Tour de France
Official History of Le Tour de France 1903-2006
The grandest bicycle race in the world crowned its champion this weekend.
This years Tour de France kicked off on July 2 in the Vendee, a region on the west coast of France on the Atlantic Ocean, and ended Sunday when the cyclists triumphantly entered Paris, crossing the finish line along the famous Champs Elysees.
During the 22 days of the race, the cyclists completed a grueling 2,131-mile course, making a giant loop across and throughout France, with a brief interlude into Italy. The ride tests the limits of human stamina and endurance.
This years race was divided into 21 stages, with just two days of rest. The stages for 2011 included 10 flat stages, six mountain stages, four mountain summit stages, and three medium-mountain stages, as well as two time trials.
Individual winners were recognized for each stage, and at the end, points were calculated and winner for each stage was crowned. Some riders can win the total race without winning a single stage. Other riders can win individual stages but not the total race.
The color of the jerseys worn by the cyclists reflects the progress of the race and the stage winners. The yellow jersey is worn by the leader in the individual time classification; the green jersey by the leader in the individual points classification; the white jersey by the best young cyclist under age 25; the polka dot jersey by the leader in the climbing classification.
Although individual cyclists win the Tour, they compete in teams made up of nine riders. Teams compete in the Tour only by invitation of the Tour organizers.
The Tour changes routes every year, giving both competitors and spectators the chance to tour France.
This year, during the 18th stage of the race, the cyclists twice climbed Col du Galibier, a mountain in the French Alps, with a 24-hour rest in between. This unprecedented feat recognized the 100th anniversary of the first time the Tour climbed Col du Galibier during the 1911 Tour de France. This year, the climb of Col du Galibier, marked the highest summit in the Tours 98-year history. This stage of the race was judged from the summit.
The first Tour de France was staged in 1903 as a promotional event for LAuto, a sporting newspaper, dreamed up by journalist Geo Lefevre and his editor, Henri DesGrange, an avid cyclist.
On July 1, 1903, 60 cyclists set out from Montgeron on a six-stage, 1,500-mile race. Only 21 were left when the group entered Paris on July 19, led by the first Le Tour winner, Maurice Garin.
The Tour shut down while Europe was engaged in World War II. Although several large races were held during those years, the Tour did not officially resume until 1947. Despite this interruption, the Tour recognizes the 2011 race as the 98th since its 1903 inception.
In the US, the Tour de France has become somewhat synonymous with the great American champion Lance Armstrong, who won the Tour a record breaking seven consecutive times between 1995-2005.
Picture Above: Tour de France bike racers entering the Champs-Elyses in Paris, France.