Tour de France is cycling’s centrepiece
First held in 1903, the Tour de France is the event anyone who goes in for professional cycling wants to win. Holding over 100 editions and breaking only for the First and Second World Wars, it is the oldest of the three Grand Tours (the others being the Giro d’Italia that precedes it during May and Vuelta a Espana held afterwards in August and September). The Tour de France is the ultimate endurance test for peddlers and takes in 21 gruelling stages every July amid breath-taking natural scenery. Touring the Pyrenes and French Alps are always a highlight of the race, which ends down one of Paris’ most iconic streets, the Champs-Elysees. On the road for around 2,220 miles, there are just two rest days during this three-week marathon, which has not been without controversy over the years. Previous winner Alberto Contador and seven-time champion Lance Armstrong showed the dark side of cycling with dope scandals marring their careers, yet the Tour de France has endured their disgrace and remains the biggest annual event in this sport’s calendar. Armstrong was famously stripped of his titles. During each stage, the riders compete for the coveted yellow jersey, which is handed to the competitor with the lowest aggregate time. Great Britain and Team Sky’s Chris Froome is the defending Tour de France champion, but has some way to go to match the five successes in the race which joint record holders Jacques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault, Eddy Merckx and Miguel Indurain have. Teammate Sir Bradley Wiggins, meanwhile, became the only cyclist to win the Tour de France and an Olympic gold medal in the same year, following up his road triumph across the Channel on home soil in the velodrome at London 2012.
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