The 100th edition of the Tour de France will come to a dramatic end today when the riders arrive in Paris at last. For the past three weeks the best cyclists in the world have been battling it out on the roads of France for the right to wear the famed maillot jaune – better known as the “yellow jersey” – that designates the current leader of the race. As the peloton turns toward the finish line later today it will be Chris Froome, captain of the Sky Procycling team, who will be in yellow, and since the final stage of the race is uncontested, he’ll head for home knowing that he is already the winner.
Froome, who was born in Kenya but carries a British passport, took control of the race early on with a stunning ride in the early mountain stages of the Pyrenees. His impressive climbing skills left all other contenders in the dust, including former champs Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans and Andy Schleck. Later he was able to widen his lead by dominating two individual time trials and although he looked a bit more vulnerable in the Alps, he still managed to gain time on his closest rivals.
While today’s ride is technically the final stage, there is an unwritten rule in the peloton that you don’t attack the yellow jersey on the ride to Paris. With more than a five-minute advantage on the next closest rider, it would be impossible for a competitor to actually make up that much ground anyway. Instead, Froome will enjoy a leisurely ride into Paris where the sprinters will take center stage on the Champs Élysées. That will prove to be a fast and furious scene that the race winner is generally happy to stay well clear of.
Since this was the 100th anniversary of the Tour, the organizers of the event went out of their way to make things special. In the opening days, the race visited the island of Corsica for the first time ever. Later, they punished the riders with some of the toughest stages that have ever been a part of the race, including a double ascent of the famed mountain stage of Alpe d’Huez, on the same day no less. Today may be the best day of all, however, as the riders will embark late in the afternoon from the gardens at Versailles and will arrive in Paris as the sun is going down. They’ll then pedal through the courtyard at the Louvre before making their way to the Champs Élysées, where they’ll race around the Arc de Triomphe for the first time. It should make for a very memorable finish that will leave fans of the race counting the days until its return next year.
Cycling fans across the globe are celebrating today as the 2013 Tour de France gets underway for the first time from the Isle of Corsica. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the race and to commemorate the occasion Tour organizers have put together a course that is designed to create drama and test the skill and endurance of the riders. For the next three weeks they will be battling it out on the roads of France, with the winner ultimately being decided on the slopes of the Pyrenees and the Alps.
Typically the first day of the Tour is a short prologue that is over quickly and helps to determine the initial positioning heading into the first real days of racing. That won’t be the case this year, however, as the riders hit the road in Corsica this morning for a 213-kilometer (132-mile) ride from Porto-Vecchio to Bastia. The course won’t feature any massive climbs just yet, but it will undulate through the hills, nonetheless. It does include some relatively flat portions, particularly near the end, that will allow the sprinters in the field to stretch their legs and show off their early form.
Last year’s Tour winner Bradley Wiggins is out of this year’s Tour while he nurses an injury to his knee. That means the race is wide open, although the odds on favorites heading in are Wiggins’ teammate Chris Froome of the U.K. and Spanish cycling legend Alberto Contador who returns to competition after sitting out much of last year for a failed drug test. Contador is one of the best riders of his generation and he has won the Tour on three separate occasions, although one of those was stripped due to the aforementioned doping violation. The Spaniard is riding well this year, however, and he seems as determined as ever to win the race.Other contenders include Spanish rider Alejandro Valverde and Andy Schleck of Luxembourg. Schleck missed last year’s race due to an injury and has finished as the runner up three times in the past. He is hoping to be in contention in the final days once again this year. The 2011 winner, Cadel Evans of Australia, hopes to return to form and claim a second Tour victory, but should he falter as he did last year, his team could rally around 23-year-old American Teja Van Garderen who shows signs that he is ready to contend for the coveted Yellow Jersey worn by the race leader.
The famous maillot jaune isn’t the only jersey up for grabs, however. The world’s top sprinters will be battling it out for the Green Jersey with the U.K.’s Mark Cavendish likely to be in the mix along with Slovakian rider Peter Sagan. The Polka Dot Jersey is awarded to the race’s best climber in the King of the Mountain category, who should be in the mix with the top riders heading into the final stages in the Alps.
The next three weeks will be exciting ones for fans of the Tour. Last year’s race was often described as “lackluster” with little drama in large part because Wiggens and his team were just so dominant. That isn’t likely to be the case this year with more mountain stages to challenge the legs of the leaders. It is very likely that race won’t be decided until the final few days, with the winner enjoying his victory lap on the Camps Élysées on July 21.
Cycling’s premiere event, the Tour de France, gets underway today with the world’s best riders preparing for another challenging race. This year’s Tour promises to be an exciting one as the teams go head-to-head through 20 grueling stages that culminate on July 22 with their arrival on the Champs Elysees in Paris.
The competition for the famed Maillot Jaune, or Yellow Jersey, which is worn throughout the competition by the race leader, should prove to be an interesting one. Former Tour champ Alberto Contador, widely considered the best cyclist in the world, is out of the race while serving a controversial drug suspension. His chief rival, Andy Schleck, is also out after suffering a fracture to his back in the Criterium du Dauphine at the start of June. This opens the door for any number of riders to claim victory in Paris, including defending champ Cadel Evans and Bradley Wiggins of the U.K. They’ll be pushed by Ryder Hesjedal of Canada, Robert Gesink from the Netherlands and Frank Schleck of Luxembourg.
When the race begins later today it will be on the streets of Liège where the cyclists will ride a short 6.4-kilometer (4-mile) Prologue that will determine the preliminary rankings before heading into the first road stage tomorrow. Stage 1 will be a mostly flat and fast affair covering 198 kilometers (123 miles) between Liège and Seraing. This will give the Tour’s sprinters a chance to stretch their legs before heading into the mountains in the later stages of the race.
The course designers did a fine job of mixing up the challenges this year. The race begins with the traditional flat stages, but eventually gives way to tougher medium and big mountain stages, which is where the race is usually won and lost. Two individual time trials will also go a long way towards determining who will wear the Yellow Jersey in Paris in three weeks time.
You can follow all of the action on the Tour de France website, where daily updates show rankings, stage results and individual highlights. For cycling fans, it is going to be an exciting event.
Organizers of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge have announced the dates and route for the 2012 edition of the race, which will once again take place in Colorado. This year, the state played host to the inaugural event, which saw some of the world’s top cyclists competing on a course that involved plenty of climbing and altitude.
The 2012 version of the Pro Cycling Challenge will get underway on August 20th from Durango and will continue through the 26th, when riders finish up with a time trial through the streets of Denver. In between, they’ll visit Telluride, Aspen, Beaver Creek, Colorado Springs, Boulder, and a host of other mountain towns. The route will cover more than 520 miles and will feature climbs over five different mountain passes in excess of 10,000 feet in height.
This year’s race was a resounding success, bringing in more than one million spectators and generating an estimated $83.5 million in revenue for the state of Colorado. The week-long, stage race was won by American Levi Leipheimer, but also managed to attract some of the best riders in the world, including Frank Schleck, Robert Gesink, and 2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans.
American cycling fans should be ecstatic that this event has been so well received and is returning for another year. Colorado is a fantastic place to hold a pro-level cycling competition, as the scenic mountain passes bring drama and excitement to every day of the race. This year’s course was billed as the highest altitude cycling competition ever, and it appears that the 2012 edition is poised to up the ante even further.
This November, Victoria is expected to play host to more than 4000 riders when the event gets underway. The ride begins in the town of Swan Hill on the 26th of that month and continues along the Murry River, passing through historic gold towns, before eventually finishing in Castlemaine. With eight days of riding, plus one rest day, the riders will cover a total of 590km (367 miles) as they pass through some of the most scenic landscapes that Victoria has to offer. Along the way, they’ll get a true taste of Australian culture and a healthy sampling of Aussie hospitality.
Riding an average of 73km (45 miles) per day, the cyclists will have plenty of time to take in the sights and enjoy a leisurely pedal through the countryside. And at the end of the day, they’ll stay in comfortable campsites, where the fun and camaraderie continues over good meals and great conversations about the day’s events.
The entry fee for the nine days of riding and camping is just $935 AUD for adults, $699 AUD for children under 18, and $399 AUD for children under 13. Kids five and under ride for free. That fee gets you a fully catered, tent-based cycling adventure that will allow you to see Australia like you never thought possible. Support services include luggage transportation, massage services, a full medical team and bike repair crew, as well as a licensed cafe that will keep you well fed.
I can’t imagine how much fun the Great Victorian Bike Ride must be. As an avid cyclists, I think it would be a lot of fun to hit the road with more than 4000 other riders on a nice long ride. One of these days I need to get back down to Australia and take part in this event.
[Photo credit: Brien Cohn/Great Victorian Bike Ride]