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.

Bradley Wiggins Wins 2012 Tour de France

British cyclist Bradley Wiggins has won the 2012 Tour de France giving the U.K. its first champion in the 99-year history of the event. He’ll cap his historic run in the three-week long race by riding onto the Champs-Elysees in Paris in the Tour’s final leg.

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.

[Photo credit: Sapin88 via WikiMedia]

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]

Get your third night in Paris Free

Make 2010 the year you go to Paris. For most of the year, you can stay at the Hotel Beauchamps, in the 8th Arrondissement, and get your third night free. Over your three-night stay, you’ll save an average of 92 euro a night, which can certainly get you started at many of the city’s fantastic restaurants.

The Hotel Beauchamps is an interesting property, not far from the Champs Elysées and located between Rue du Faubourg St Honoré and Montaigne Avenue. If you have a jones for shopping, especially, this is the place to be. The intimate hotel has only 89 rooms on six floors, all of which have views onto Rue de Ponthieu, Rue Du Colisée or the courtyard.