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.
Former professional cyclist George Hincapie, who rode in the Tour de France an impressive 17 times, has announced plans to enter the hotel business along with his brother Rich. Their small boutique hotel, which is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of South Carolina, promises to mix old world charm with contemporary sophistication.
The aptly named Hotel Domestique is set to open in August and will feature 13 rooms each with their own individual style and flair. The hotel will showcase French and Mediterranean influences and the comfortable rooms will include designer furnishings, flat-screen TV’s and their own fireplaces. The intention is to provide travelers with a sophisticated and unique place to stay that is also warm and inviting.
Domestique is located near Traveler’s Rest – just 20 miles north of Greenville, SC – and is situated atop a lovely hillside that provides spectacular views of the surrounding region. The hotel includes a fantastic patio that overlooks the 29-acre grounds and vineyard, with the beautiful Blue Ride Mountains offering a dramatic backdrop.
True to his cycling roots, Hincapie hopes to make the Hotel Domestique a popular place to stay with active travelers. The winding country roads that surround the place make for fantastic cycling and running, and a fleet of road and mountain bikes will be available for guests. The hotel will also keep a bike mechanic on staff to adjust bikes to the proper fit and assist riders with all their cycling needs. Additionally, a new 25-meter swimming pool will provide a refreshing dip following an energetic ride or allow the traveling-triathlete to maintain his or her training in style.
For further information and to get a glimpse of this fantastic new hotel, visit hoteldomestique.com.
Cyclist Martyn Ashton got his hands on the very same frame recently and let’s just say he put it to test in ways that Wiggins wouldn’t even attempt. No one will ever confuse the two riders out on the road, as their styles aren’t even remotely similar. See for yourself in the video below, in which Ashton finds new and creative ways to abuse this very expensive bike.
Wiggins, who rides for Team Sky, grabbed the lead on the first major mountain stage of the race and really didn’t face much competition after that. Last year’s winner, Aussie Cadel Evans, didn’t seem to have the legs to hang with the Brit on the big climbs and Canadian Ryder Hesjedal crashed out of the race with a broken collarbone early on. Combine that with the fact that Wiggins’ very strong team were always close at hand, and other contenders found it impossible to earn back any time on the leader. As a result, this year’s Tour wasn’t particularly interesting for spectators to watch but it was definitely a clinic on how a strong and efficient team can win the race.
Wiggins will be joined on the podium by teammate Chris Froome and Italian Vincenzo Nibali in second and third place respectively. There were times when it seemed that Froome could have pulled away from Wiggins and possibly won the race himself, but like a good teammate he stayed close and paced his friend through the mountains. He is expected to be a major threat to possibly win the Tour in the future, however, and the two men may find themselves battling each other down the road.
Today’s final stage is 130km (80.77 miles) in length and runs from Rambouillet to Paris. It is largely a ceremonial victory lap for the winner of the race’s famed Yellow Jersey as none of the other riders will attack the leader on the final day. The top sprinters will battle it out on the Champs-Elysees, however, and when they hit that famous road it will be chaos at the front of the peloton. Gaining a stage win in front of the crowd in Paris is a major accomplishment and there are a number of very fast riders who will be hoping to earn that distinction.
Congrats to Bradley Wiggins on his impressive victory. I’m sure British cycling fans will be enjoying the final ride later today.