What is Le Tour de France?

A basic guide to the history of the tour and the upcoming 2014 race

Flickr/Michael Ziemann

Le Tour de France is an annual multi-staged bicycle race held in France, with the occasional pass through other nearby countries. The first race was held in 1903 and has increased in length over the years. The tour originally ran the perimeter of France and now is around 3,500 km in length of multiple stages. Though the route changes year to year, the format stays the same with passage through the Pyrenees and the Alps and a finish on the Champs-Élysées. Stages represent the 21 days of race over 23 days with two days of rest. The daily limit of travel is set and rest days are enforced so that riders can safely and successfully complete the tour.

Related: What is a Touring Bicyle?

Cyclists from around the globe come to compete in this UCI World Tour event. The Tour is the oldest and most prestigious three-week-long Grand tour. The race usually runs through the month of July and about 20 teams compete.

The leader is determined at the end of the tour. Each stage is timed from start to finish, and then that time is added to the previous stage times. The cyclist with the lowest overall time is the leader and receives the coveted yellow jersey. This general classification gains most attention, but there are smaller classifications that dub leaders: points classifications for sprinters, mountains classification for climbers, young rider classification for riders under 26 years old, and team classification for the fastest team.

This year, the race will run from July 5th to July 27th and covers 3,664 km. There will be 9 flat stages, 5 hill stages, 6 mountain stages with 5 altitude finishes, 2 rest days, and 1 individual time trial stage. Also, 9 new cities are being introduced to the route: Leeds, Harrogate, Sheffield, York, Ypres, Oyannax, Cambridge, Risoul, and Maubourguet Pays du Val d’Adour.

Below you can find a breakdown of the 21 stages of the race including stage number, profile, date, start and finish cities, and distance.

The Stages via A.S.O.

Plan your own overseas bike tour with this how-to guide.


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