British Cyclist Chris Froome Wins 2013 Tour De France

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.

The 2013 Tour De France Begins Today!

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.

2012 Tour De France Begins Today!

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.

Australian Cadel Evans wins 2011 Tour de France

The 2011 Tour de France came to an end yesterday on the Champs Elyesees in Paris, where Australian Cadel Evans rode to victory in the race’s famed Yellow Jersey. After more than three weeks of racing, Evans emerged from the pack as best rider in this year’s event, and became the first man from Australia to win cycling’s premiere event.

With a course designed to challenge the riders in unique ways on every single day, fans of the Tour expected this year’s race to be an exciting and wide open one. They got everything they wanted and more, as the 2011 Tour de France featured all kinds of dramatics, particularly when the race entered the high mountains of the Pyrenees and the Alps. During the three weeks of racing, there were daring breakaways, brilliant individual performances, and cringe-inducing crashes, including a nasty incident with a media car that sent Dutch rider Johnny Hoogerland flying into a barbed wire fence.

Before the race started back on July 2nd, the pre-race favorites included not only Evans, but also defending champ Alberto Contador of Spain and the brothers from Luxembourg, Frank and Andy Schleck. Contador was bogged down with crashes early in the race, injuring a knee in the process. Those mishaps cost him precious time, and despite a spirited attempt in the final days of the Tour, he never quite got into the rhythm that has won him the Yellow Jerseys on three separate occasions in the past.
Heading into Saturday however, Andy and Frank Schleck sat at first and second in the standings respectively. Working together, the two men had managed to claim a small lead over Evans coming out of the final mountain stages. Saturday’s stage was an individual time trial however, which is not a strong point for those two riders, and is a particular strength of Evans. The Aussie rode one of the best rides of the day, and left the two Schlecks in the dust, claiming the victory. The two brothers slid to second and third in the final standings.

As is traditional in the Tour de France, Sunday is mostly a ceremonial ride into Paris. While the Peloton will joust for the final stage win, and the sprint specialists duel for the last available points of the race, no one attacks the Yellow Jersey. As a result, Evans’ ride to the finish line in Paris was essentially a 60 mile long victory lap, one that he particularly enjoyed after two second place finishes in previous Tours.

Cadel’s big win is expected to open the door for more Australian cyclists to leave their mark on the sport, much the way that Greg LeMond and Lance Armstrong inspired young American cyclists. Australia already has a proud cycling tradition, but this win will give the sport yet another boost in the country.

Congrats to Evans on the amazing win.

[Photo courtesy of AFP]

The 2011 Tour de France begins today!

One of the biggest sporting events in the world begins today when the 2011 Tour de France gets underway in the Vendée region of western France. Over the course of the next three weeks, the best cyclists in the world will pedal through beautiful towns and villages, past sun flower-filled fields, and most importantly up the Pyrenees and the Alps, to determine who will eventually ride into Paris wearing the champion’s Yellow Jersey.

The pre-race favorites are without a doubt defending champion Alberto Contador of Spain and Andy Schleck of Luxembourg, who has finished second to Contador the past two years. Other contenders include Australian Cadel Evans, who led the race last year until he crashed, fracturing an elbow in the process. Samuel Sanchez, also from Spain, finished fourth in 2010 and has been boldly predicting a higher place finish this year, while Belgian Jurgen Van Den Broeck has proven he can ride with the likes of Contador and Schleck as well.

The physical challenges of the race are quite staggering. The riders face a route that is more than 2130 miles in length, spread out over 21 stages. Of those, ten are flat and designed for the sprinters to strut their stuff, while the climbers will have their turn on three medium mountain and six high mountain stages, four of which have a summit finish. There will also be an individual time trial and a team time trial thrown in for good measure, along with two rest days.

As usual, the 2011 Tour will most likely be won or lost in the mountains, and this year’s course features the famed Alpe-d’Huez, which has been missing from the route the past two years. That all important summit finish comes in Stage 19, two days before the ride into Paris, and will probably determine who stands atop the podium on the Champs Élysées.

On an annual basis, the Tour is one of the most watched events in the world. There will be more than 2000 journalists on hand to cover the race and it is broadcast in 188 countries across the globe. Additionally, an estimated 12-15 million fans will line the stages of the race, cheering their favorite riders on to the finish line.