Catch Tour Fever: A Brief Background on the Tour de France

We all know it, it’s the most clas­sic and arguably even the most icon­ic race on the plan­et. The Tour de France hap­pens every year, invit­ing cyclists from all over the world to com­pete in an event that is so steeped in his­to­ry it’s rep­u­ta­tion almost out­does itself. In hon­or of this esteemed race, we put togeth­er a lit­tle guide to the tour to give you some his­to­ry, back­ground info, and how to fol­low it this year.

Cour­tesy of Fred­er­ic Legrand // shutterstock.com

Back­ground

The Tour de France was cre­at­ed in 1903. Dur­ing this time France was reel­ing from the defeat of the Fran­co-Pruss­ian War and was in much need of nation­al uni­ty and strength. In this way, the race became a sym­bol for the a new sense of iden­ti­ty and pride amongst French peo­ple.

The route of the tour is also indebt­ed to a deep­er sense of nation­al pride. Geo­graph­i­cal­ly speak­ing, France is unique­ly placed with­in Europe. While the North shares much of it’s land­scape with the neigh­bor­ing coun­tries of Ger­many and Bel­gium, the South of France is Mediter­ranean, with a land­scape clos­er to the likes Spain or Por­tu­gal. This unique mix of geog­ra­phy, all of which can be seen dur­ing the three-week race, is sym­bol­ic of France’s nation­al iden­ti­ty. While the race weaves its way across the entire coun­try­side, from the coast, up through the Alps, and final­ly into Paris, the tri­als of the cyclists can be seen as a metaphor for the coun­try’s tri­umph over adver­si­ty, which is inte­gral to the sto­ry that under­pins France’s his­to­ry.

“The Tour de France is the great­est spec­ta­cle in bicy­cle rac­ing. The top rid­ers, most advanced equip­ment and most zeal­ous fans con­verge on the French coun­try­side for three weeks in July to cel­e­brate cycling. If you ever get a chance to see the race in per­son, don’t pass it up.” — Clymb Cycle Buy­er, Eric Ben­son

The Tour Now

This year for the 104th time in his­to­ry, a mas­sive swarm of cyclists will climb on their bikes and race across the whole of France, fin­ish­ing in Paris beneath the Arc de Tri­om­phe. The track is a 3,540-kilometer (2,200 mile) course that will be begin this year in Düs­sel­dorf, mov­ing from there onto the Pyre­nees and then the Alps, (the tour has a his­to­ry of start­ing in near­by coun­tries where the whole thing kicks off with a huge par­ty) and final­ly into south­ern and east­ern France.

The race unfolds over the course of three weeks and is divid­ed into 21 stages, rang­ing from 100 kilo­me­ters to 220 kilo­me­ters, with some time tri­al stuff thrown in their just for fun. Even though the days of Lance Arm­strong and the dop­ing scan­dal have final­ly end­ed, there is still a lot to love. This year, Chris Froome’s attempt to three-peat will be a high­light for sure.


To keep up with the Tour as it goes along, check out the offi­cial page here.