2014 is a special year for the Tour de France as the race is commemorating the 100 year anniversary of the start of World War II. This year the race runs from July 5th-July 27th and begins in Leeds, England. The first three stages of this year’s race are being held in the United Kingdom, with the third stage culminating in a rare trip to London, before the racers fly over to France for the remaining eighteen stages. In total the cyclists will bike an astounding 3,664 km (2,226 miles) over the three week race.
The Tour de France often begins in a nearby country, and in 2010 we watched stage 1 of the race kick off in Rotterdam, Netherlands. It was the first time the race was held in the Netherlands since 1996, and it was also Lance Armstrong’s final Tour de France. So suffice to say it was exciting being there!
Day one of the Tour in 2010 was an individual city time trial through Rotterdam, so this meant the bikes zipped by in intervals rather than as a packed group (peloton in bike speak). The other benefit of attending the time trials is if you especially want to see a rider you will know when they are racing and can get up close as they whizz by. The purpose of the time trials is to give the fastest short distance cyclist an opportunity to win a stage.
There is just one time trial, and in 2014 this will come during the 20th stage, from Bergerac to Pergigeux, France. The rest of the race is made up of longer stages ranging from 125km (77 miles) to a whopping 238km (147 miles). There are flat stages, hill stages and mountain stages, some of which are gruelling altitude finishes. The later mountain stages are typically what truly separates the pack.
The yellow jersey is the most famous and worn by the leader of the general individual time classification, the green jersey is for the leader of the points classification and the spotted jersey is awarded to the best slope climber. Finally, the white jersey is for the best young rider under 25. It’s a little more complicated than this, but these are the basics. The other great thing about attending the Tour de France is that it’s a truly world class sporting event that can be watched for free, which is a rarity. Just find your spot and enjoy the exciting atmosphere, beautiful scenery and the riders, even if they are probably all doping.
After attending the time trial in Rotterdam we enjoyed watching the race on TV, as it continued through the beautiful French countryside. After weeks of following that year we were truly inspired to plan our own bike trip through beautiful French towns and landscapes. While we haven’t yet made that dream a reality, watching the race should similarly inspire many to swing by the world’s most visited country.
The final day of the Tour de France always concludes along Paris’ famous Champs-Élysées and is a thrilling day in the French capital. This year the race ends on Sunday the 27th of July, so if you get a chance to experience the 2014 Tour de France in either in the UK, the French countryside or Paris, we highly recommend checking it out, whether a racing fan or not!