Tour De France - Description

Description

The tour typically has 21 days of racing and 2 rest days and covers 3,200 kilometres (2,000 mi). The shortest Tour was in 1904 at 2,420 kilometres (1,500 mi), the longest in 1926 at 5,745 kilometres (3,570 mi). The three weeks usually include two rest days, sometimes used to transport riders from a finish in one town to the start in another. The race alternates between clockwise and anticlockwise circuits of France. The first anticlockwise circuit was in 1913. The New York Times said the "Tour de France is arguably the most physiologically demanding of athletic events." The effort was compared to "running a marathon several days a week for nearly three weeks", while the total elevation of the climbs was compared to "climbing three Everests."

The number of teams usually varies between 20 and 22, with nine riders in each. Entry is by invitation to teams chosen by the race organiser, the Amaury Sport Organisation. Team members help each other and are followed by managers and mechanics in cars.

Riders are judged by the time each has taken throughout the race, a ranking known as the general classification. There may be time deductions for finishing well in a daily stage or being first to pass an intermediate point. It is possible to win without winning a stage; this has occurred six times. There are subsidiary competitions (see below), some with distinctive jerseys for the best rider. Riders normally start together each day, with the first over the line winning, but some days are ridden against the clock by individuals or teams. The overall winner is usually a master of the mountains and of these time trials. Most stages are in mainland France, although since the 1960s it has become common to visit nearby countries: Andorra, Belgium, England, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland have all hosted stages or part of a stage. Austria, Qatar and Scotland have expressed an interest in hosting future starts. Stages can be flat, undulating or mountainous. Since 1975 the finish has been on the Champs-Élysées in Paris; from 1903 to 1967 the race finished at the Parc des Princes stadium in western Paris and from 1968 to 1974 at the Piste Municipale south of the capital.

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