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August 14, 2019
JLVelo - Tour de France 101 by, Kevin O'Hara
It’s summer, the sun is shining, and that can only mean one thing: Tour de France! Welcome to a crash course on the world’s largest annual sporting event. Lasting 23 days and covering over 2000 miles, these nearly 200 cyclists will compete in the ultimate test of endurance, stamina, and teamwork. This enormous bike race, which was started by newspaper owner Henri Desgrange back in 1903 as a publicity stunt, involves 22 elite teams of up to 9 riders.
These athletes ride through 21 different ‘stages’ ranging from flat stretches to all-out time trials to rugged mountains. The Tour is no joke - millions gather all along the way to watch these cyclists compete. Each team is composed of many different roles, such as a team leader who is typically the strongest rider of a team. Other roles, such as domestiques - a French word meaning servant, are just as important, as these riders assist and protect the leader along the way. Often times, large groups called peletons form along the track, where groups of riders delicately race together in packs to conserve energy on the long race, much like flocks of flying birds.
At the end of the day, it is a race, and everyone is gunning for the top prize. In the Tour de France, there are four colored jerseys that can be won for outstanding performance. The first is a green jersey, regarded as the ‘points’ prize, usually won by a spriting (very fast) rider, who accumulated lots of points by being one of the first over the line at each stage. A unique red and white polka dot jersey is awarded to the best rider along the treacherous and draining climb on the Alpine mountains. A pure white jersey is given to the best young rider, under 25 years of age. But the most treasured prize is the coveted yellow jersey, awarded to the overall time leader since the beginning of the epic race.
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