The Greatest race on the planet

The Tour de France is the oldest and most recognised annual cycling event in Europe, featuring 21 stages over a 23-day race period.  Millions of people travel to watch the race each year.  The 2017 Tour de France is scheduled between 1 July and 23 July, and cyclists will ride a total distance of 3,521 km (2,213 miles).  

History

The Tour de France has been held every year since it began 114 years ago, except for those periods during the first and second World Wars.  From the first event held in 1903, the Tour de France was designed as a test of sheer physical prowess.  The first race was divided into six stages, as opposed to the modern 21-stage event, and there were no mountains to climb, as there are today.  Still, the race was designed to push contestants to extremes, racing for 24-hour periods at a time without a helmet or support team, spanning across vast distances over unpaved roads.  The first race was grueling, and of the 60 contestants that started the race, only 21 finished.  Over the years, the race has grown and changed in a variety of ways, but the race today still remains a test of physical endurance and the human spirit.            

Key Stages

The 2017 Tour de France will begin in Dusseldorf, Germany, and then generally loop south and west through a number of notable locales before finishing at the Champs Elysees in Paris, France. There are several key stages along the route.  The first stage to watch is Stage 5, the route between Vittel and La Planche des Belles Filles, which offers the first summit finish of the race.   Stage 9, that portion of the race between Nantua and Chambéry is another stage to watch, as it is comprised of a number of steep climbs, including the beginning of this stage.  Stage 13, the route between Saint-Girons and Foix, provides another interesting piece of the race, which embraces a series of steep mountain climbs followed by steep descents, with little flat land in the midst.  Stage 19, the route between Briançon and Izoard, is another steep stage to watch, but this route is different – the climb is longer and higher than at other stages.  One last stage to watch is Stage 20 at Marseille, near the end of the race.  This portion of the race is metropolitan and the roads are flat, but there is a short but difficult climb near the end that could offer contenders a challenge.             

Contenders to Watch

Of the many talented cyclists who have entered the Tour de France over the years, a number of those cyclists have managed the amazing feat of winning the prestigious event.  And, of those select few, even fewer have managed to win more than one.  The defending champion, British cyclist Chris Froome, has won two.  Other contenders to watch during the 2017 Tour de France include Colombian cyclist, Nairo Quintana, who has had a pretty great year on the cycling circuit thus far; up and coming British cyclist, Adam Yates; and two-time former champion, Alberto Contador, from Spain.  

All roads lead to...Paris, who is wearing yellow is anyone's money, but ours is on Mr Porte.