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The biggest cycling event in the world, the Tour de France has just kicked off, with 198 riders setting off on an epic race that will culminate in a dramatic showdown on the Champs-Élysées in Paris on July 23.
If you’re in France over the month of July and want to catch some of the excitement of this prestigious event, check out our beginner’s guide to the Le Tour.
The Tour de France is a multi-faceted race, with a number of battles taking place within each stage. The race is ridden by 22 teams, who endure some of the most gruelling conditions in road racing over the course of 23 days.
The race is broken down into 21 ‘stages’ of varying types, alternating between relatively flat terrain to incredibly steep mountain climbs in the Pyrenees. Teams of nine cyclists work together to support their key members, who are usually competing for one of the four jerseys that are up for grabs.
The rider with the current fastest time during each of the 21 stages wears the coveted ‘maillot jaune’, or the yellow jersey of the race leader. When Chris Froome crossed the line in Paris wearing yellow last year, he took home the grand prize of €500,000.
Whoever dominates the race as the best climber in the mountain stages will don a white jersey with red spots, also known as the polka dot jersey. Another hotly-contested competition within the tour is also that of the best sprinter, who wears a bright green jersey. Lastly, the rider with the best times under 26 years of age will snag the white jersey – a competition that can give spectators a glimpse of the next potential yellow jersey contenders.
Of course, riders will also race for the glory of winning each individual stage – meaning there’s never a dull moment!
As in recent years, the 2017 tour had its ‘Grand Depart’ outside of France, starting the 3,516 km race in Düsseldorf, Germany. After crossing the border into Belgium on Stage 2, Stage 3 saw the race enter Longwy in northeastern France. From here, the tour will head south through the regions of Alsace and Bourgogne, before heading into the Rhône-Alpes region.
If you’re looking to catch a stage live and watch from the roadside, try to get to the closest town the day before, as some roads may close on the day of the race. There are often events in the towns that host the start of each stage to look forward to. Check the Tour de France site for detailed maps of each stage.
Bear in mind that there are two rest days on Monday July 10, and Monday July 17, so use these days wisely to head to your next viewing spot!
Chris Froome (Team Sky) – Contender for yellow jersey, three-times winner of the Tour de France.
Nairo Quintana (Team Movistar) – Contender for yellow jersey, third place in Tour de France 2016.
André Greipel (Team Lotto-Soudal) – Contender for green jersey, explosive sprinter.
Peter Sagan (Team Bora-Hansgrohe) – Contender for green jersey, nicknamed ‘the Tourminator’.
Mark Cavendish (Team Dimension Data) – Contender for green jersey, nicknamed ‘the Max missile’.
Wherever you’re watching the Tour de France on the trail, make sure you’re covered by travel insurance.