CYCLING: Tour de France – Several races within one giant race
• Race date: June 29-July 21
• France has had more winners than any other country.
• There are two rest days.
• Henri Desgrange, a reporter and cyclist, creates the Tour de France in 1903.
• Although it’s the 100th anniversary of the Tour, it’s not the 100th race. The race was canceled 11 times during World War I & II.
• The 2014 Tour de France will start in Leeds, England.
It’s July and in Grand Junction that means it’s hot and time for fireworks to celebrate Independence Day. In Europe and especially France, July means Tour de France time. This year, 2013, marks the 100th running of the world’s biggest sporting event. This race lasts three weeks and covers around 2,000-plus miles. It is also watched from around the world. What makes the Tour different from most other sporting events is its sheer size; the arena is the whole of France and sometimes surrounding nations.
The race is really 21 races, or stages, with individual winners and a running time clock to determine the overall winner. The overall winner is the rider with the lowest accumulated time after completing all stages. If you don’t finish one, you can’t start the next. Even if a rider crashes and gets hurt, he will usually try to get to the finish line in case he may be able to go on. The winner of a stage is a hero with his face on the front of almost every newspaper and broadcast in Europe. This means more publicity for the team sponsors and better pay for the rider.
In addition to the stages, there are also other races within the race signified by different colored jerseys. These are sought after as well for their recognition and sponsorship publicity. The overall leader gets to wear a yellow jersey, symbolizing the color of the paper that the sponsoring newspaper was printed on when the race was first ran in 1903.
The best sprinter gets to wear a green jersey for the points competition. This is decided by points picked up at different sprint points along the route as well as stage finishes. The guys who compete for this are usually not the overall contenders, but fast riders that can’t always climb with the pure climbers. Sprints will be placed at towns or other significant places along the route to provide action for those not at the finish. Peter Sagan, my favorite rider, is favored to win the points classification again this year
The polka dot jersey is given to the climber who receives the most mountain points. He also may not be an overall contender as points are picked up at summits along the route in addition to mountaintop finishes. The number of points varies based on the difficulty and length of the climbs.
There is a white jersey for the best young rider under the age of 25. This was won last year by the American rider Tejay Van Garderen who finished fifth overall. The team with the lowest accumulated time gets a prize also, as well as the most aggressive rider for each stage and the overall race. Another fun one to watch is the prize for the last-place rider or Lantern Rouge.
The Tour de France is not a simple race. It’s several races within a race. It’s elite competition at its very best. Watching it is a great way to spend your time in July.
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