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July - Le Tour comes to the Haute Tarentaise

tourdefranceIt’s hard to underestimate the place and affection that the French nation and its people have for the Tour De France. Cycling is almost a religion in France and in the month of July it hosts the world’s premier multi-stage bike race.

Racing for twenty-three days with two rest days interspersed within the race, the riders cover a staggering 3,500km before they reach the finish line on the Champs-Élysées in Paris.

The overall winner of the race is the person with the lowest cumulative time for all the stages.

The Tour circumvents France clockwise one year and then counter clockwise the year after.

This year two stages of the race will be held in the Haute Tarentaise area each drawing huge crowds to the area and it will undoubtably be the highlight of the summer.

The race was first held in 1903. Its genesis surprisingly came out the of the infamous l'affaire Dreyfus – a French pollical scandal of the late 19th century. Until that time France only had one national daily sporting newspaper. Its owners fell out over the l'affaire and one departed to start his own sporting daily. Keen to outsell his rival, one of his staff proposed a national multi-stage cycle race that would draw readers to the paper to read the reporting of the race.

And the rest is history.

In the early years, riders had to repair their own bikes and carry all the equipment and spares to do so. Cheating was rife; riders jumped onto trains and took lifts in cars, all of which was made harder for the observers to spot as stages were raced through the night, finishing the following day.

Over the years, things have been refined and codified. Stages are now raced in day-time only, riders represent professional cycle teams instead of racing for their nation of birth and the winner is decided by cumulative time, rather than points awarded for the finishing place in each stage.

Cheating was still present until quite recently. The American Lance Armstrong won the tour no less than seven times before admitting that he took performance enhancing drugs to aid his performance.

Most recently the tour has been dominated by British riders with first, Bradley Wiggins, and now Chris Frome winning the tour.

It’s hugely prestigious for a town to host the tour – either the daily Grand Départ or the exciting finish.

Stage 11 this year is raced on Wednesday 18 July and will see the riders depart from Albertville and finish 108km later in La Rosière Espace San Bernardo.

Stage 12 will see the riders depart from Bourg-Saint-Maurice Les Arcs and race a massive 178km to finish at Alpe d'Huez.

For me, the daily Grand Départ is the best as you see all the completing riders sign in before the start of that day’s race and have time to soak up the pre-race atmosphere – usually in glorious sunshine.

Don’t miss it!

Monsieur Mogul

 

Monsieur Mogul – Our man in La Plagne

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author

alone and not those of Ice and Fire Ski and Snowboard Holidays

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