Friday, 10 June 2011

Spectators's Guide to the Tour de France

If you are lucky enough to be camping near the Tour de France cycle race route this year then here are some handy tips to help you sound like a knowledgable follower of Cycling !

We went along to watch the race two years ago as it left the small town of Auray in Brittany at the beginning of a stage (or etape as its called in French) and we had a great day out.

This year the Tour runs from Saturday July 2rd to Sunday July 24th 2011, it will be made up of 21 stages and will cover a total distance of 3,430.5 kilometres. The route varies each year but always includes some short flat sprint sections and some mountainous sections before culminating in Paris with a sprint. This year the "Grand Start" is in the Vendee and then it continues through Brittany, Normandy and Central France before heading south to the Pyrenees then across to the Alps before heading back for a final finish in Paris.

If you are able to catch the tour then go along to watch about two hours before when you will catch the "Caravane" which is a series of mad looking vehicles and characters who throw lots of freebies to the crowd - great fun !"

Then the race itself will flash past - we nearly missed it after all the waiting !  Either our watches were wrong or they set off two minutes early.

Watch out for the following jerseys - they all have a meaning !
The YELLOW Jersey is awarded to the overall leader of the race.

The GREEN Jersey is the next most prestigious and is given to the leader of the sprint sections.

The red POLKA-DOT Jersey is awarded to the rider who earns most of the points on the mountainous sections of the race. The wearer of the jersey is known as the "King of the Mountains". Scotland's Robert Millar was King of the Mountains in 1984.
The WHITE Jersey is the newest of the jerseys and was introduced in 1975. It is given to the best young rider (i.e. under 25).
To impress your friends and family as you are spectating, why not casually mention some of the more famous recent winners of the race !  These include 7 times winner and surely you must have heard of him, Lance Armstrong from USA who won between 1999 to 2005.

Then there was five time winner Miguel Indurain from Spain who won between 1991 and 1995

There were two recent major French winners, Jacques Anquetil, who won five time, in 1957 and from 1961 to 1964 and Bernard Hinault who won five times in 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1985
And there was 5 times winner Eddy Merckx from Belgium who won between 1969 to 1972 and in 1974.

Some possible British and Irish competitors who may be competing and who you can look out for are :
  • Mark Cavendish, from the Isle of Man (I think he is in blue in the photograph above),
  • Bradley Wiggins, the three time Olympic Champion,
  • David Millar, a Scot who is one of only four British competitors to have worn the yellow jersey (the others were Tom Simpson, Sean Yates and Chris Boardman),
  • Geraint Thomas, who has been an Olympic Team pursuit champion, and,
  • Nicolas Roche, son of the Irish 1987 winner Stephen Roche 
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