The Tour de France is considered to be the most prestigious cycling tournament in the world, and many cyclists vie viciously against one another to wear the much-coveted yellow jersey. But, what exactly is so special about this race? And, what makes it such an exciting sport on TV today? Check out our frequently updated TV sport schedule right here!
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The Tour de France is part of a series of 3-week-long races known as The Grand Tours. The Grand Tours are the only races that are allowed to last longer than 14 days, and apart from the Tour de France, there are the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a España.
Whilst each one of The Grand Tours is pretty significant, the Tour de France is considered the most important out of the 3, to the extent that it's even considered to be the most important cycling race on the globe. This is partly because the Tour de France is the oldest of The Grand Tours.
The Tour de France premiered in 1903 as a 6-day race, in hopes of increasing sales of the now-defunct sports newspaper known as L'Auto. The race was a tremendous success and sales of L'Auto skyrocketed. This eventually led to the race being extended and improved upon, until it came to be what we know and love today!
Classifications are the competitions that the race presents to its participants to win awards. There are 4 main classifications, which are: the general classification, the mountain classification, the points classification, and the young riders classification.
The general classification is the most important and oldest of all the classifications. The general classification is awarded to the riders who finish all of the stages in the least amount of time; the winners of this classification get to wear the illustrious yellow jersey!
The mountain classification, introduced in 1933, is given to riders who earn the most points from clearing the climbs along the race. Points are given to the first riders to make the climb, according to the steepness of the climb. The winner dons a polka dot jersey and is called the King (or Queen) of the Mountains!
The points classification, added in 1953, is awarded to riders who earn the most points from finishing stages, and 'sprint points' first. Points are awarded according to the type of stage riders accomplish. The winner of this classification wears the green jersey!
The young riders classification, added in 1975 but amended in 1987 to its current form, is reserved for cyclists that are under the age of 26. The winner of this classification is determined in the same way as the general classification, and is awarded the white jersey!
The domestic rights for broadcasting are held by France 2 and France 3, which are French public national television channels. These channels then also sell their coverage of the Tour de France to other channels, including NBC, ITV4, and Eurosport! Be sure to tune in to watch the Tour de France!
The Tour de France is easily one of the most popular sporting events in the world! This can be seen in the culture that's been created around the sport by devoted fans! For example, Ernest Hemingway mentioned the race and Ottavio Bottecchia, the first Italian winner, in his book The Sun Also Rises!
The best example of a devoted fan is Didi Senft, also known as Didi the Devil, who appears going about the Tour de France (and the Giro d'Italia!) in a red devil's costume painting the roads with tridents! Senft has been doing this since 1993 and has become a beloved part of the race!
Doping and Deaths
Sadly, the use of performance-enhancing drugs has happened in about every sport at some point or another of its history. It has unfortunately happened in the Tour de France, and, in fact, it has a long history of people being caught using or allegedly having used such substances.
The most infamous case of doping in the history of the Tour de France is Lance Armstrong, who was considered the most successful cyclist of all time for winning the race 7 times in a row. That was until evidence came to light that proved Armstrong was doping during his cycling career, and he was stripped of his victories.
Saddest of all are the deaths that happened during the race, whether from accidents or drug abuse. The only recorded drug-related death happened in 1967, when Tom Simpson's heart gave out from amphetamine usage. Other deaths happened through accidents, like when Fabio Casartelli crashed in 1995 whilst going 88km/h.
Let's turn away from the grim side of things and get back to the excitement! No TV sport article would be complete without mentioning some of the records that have been set in the sport! Firstly, we have Eddy Merckx's impressive record of being the only cyclist to win all of the classifications in the same year, in 1969!
Although he didn't win the young riders classification (it didn't yet exist), he won the mountain classification, the points classification, the combination classification, the combativity award, and the general classification all in the same race! Wow, that's amazing!
Only 2 riders have ever won the Tour de France, but never wore the yellow jersey until it was over! These were Jean Robic, and Jan Janssen! And, only 3 riders, Maurice Garin, Ottavio Bottecchia, and Nicolas Frantz, have ever won the race whilst also being in the lead of every stage!
The Riders That Outran Them All
But, what about the best of the best to ever enter the Tour de France? Don't worry, we've got that covered too! There are 4 great names that must be mentioned, which are: Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault. and Miguel Indurain! These are some of the greatest riders to ever pick up a bicycle, and each one has won the Tour de France 5 times, with Jacques Anquetil being the first rider to do so!
The End of the Tour
Well, this brings us to a close, but what a ride that was, huh? We bet that you can't wait to watch the Tour de France on TV! It's definitely one of the most exciting live sports on TV today! Simply tune in to the channels we mentioned above and enjoy!