Posts Tagged With 'France'

Understanding the Rules of the Tour de France

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Understanding the Rules of the Tour de France

To the uninitiated, the world of cycing and specifically, the Tour de France can be a bit confusing. With all the talk of yellow jerseys, time trials, race leaders and feed zones, the Tour de France is sometimes a bit intimidating to new fans. And what in the world is with the teams? It’s an individual sport, right? Well, have no fear, cycling newbies: your initiation is here!

First, let’s discuss the whole team thing. Riders group up in teams as a part of their strategy, more than anything else. You might wonder how much strategy can be involved in riding a bike as fast as you can to a finish line, but you’d be surprised! Each team member usually has their own objective and role in the overall team strategy. The goal is for a member of the team to win the overall classification, or first place, in the Tour de France.

Teams must adhere to rules, just like individuals. First of all, team members all wear matching outfits. However, the jerseys can deviate from that of the team designation if a rider of a team has earned an honor that gives them a special jersey. These honors include being the overall leader of the race (yellow jersey), the best rider on climbing, or mountain stages (polka dot jersey), the best sprint rider (green jersey) and the best young rider of 25 years or younger (white jersey). These jerseys are updated as the race continues, and can change hands several times during the race, or even with every new stage.

Stage, you ask? What’s a stage? Well, long races such as the Tour de France, which typically lasts over three weeks, are divided into one-day portions called “stages”. The stages themselves are usually based upon a certain theme or type, of which there are a few. There are climbing, or mountain stages, sprint stages on flatter ground, individual time trials, where riders race alone for a great time, and others.

The stages are generally mixed up and spread out throughout the overall race, and are balanced so no one type of rider can dominate the race. Since most riders specialize in a certain type of racing (for instance, climbing), you can understand how important it is to balance the stage types within the race.

One of the newer requirements, or at least a requirement that is stricter than before, is the required use of a helmet in all stages of the Tour de France. It’s hard to believe, but there was a time when helmets weren’t required at all, even during 50 mile per hour descents down steep mountains! With injuries and even a rare death contributing to concern over rider safety, helmet requirements have stiffened over recent years.

The feed zone may sound like it’s from the world of cattle raising rather than cycling, but the eating and drinking of Tour de France cyclists is actually serious business. Tour officials closely monitor what goes into their competitors, and things like water bottles have to be approved by them before they can be used. The feed zone is just what it sounds like, an area where riders can grab some quick nourishment as they roll by on their bicycles. Sometimes, cyclists can also be handed water or snacks on other areas of the course by team officials in vehicles or motorcycles (no, seriously), but that’s also closely monitored by Tour de France officials.

One relatively sad, but necessary, evolution of Tour de France rules is reflected in the mandatory drug testing that takes place at every stage in the race. Every participant is tested before the race, and once the race starts, random cyclists are selected at each stage to be tested as well. The stage and race leaders are given a drug test at each stage automatically.

The Tour de France is a simple, yet complicated affair. In essence, it is simply a bicycle race, with riders trying to finish as fast as they can. However, the level of competition has made many rules and policies necessary to ensure fair and efficient competition. Knowing the rules can help you enjoy the Tour de France much more. Make sure to learn all you can before this year’s Tour de France kicks off!


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The Tour de France: A Beginner’s Guide

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The Tour de France: A Beginner’s Guide

The Tour de France is an incredibly exciting event that is followed by fans all across the world. However, the Tour de France can also be intimidating to those who aren’t familiar with the sport of cycling, or the race itself. Let’s go over some of the basics, so that you’ll be able to follow this year’s Tour de France with a better understanding of the events taking place!

First of all, the object of the Tour de France is, of course, to finish the overall race with the fastest time. What complicates things is that the Tour de France is a race that is divided up over a period of about three weeks. It’s important to know that the race itself is divided into different parts called stages. Each stage lasts one day, although the stages can be quite long. There are a total of 21 stages, and the complete race is usually well over 1,800 miles (or over 3,500 km) long!

Although the object of the Tour de France is to win the overall race as a whole, each stage is treated much like its own individual race. Winners of stages receive prize money, and winning a stage of the Tour de France is often regarded as a bigger accomplishment than winning other single-day races. The stages themselves can be flat, mountainous, or anywhere in between, and often there are individual time trials that serve as stages. Competitors generally get a couple of days to rest during the race, as well.

If you’ve seen footage of the Tour de France before, or heard others talk about it, you probably want to know what the yellow jersey is all about. The famed yellow jersey is one of four different jerseys that designate that the rider wearing it has achieved a specific feat. The rider wearing the yellow jersey is the overall leader of the race. To determine who has earned the yellow jersey at any point in the race, officials merely take the lowest overall combined time from all the stages.

The green jersey is awarded to the points leader in the race. Points are earned according to passing order at the finish line or in intermediate sprints. For this reason, riders who specialize in sprints are generally those found wearing the green jersey.

The distinctive polka dot jersey goes to the leader of the “mountain classification”, with points being earned according to passing order on mountain stages. Therefore, it is often said that the rider wearing the polka dot jersey is the best climber of the race.

Finally, the white jersey is only worn by riders aged 25 years or younger. This jersey is intended to spotlight the rising stars of the cycling world and the Tour de France. Many riders who wore the white jersey have also gone on to win the coveted yellow jersey in their careers.

There are other awards given during the Tour de France as well. The combativity prize is also known as the fighting spirit award and is awarded by a panel of eight cycling specialists. There is also a team award called the team classification, which is given after adding the times of the top three riders for each team for each stage to get a total time. Riders in teams often assist each other by “slipstreaming” behind one another for better speed, or using other team tactics. Teams are grouped by common sponsors.

It also bears mentioning that finishing straight stages in the top three can earn you bonus seconds, which help you shave precious seconds off of your total time. Also, the final mountain climb of the Tour de France is for double points, which is a great incentive for climbers. The double points were added to the official race rules starting in 2004.

Now that we’ve addressed the basics of the Tour de France, you’ll be better prepared to enjoy one of the world’s most prestigious and historic sporting events. Make sure to pay attention to what’s going on during the races, and you’ll find that it’s not nearly as complicated as it may have seemed. Before you know it, you’ll be cheering your favorite rider on towards the yellow jacket!


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Great Cyclists of the Tour de France: Lucien van Impe

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Great Cyclists of the Tour de France: Lucien van Impe

Lucien van Impe was one of the better cyclists of his generation, with five Tour de France podium appearances including one win at the 1976 Tour de France. Van Impe, known as a gifted climber who excelled in long, grueling mountain stages, won six Tour de France mountain classifications in addition to his overall race successes.

Van Impe was born in Mere, Belgium in October, 1946. He became a professional cyclist largely due to the help of Federico Bahamontes, himself an expert climber who had won the Tour de France in 1959. Van Impe would repay Bahamontes’ faith in him by eventually tying his record for most polka dot jerseys, with six.

Bahamontes helped van Impe get his first professional contract, and van Impe raced his first Tour de France in 1969, finishing 12th overall. The next year, van Impe raced again in the Tour de France, this time finishing in the top handful of cyclists, in the sixth position.

The year 1971 was when van Impe started to break out on his own and earn a reputation as a rider to be reckoned with, especially in mountain stages. Van Impe earned his first podium finish at the Tour de France, also winning his first of six polka dot jerseys as best climber of the Tour de France in the process.

In the 1972 and 1973 editions of the Tour de France, van Impe would reach a personal milestone by winning a stage in each of the races, although he finished fourth and fifth, respectively, and wasn’t on the podium following the races. He did add another of his six polka dot jerseys in 1972. The 1974 Tour de France held only frustration and disappointment for van Impe, however, as he finished at 18th.

Luckily, the next year, van Impe proved that his 18th place finish was a fluke, as he again earned a podium finish with a third place performance in the 1975 Tour de France. It was also the race where van Impe earned another polka dot jersey as well as his first time winning two stages in the same Tour de France. It appeared that van Impe was primed to claim the title of Tour de France champion.

The 1976 Tour de France saw van Impe do exactly that, as he won the yellow jersey for the first time in his career, while winning another stage victory along the way. Colorful stories have emerged to help explain van Impe’s victory, including one that Cyrille Guimard shouted to van Impe to attack leader Joop Zoetemelk, unless he wanted to be run off the road by Guimard’s car. Of course, van Impe denies that it happened that way.

Try as he might, van Impe was never able to reach that level again. He did finish 3rd in the 1977 Tour de France and 2nd in 1981, and he also added four more stage victories and three more polka dot jerseys, but he could never win a second Tour de France. His successes were peppered with some disappointing finishes, including a 27th place finish in 1985 that marked the end of his participation in the Tour de France.

Nevertheless, Lucien van Impe’s Tour de France win in 1976, along with his other podium finishes and his reputation as one of the best climbers of all time, have reserved him a special place in cycling history. Van Impe is also notable for being second only to Joop Zoetemelk for the amount of times he finished the complete Tour de France race (fifteen times, in fifteen attempts).

In 1987, van Impe retired for good, leaving behind a legacy as a tenacious competitor whose strength and perseverance in the climbing stages is still envied by those who race in the Tour de France year after year. His drive and determination helped make him one of the more notable cyclists of all time.


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Great Cyclists of the Tour de France: Lance Armstrong

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Great Cyclists of the Tour de France: Lance Armstrong

Even those who are relatively unfamiliar with the ins and outs of the sport of cycling can tell you who Lance Armstrong is. There are many people worldwide who don’t know the difference between the yellow jersey and the polka dot jersey, but are familiar with Armstrong’s legendary triumphs at the Tour de France, and his courageous battles with cancer. Let’s take a look at the many great performances of Lance Armstrong on cycling’s biggest stage, the Tour de France.

Armstrong was born in Plano, Texas in 1971. He began competing in his teens as a triathlete rather than as a pure cyclist. As he got toward adulthood, he began competing in cycling events, before turning pro in 1992 at age twenty one. He quickly found success, winning individual stages in several races, as well as being the overall winner of the Fitchburg-Longsjo Classic.

In 1993, Lance Armstrong had his first slice of success in the Tour de France, winning Stage 8. Unfortunately, he was unable to build on that success right away, as his only other stage victory at the Tour de France in the next few years was in 1995, when he won Stage 18 of that year’s race. Of course, Armstrong had an uphill battle, as he was diagnosed with cancer in 1996. Only in 1998, after extensive chemotherapy, was Armstrong able to return to competitive cycling.

Then, in 1999, he began a run the likes of which has never been seen in the cycling world, and which will likely never be seen again.

During the 1999 Tour de France, Lance Armstrong was excellent. He won four stages as well as the overall race for his first-ever Tour de France victory. The race itself was notable not only for Armstrong’s win, but also for a twenty five rider pile-up at Passage du Gois. The next year, Armstrong only won one stage, but was consistent overall as he took the yellow jersey in Stage 10 and never surrendered it.

Armstrong won his third-straight Tour de France in 2001, again besting the perennial runner-up Jan Ullrich by several minutes. Armstrong’s characteristic endurance allowed him to again take the yellow jersey in the middle portion of the race and never relinquish it. Among the highlights of his 2001 win was his famous “look back” at Ullrich as they rode on Alpe d’Huez.

In 2002, Armstrong again finished strongly, winning three of the last ten stages to hold onto the yellow jersey, after surrendering it early in the race. His arch rival, Jan Ullrich was unable to compete due to injury. Armstrong made it an unbelievable five straight with his win in 2003, which was almost made impossible by a near crash that Armstrong barely avoided, that took Joseba Beloki out of the running.

By 2004, many fans and experts were wondering when Armstrong would run out of steam. However, Armstrong was as amazing as ever, winning an amazing five stages en route to his sixth straight Tour de France win. He did not take the yellow jacket until Stage 15, but still finished six minutes ahead of the competition. In his final Tour de France in 2005, Armstrong made history once again with his seventh straight win. The accomplishment was enhanced by the fact that Armstrong wore the yellow jersey for all but four stages during the race. It was also Armstrong’s first Tour de France while racing with the Discovery Channel team.

Armstrong finished his career as one of the only cyclists to transcend the sport and become a major celebrity outside of the cycling world, especially in the United States. His exploits in cycling and particularly in the Tour de France not only captivated the world, but brought new light to the great sport of cycling. Whether or not anyone is ever able to equal or best his amazing accomplishments, Armstrong will remain a legend in Tour de France history.


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The Tour De France, The Worlds Biggest Road Bike Race.

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The Tour De France, The Worlds Biggest Road Bike Race.

The Tour de France is the BIG one; it’s the World cup and the Olympics all in one. It has it all, the high mountains, the wind swept northern planes and the heat of the south. It also has the world’s media, all the top teams and riders and millions of cycling mad fans watching. The other “Grand Tours” of Italy and Spain are as exciting, sometimes more so, but they don’t have the thing the Tour has, that unique Tour ness, that unique French ness.

How it started.

It all started in 1903, when the French daily paper, L’Auto wanted to sell more than its competitor, Le Vélo, who at that time was the only paper reporting on cycle racing. It was suggested to the papers director, Henri Desgrange that they should organise a bike race all round France. The first race was 2,428 kilometres split into six stages and was run off at 25.29 kilometres per hour and out of the 60 starters 21 finished and the race was lead from start to finish by Maurice Garin.

The Heroes.

Over the years there has been a lot of heroes in the Tour de France, you could say all the riders are heroes, to win the race once is hard, but to win it five times is phenomenal. Only five men have done this, and one of these has won it seven times. French rider Jacques Anquetil was the first to win the race five times, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and then Spaniard Miguel Indurain all equalled him. Then the American, Lance Armstrong started to win in 1999 and didn’t stop until he had won it a record seven times in a row. This is all the more amazing as he is a cancer survivor and was given a 50/50 chance of life; he beat the cancer and went on to beat all comers in the Tour de France.

The course.

The race starts in a different town every year and every other year it starts outside France, the choice of stage towns is a combination of money and sporting considerations, the towns will pay for a start or a finish, but they need to be near a mountain or a cobbled road or be near other town who want to host the Tour. The Towns pay to be the centre of interest for a day, the Tour also brings in a lot of money in tourism and the Towns collect much more than they pay and the world will remember the name of the Town, for at least a day.

The riders.

All the best riders want to win the Tour de France, but they cant, from the 200 or so starters there is a possible five or six riders who can win, the rest are either helping their team leaders or sprint or mountain specialists who want to win stages or points or mountain jerseys, this keeps the race active and interesting from beginning to end.

The BIG Tour.

The Tour is the biggest, but that has its problems, some Towns are not big enough, hotels etc., the television needs more space, the journalists need more phone lines and computers, more and more people are following the race and the riders can be forgotten about in all the razzmatazz, but its still the biggest sporting event in the world, long may in run!

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