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Tour de France

The Tour de France (French for Tour of France), also simply known as Le Tour, is an epic long distance cycling competition for professionals held over three weeks in July in and around France. It has been held annually since 1903, only interrupted by World War I and World War II.

In the early days of the race, it was simply a continuous endurance event where the first rider to complete the course won - the clock simply kept running while riders slept, ate, and otherwise rested. Racers slept by the side of the road and were required to avoid all assistance. These days, the tour is a "stage race", divided into a number of stages, each stage being a race held over one day. There are service vehicles (motorcycles and cars) that provide information, food, water, and access to mechanics. Some of the vehicles are "neutral" for all the racers and some are team vehicles.

Most stages take place in France though it is very common to have a few stages in nearby countries, such as Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany, but also non-neighbouring countries such as Ireland, England and the Netherlands. The three weeks usually includes two resting days, which are sometimes used to transport the riders long distances between stages.

In recent years, the first stage is preceded by a short time trial (1 to 15 km), called the prologue. The traditional finish is in Paris on the Champs-Elysées. In between, various stages occur, including a number of mountain stages, individual time trials and a team time trial. The remaining stages are held over relatively flat terrain. With the variety of stages, sprinters may win stages, but the overall winner is almost always a master of the mountain stages and time trials.

Many places and - especially - mountains occur frequently (sometimes almost annualy) in the parcours, and have gained fame on their own. The most famous mountains are those in the hors-categorie , including the Mont Ventoux, Col du Galibier[?], the Hautacam[?] and Alpe d'Huez[?] (more needed).

Preceding the Tour de France is the prestigious cycling event, the Giro d'Italia in Italy and following the Tour de France is the World Cycling Championship in Germany.

Tour de France Winners
Tour Year Winner Nationality
011903Maurice Garin[?]France
021904Henri Cornet[?]France
031905Louis Trousselier[?]France
041906René Polthier[?]France
051907Lucien Petit-Breton[?]France
061908Lucien Petit-BretonFrance
071909François Faber[?]Luxembourg
081910Octave Lapize[?]France
091911Gustave Garrigou[?]France
101912Odile Defraye[?]Belgium
111913Philippe Thys[?]Belgium
121914Philippe ThysBelgium
131919Firmin Lambot[?]Belgium
141920Philippe ThysBelgium
151921Léon Scieur[?]Belgium
161922Firmin LambotBelgium
171923Henri Pélissier[?]France
181924Ottavio Bottecchia[?]Italy
191925Ottavio BottecchiaItaly
201926Lucien Buysse[?]Belgium
211927Nicolas Frantz[?]Luxembourg
221928Nicolas FrantzLuxembourg
231929Maurice de Waele[?]Belgium
241930André Leducq[?]France
251931Antonin Magne[?]France
261932André LeducqFrance
271933Georges Speicher[?]France
281934Antonin MagneFrance
291935Romain Maes[?]Belgium
301936Sylvère Maes[?]Belgium
311937Roger Lapébie[?]France
321938Gino Bartali[?]Italy
331939Sylvère MaesBelgium
341947Jean Robic[?]France
351948Gino BartaliItaly
361949Fausto Coppi[?]Italy
371950Ferdinand Kubler[?]Switzerland
381951Hugo Koblet[?]Switzerland
391952Fausto CoppiItaly
401953Louison Bobet[?]France
411954Louison BobetFrance
421955Louison BobetFrance
431956Roger Walkowiak[?]France
441957Jacques Anquetil[?]France
451958Charly Gaul[?]Luxembourg
461959Federico Bahamontes[?]Spain
471960Gastone Nencini[?]Italy
481961Jacques Anquetil[?]France
491962Jacques AnquetilFrance
501963Jacques AnquetilFrance
511964Jacques AnquetilFrance
521965Felice Gimondi[?]Italy
531966Lucien Aimar[?]France
541967Roger Pingeon[?]France
551968Jan Janssen[?]Netherlands
561969Eddy MerckxBelgium
571970Eddy MerckxBelgium
581971Eddy MerckxBelgium
591972Eddy MerckxBelgium
601973Luis Ocaña[?]Spain
611974Eddy MerckxBelgium
621975Bernard Thévenet[?]France
631976Lucien Van Impe[?]Belgium
641977Bernard ThévenetFrance
651978Bernard Hinault[?]France
661979Bernard HinaultFrance
671980Joop Zoetemelk[?]Netherlands
681981Bernard HinaultFrance
691982Bernard HinaultFrance
701983Laurent Fignon[?]France
711984Laurent FignonFrance
721985Bernard HinaultFrance
731986Greg LeMond[?]United States
741987Stephen Roche[?]Ireland
751988Pedro Delgado[?]Spain
761989Greg LemondUnited States
771990Greg LemondUnited States
781991Miguel Induraín[?]Spain
791992Miguel IndurainSpain
801993Miguel IndurainSpain
811994Miguel IndurainSpain
821995Miguel IndurainSpain
831996Bjarne Riis[?]Denmark
841997Jan Ullrich[?]Germany
851998Marco PantaniItaly
861999Lance ArmstrongUnited States
872000Lance ArmstrongUnited States
882001Lance ArmstrongUnited States
892002Lance ArmstrongUnited States

Since 1903 four riders have managed to win the Tour five times:

  • Jacques Anquetil (France) in 1944, 1948, 1949, 1950 and 1951;
  • Eddy Merckx (Belgium) in 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972 and 1974;
  • Bernard Hinault (France) in 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982 and 1985;
  • Miguel Indurain (Spain) in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 (the first to do so in five consecutive years).
Insiders think Lance Armstrong (United States), winner of the Tour from 1999 to 2002, has a fair chance to equal this record in 2003.

In terms of nationality, riders from France have won most Tours (36), followed by Belgium (18), Italy (9), Spain (8), the United States (8), Luxembourg (4), Switzerland and the Netherlands (2 each) and Ireland, Denmark and Germany (1 each).

The Jerseys

There are several prizes to be had, and generally a coloured jersey is associated with each prize. The current holder of the prize is entitled to wear the jersey when they are racing.

The yellow jersey ("maillot jaune"), worn by the overall time leader, is most prized. It is awarded by calculating the total time each rider has been in the saddle - i.e. by adding the times taken to complete each stage so far. The rider with the lowest total time is considered the leader, and at the end of the event is declared the overall winner of the Tour. The colour was originally a reference to the newspaper which sponsored the race, which had yellow pages.

The green jersey is awarded for sprint points. At the end of each stage, points for this jersey are gained by the riders who finish first, second etcetera. The number of points depends on the type of stage - many for a flat stage, slightly fewer for an intermediate stage, fewer still for a mountainous stage, and the least for time trials. There are also a few points for the riders who are first at some intermediate points, usually about 2 per stage. At those intermediate points (as well as at the finish) there are also bonus seconds for the yellow jersey, but those are so few that they rarely if ever have an influence on the final standings. They do however play a role in the first week, before the mountain stages, as the overall standings are usually less well separated.

The "King of the Mountains" wears a white jersey with red dots, referred to as the "polka dot jersey". At the top of each climb in the Tour, there are points for the riders who are first over the top. The climbs are divided into categories from 1 (most difficult) to 4 (least difficult) based on their difficulty, measured as a function of their steepness and length. A fifth category, called Hors categorie (outside category) is formed by mountains even more difficult than those of the first category.

Two lesser classifications are that for the white jersey, which is like the yellow jersey, but only open for young riders below a certain age, and that for the red number, which goes to the most combattive rider. Each day, a group of judges awards points to riders who made particularly attacking moves that day. The rider with most points in total gets a red (instead of black) identification number.

Finally, there is a teams classification. For this classification, the time of the first three riders from each team is added after each stage. The Tour has around 20 teams of 9 riders each (when starting), each sponsored by one or more companies - although at some stages of its history, the teams have been divided instead by nationality.

  • 2001 - an overview and results list of the Tour de France of 2001
  • 2002 - an overview and results list of the Tour de France of 2002
  • 2003 - an introduction ot the Tour de France of 2003

Tour de France is also the title of a Kraftwerk song about the race itself. It was released as a single during the 1980s. The song uses "musical onomatopoeia" of bicyclers breathing hard in order to recreate the struggle of riding hard during the race.

The Tour de France automobile[?] was a sports car race held on roads around France. Cancelled due to its being too dangerous, it is now run at reduced speeds for historic cars.

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