The Grand Tour – Le Tour de France
In the world of competitive cycling, the Grand Tours are the ultimate aspiration for a competitive road bicyclist.
There are only three Grand Tours in the world, with the most famous of all - the Tour de France. The second one is the Giro d'Italia. And the third of the famous Grand Tours is Vuelta A Espana.
The Grand Tours
Bicycle racing, including the Grand Tours, is referred to as an individual sport practiced by teams. A team includes about eight to nine riders where only one, the lead rider, is awarded the win. The lead rider has to depend on their team members to succeed. The various roles of the teammates include letting the lead ride draft, which means -behind them in an area of low pressure reducing the wind resistance and the amount of energy required to pedal by about 30%, allowing the lead to go farther and faster. Other support roles include swapping a bicycle in case the lead's ride has a flat. The team members also help set a strong pace for the lead in the mountains and may be required to keep away a rival's team member who may be trying to slow the lead down.
These Grand Tours are for mostly 21 ride days plus a couple of days for rest in-between the ride days. Grand Tours must include mountain inclines. Each day is a stage, and you have a winner for each of them. The final Grand tour winner is decided as the lowest overall time to complete each of all stages.
Another interesting fact which is noticeable is that all participants till now are male riders.
Let's look at the most famous and prestigious of these Grand Tours - Le Tour de France.
Le Tours De France
It is the most popular and challenging of all bicycle races attracting the best riders worldwide. It is held in July and typically includes 20-22 professional teams of 8-9 riders each. It covers some 3,600 km or 2,235 miles. Its route travels mainly in France, but may occasionally and briefly visit the surrounding countries like Belgium, Italy, Germany, and Spain. It has now become a thing for another country to host the opening stage.
Besides huge crowds that gather along the roadsides to watch the rides in action, it is televised across the world. After all, it's one of the supreme tests of athletic endurance.
The racing stages include both flat land and great stretches of mountainous inclines. It is a tall order for a single rider to perform well and at optimum levels on both terrains. No wonder then it is a tough race, and winning one is prestigious.
The Tour de France winner is the one who wears the yellow jersey or 'Maillot Jaune as they say in French, earning it with the lowest cumulative time for each stage of the race.
Maillot pois rouge
Other awards include- a polka-dotted, white with red polks dots jersey for the 'king of the mountains. The winner of this jersey is the rider who has the most points in the climbing stages, including small hills and steep mountains. You also have a white jersey awarded to the rider under age 25 who has the lowest cumulative time for all the stages. A green jersey is awarded to the winner of bonus sprints.
The green jersey, or maillot vert, is awarded to the rider leading the points classification. So, it works like this -points are awarded to riders in the order they cross the line at the different stage finishes and intermediate sprints.
Points are awarded to riders in the order they cross the line at stage finishes and intermediate sprints; hence the points classification is generally being won by 'sprinters'.
The 1st to 15th placegetters earn points. The flat stage winner is awarded more points than the high mountain stage winner. So flat stage winners get 50 points vs 20 for mountain stage winners.
In case the winner of the GC has also topped the points classification, the rider coming second in the green jersey standings wears it.
A Bit of Trivia or Interesting Facts
Did you know that the riders may use three types of bicycles? One for time trials, one for flat road stages, and a very light bicycle for the mountain-climbing stages of the race.
Another interesting fact about this bicycle race is that it was started and established in 1903 by Henri Desgrange, a French cyclist and a journalist. The race was a means to boost his newspaper, "L'Auto' circulation. And since then, except during the World War years, it has been run every year.
What do you think about the greatest cycling race on earth? What other trivia can you add? Do share with us your thoughts by adding in the comments box below.
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