Le Tour de France is the most highly anticipated, ardently supported sporting event in France. You don’t have to be a bicycle buff to recognise the yellow jersey of the stage leader, or indeed to thoroughly enjoy the whole affair. The 2016 Tour de France took place last week and featured dramatic sprints, flats, cobble, and challenging mountain stages that tested the cyclists to their limits. The French Alps became a battle ground for the keen athletes, Morzine itself providing a stunning backdrop to the final mountain stages.
The 21 Stages were as follows:
Stage 1: Saturday, July 2 – Mont Saint-Michel to Utah Beach – 188km
Stage 2: Sunday, July 3 – Saint-Lô to Cherbourg-Octeville – 182km
Stage 3: Monday, July 4 – Granville to angers – 222km
Stage 4: Tuesday, July 5 – Saumur to Limoges – 232km
Stage 5: Wednesday, July 6 – Limoges to Le Lioran – 216km
Stage 6: Thursday, July 7 – Arpajon-sur-Cère to Montauban – 187km
Stage 7: Friday, July 8 – L’Isle-Jourdain to Lac de Payolle – 162km
Stage 8: Saturday, July 9 – Pau to Bagnères-de-Luchon – 183km
Stage 9: Sunday, July 10 – Vielha (Spain) to Arcalis (Andorra) – 184km
Monday, July 11 – first rest day
Stage 10: Tuesday, July 12 – Escaldes-Engordany (Andorra) to Revel – 198km
Stage 11: Wednesday, July 13 – Carcassonne to Montpellier – 164km
Stage 12: Thursday, July 14 – Montpellier to Mont Ventoux – 185km
Stage 13: Friday, July 15 – Bourg-Saint-Andéol to La Caverne du Pont-d’Arc – 37km individual time trial
Stage 14: Saturday, July 16 – Montélimar to Villars-les Dombes – 208km
Stage 15: Sunday, July 17 – Bourg-en-Bresse to Culoz – 159km
Stage 16: Monday, July 18 – Moirans-en-Montagne to Bern – 206km
Tuesday, July 19 – second rest day
Stage 17: Wednesday, July 20 – Bern to Finhaut-Emosson – 184km
Stage 18: Thursday, July 21 – Sallanches to Megève – 17km individual time trial
Stage 19: Friday, July 22 – Albertville to Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc – 146km
Stage 20: Saturday, July 23 – Megève to Morzine – 146km
Stage 21: Sunday, July 24 – Chantilly to Paris – 113km
What is the Tour de France?
Anyone travelling to see Le Tour in action will love the atmosphere as much as the event itself. The Tour takes place annually across France, during the first 3 weeks of July.
Hordes of people will line the street for hours, or even days in advance of the race. An impromptu street party is created by locals and tourists with picnics, BBQ’s, and tents. When the publicity caravan arrives, the festivities begin. The caravan proceeds a procession of 200 decorated, sponsored vehicles to begin the race. Since 1930, the caravan has been a central part of the event, bringing a carnival atmosphere to surrounding towns and villages and whipping cheering crowds into a frenzy with free gifts. Each sponsored vehicle attempts to outdo the others to advertise their brand, making the event quite the spectacle to watch.
How Did it Start?
Not just a cycle race, Le Tour de France is a celebration of French culture, the beautiful scenery, the excitable crowds, the sportsmanship, and the thrilling grande finale that takes place in Paris, the heart of France.
The very first Tour de France was in 1903. 60 people partook, but only 21 managed to complete it! The winner was a man named Maurice Garin who averaged at about 25km an hour. He was awarded 6075 francs in prize money and beat the second place winner, Lucien Pothier by 2 hours and 49 minutes. This is still the record for the biggest margin between first and second place.
The mountain stages were added to the route in 1910 and are one of the most challenging parts to complete. This was an unpopular decision as regulars felt that “power cyclists” would lose out on the steep inclines. However, “climbing cyclists” felt this gave them more of a fighting chance than they had before. This made the race more exciting and evened out the playing field by inviting in a wider variety of contenders. This same year saw the introduction of the “broom wagon”. This is a vehicle that follows behind to sweep up cyclists that can’t go on. The mountain stages require not only strength and endurance, but thighs of steel!
In 1919, the first race since the First World War occurred in which it was evident the toll that the war had taken on the male population in Europe due to the decreased number of competitors. This was also the slowest race due to the loss of pre-war champions and the destruction of the roads. It was in this year that the Yellow Jersey was designed to highlight who was the overall race leader.
In 1952 Le Tour de France went global and was filmed for television for the first time since its creation.
In 1974, England was visited by the Tour for the first time, with the riders passing through 10 towns and completing a circuit stage in Plymouth.
1999 was the first year that Lance Armstrong won 1st place before going on to dominate the event for the next consecutive 7 years. Becoming a hero to fans, he was however left open to accusations of drug taking by his astonishing winning streak, once describing himself as “the most tested athlete in the world”.
The Jersey Colours, Explained
Abandoned in 1988 and reintroduced in 2000, the white jersey rewards the best placed rider under 25 in the overall standings. It was given in 2003 to Denis Menchov, Alberto Contador in 2007, Andy Schleck in 2008 and 2010, and Pierre Rolland in 2012. The white jersey is a great way to keep tabs on young rising stars.
Since 2004, the White Jersey has been sponsored by Skoda.
The Polka dot jersey signifies the “King of the Mountains” and was created in 1933 for the best climbers. Richard Virenque holds the record for the most polka dot jerseys, having won it seven times between 1994 and 2004.
Carrefour currently sponsors the polka dot jersey
Introduced in 1953 for the Tours’ 50th anniversary, the green jersey is worn by the leader of the points classification. These points are awarded in the stage finishes and the intermediate sprints. The first green jersey was held by Fritz Schaer.
Since 1992, the green jersey has been sponsored by PMU
The yellow jersey is worn by the general classification leader. This is the most highly prized jersey in the event as the general classification is the one by which the winner of the Tour de France is determined.
So Who Won This Year?
Chris Froome became Britain’s first three time winner of Le Tour de France when he crossed the finish line this year.