The Tour De France: The Most Famous Bicycle Race In The World
Throughout Europe, there's no sporting event that quite manages to captivate audiences year after year, dividing friendships and families when people choose their allegiances. Is it The World Cup? That's small potatoes compared to The Tour de France.
Those in the United States might not understand the appeal of the race, but getting to know The Tour de France means starting to get excited about watching people on bicycles, too. For most amateur athletes, even a vague understanding of how fit one has to be to even consider making it to the end, let alone winning, is enough to give the race a little bit of time in between other television programming.
One of the biggest sporting events not just in France, but all over Europe, is The Tour de France. A race that pits riders from countries all over the world against one another, themselves, and the elements, it is not a race for the faint of heart. Lasting over three weeks, the race is broken down into day-long segments, known as stages, which can involve anything from the final sprint into Paris to climbing some of the most heart-popping sections of the Alps...on nothing but one's own leg power.
One of the most exciting parts of The Tour de France is the fact that, every year, the route changes. In actuality, the distance for the race can vary a great deal, with the shortest clocking in around 1,500 miles, and the longest somewhere around 3,570 miles. Riders never know quite what they're going to get, and neither do the fans, who line small mountain passes as well as city streets, ecstatic to cheer their favorites on.
But not just anyone can qualify--or survive--a ride in The Tour de France. Riders planning on tackling The Tour de France have to be in peak physical shape, because the race is one of the most demanding sporting events in the entire world of sports, not just bicycle racing. With very little time to rest and recuperate, and literally hundreds of miles of biking up and down mountain roads ahead of them, riders have to train for months and months to get anywhere ready to compete.
The Tour de France is known for the toll it takes on both the body and the mind, to say nothing of the bicycle itself. Add to that the fact that it's possible to never win a single portion of the race, but still triumph at the end, and no wonder riders are exhausted and disoriented for much of the experience, unsure of exactly where they stand in the rank. That only makes it more fun for the fans, who crowd the streets to shout encouraging words to the riders at every turn.
Perhaps the most world-famous superhuman winner of The Tour de France is not some muscular Swiss rider or a scrappy-looking Italian, but a bona-fide American. And this American didn't just win the race a couple of times--he swept almost a whole decade, taking home seven wins in a row. This man? Lance Armstrong, the ex Mr. Sheryl Crow, and a cancer survivor. Even the European cycling fans had to admit his talents after win number two, and every year after that, it was anyone's guess as to whether or not this old (for racing standards) man could manage to pull it off again.
That one rider, who beat not only The Tour but also managed to triumph over cancer, is none other than Lance Armstrong. At the top of his game, truly, the man managed to win The Tour De France seven times in a row, often far ahead of the other riders. Armstrong is not just a legend to those in his home country, but also to many Europeans, who begrudgingly accepted him as one of the greatest cyclist of our time, and are just as excitedly rooting for him as he takes on the course as they are when their home country favorites whiz by.
And finally the Americans understand what it is that the French, the Swiss, the Italians, and so many others have been enjoying for years and years, since the races' humble beginnings almost a hundred years ago. It's not about the sport of bicycling, so much, it's about the idea of a single person, on their own on the side of a mountain, trying to last until tomorrow. The physical and mental endurance of taking on a race that lasts almost a month is legendary, and no matter what the vehicle, worthy of a great deal of applause.
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