the choice of a team leader is crucial to the team’s success.
- The team members supporting the team leader are commonly known as domestiques. This name is derived from the French word for servants, so their job is essentially to support the team leader and help them win the stages within the race and keep him protected. They will even be tasked with getting water for the team leader and anyone else who may need it.
- On a team, there is a position called the star-man. He will ride behind his team as they work to provide protection from the wind to the team leader to prevent him from working harder and becoming fatigued.
- There is also the position of team mechanic. This member will address any mechanical failure that the team leader may encounter during the race. If his chain becomes broken or a tire becomes punctured and needs to be replaced, the team will wait while he fixes the issue.
- The domestiques, for their service and dedication to their team leader, will receive a share of the prize money awarded to being on a winning team.
- During the race, to conserve energy, riders will often ride in what is called a peloton. This is a common energy-saving formation that riders utilize in the long legs of the sporting event. It looks similar to a flock of birds traveling from one place to another.
3. The Tour de France is an Extremely Fast-Paced Event
The racers competing in the Tour de France consistently move at speeds averaging about 25 miles per hour. However, there are times throughout various stages in the event that the cyclists will move significantly faster. Either way, to consistently move at 25 miles per hour by pedaling is a great feat.
4. The Cyclists Burn an Insane Number of Calories Over the Course of the Tour de France
As we have already pointed out, the Tour de France is an extremely fast-paced and grueling event. So how much work are they actually doing?
A calorie is commonly referred to as a unit of heat and is what is burned during a cardiovascular exercise.
During the Tour, cyclists will burn upwards of 118,000 calories. Need an idea of what that amounts to? It’s the equivalent of 26 chocolate candy bars!
5. The Tour de France Started as a Publicity Stunt
Yes, it’s true. The most popular annual sporting event that is televised across the world was started as a publicity stunt by Henri Desgrange in 1903.
The idea to bike cross country around France came to him as a way to build publicity for the newspaper that he had worked for called L’Auto. Little did he know how much of an impact that his crazy idea would have on the world!
The first race that was held in 1903 covered 1500 miles and had 60 riders. It was such a huge success that they kept the event going the following year! It is now structured as a bunch of smaller races within one large race for the chance to win bragging rights and a coveted jersey.
6. Riders are Awarded Different Jerseys, All With Different Meanings.
When riders complete a leg of the race, they are awarded jerseys for their efforts. However, not everyone who races gets one.
Each of the jerseys that are awarded to the riders are of different colors, and all have different accomplishments attached to them.
They are the equivalent of trophies and awarded within other sporting events that award their participants, Except you can wear these anywhere.
Here is a list of the jerseys and what they all mean:
- The Green Jersey: This is the jersey that is awarded to an individual based upon the points that they have received within a stage of the Tour de France and is typically awarded to the sprinter. Points are awarded by being the first to cross over the finish line within each stage.
- The White and Red Polka Dot Jersey: Battling uphill in the mountain stages is an intense and exhausting struggle for cyclists and is arguably the most demanding stage that the Tour de France offers.
This is due to the immense leg strength and endurance that is required to go up and down constantly, over the thousands of meters that are presented to riders in this stage located in the Alpine Mountains. The winner of this grueling stage receives a polka dot jersey to show off their rightfully earned accomplishment.
- The White Jersey: This is an interesting award to win in that the recipient doesn’t necessarily have to win any of the stages that are presented to them. Instead, it is an award for the best overall young rider, and they must be under 25 years old. As long as they outperform everyone in their age group, they get this jersey to show what they accomplished.
- The Yellow Jersey: This jersey is the equivalent of a championship belt and is what every rider is striving to achieve for when they show up to compete in the 23-day long Tour de France event. This jersey is going to be awarded to the best overall rider with the best times in the stages in the event once all the times are added up.
The individual who wins this jersey will typically be the strongest rider on the team, usually being the team leader. Winning this jersey means that you are the overall winner of the event and the best cyclist to have competed in the event that year. If you are the tour champion, that means that you excel in sprinting, climbing, and time trials.
7. Cyclists Drink A lot of Water During the Event. For Good Reason
In this year’s Tour de France, it is projected that riders will use more than 42,000 bottles of water throughout the course of the 23-day long event.
This is for a good reason. Everyone knows that water helps keep you hydrated, and no one wants to die of thirst, obviously. But did you know that is works similar to WD40 and an oil change in regard to your body?
Water helps keep the joints in the body lubricated. Constant pedaling can become strenuous on the knees, and drinking water helps prevent injury to those areas.
Aside from that, water helps with keeping elasticity in the tendons and muscles and prevents issues like cramps and lactic acid buildup.
If a cyclist keeps hydrated throughout such a long race, their risk for these types of inconveniences and injuries drop dramatically.
8. The Tour de France Has a Nickname
If you pay attention to the Tour de France, you will see that the cyclists all go through a big loop that takes them in and out of the country. Due to this big loop, spectators and cyclists alike have taken to giving the enormous event a suitable, yet endearing nickname: “La Grande Boucle” which means “The Big Loop” in French.
9. The Tour de France Requires a lot of Leg Endurance and Peddling. Lots and Lots of Peddling.
As you know, the Tour de France is an extremely long event that covers thousands of miles. But what exactly does that mean for the cyclists? How many pedal strokes is that?
On average, a single racer will make 486,000 pedal strokes through the course of the three-week event.
In terms of how fast and hard their legs are working, that is 90 pedal revolutions a minute. Most people can’t go that fast on a stationary bike!
The Tour de France has become the most popular annual sport for a great reason! It is a true battle of will and attrition that competitors train for years to compete in. To see all that hard work in action is truly something amazing to behold.
Now that you know that the route for the Tour de France changes regularly and how many calories they burn during the race, you can impress your friends and sound like a true expert on the event from the information that you learned here.
Who knows? It might even have motivated you to get on a bike and go for a nice long ride.