Even the most casual of sports faans know about the Tour de France. The historic bike race that traverses the French countryside is without a doubt the most famous bicycle race in the world. Every year it draws global attention for being an absolutely grueling event.
Have you ever thought about how long the race is? To truly appreciate the achievement of completing the race, it helps to look at the history of the race, the route itself, and its length.
History of the Tour de France
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History.com tells us the Tour de France was first run in 1903. The founder of the race was journalist Geo Lefevre, attempting to improve the performance of his sports newspaper, L’Auto. Along with newspaper editor Henri Desgrange, they designed a 1,500-mile course around the country.
Other than the race being held in France, it didn’t even remotely resemble the race we all know today. Some interesting trivia from that first run included:
- Most of the participants were French with a few from other European countries mixed in. Today, riders from all over the world compete.
- There were only six stages in the first race as opposed to 21 today.
- Each stage covered 250 miles — none of the stages in today’s version are longer than 150.
- The first race saw 1-3 rest days set up in between stages for recovery.
- The race was much more dangerous than the current version. Roads were unpaved and none of the riders wore protective helmets that are commonplace today.
- A large component of the first race was run overnight. Riders were left with only moonlight to guide them.
The current version of the race is invite-only. Only the top 18 pro cycling teams in the world are invited to participate. Most of its winners aren’t exactly household names — unless you count disgraced, seven-time former champion Lance Armstrong.
The Tour de France 2019 route
According to the UK Telegraph, the 2019 Tour de France began in Brussels before heading into France — the first three stages occur in Belgium. The course then moved counter-clockwise through the Pyrenees, heading south toward the Alps.
Five of the stages culminated on a mountain top with 30 climbs included within. The race finished in Paris, as it always does. So how does it compare to this year’s race, and how long is it exactly?
How many miles is the Tour de France?
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Cycling Weekly reported that due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic response, Tour officials have postponed the 2020 Tour de France until August. The route will go from Nice to Paris. The course is 2,162 miles long. The race will run from August 29 to September 20. It typically takes roughly three weeks to finish. It’s one of the most grueling athletic tests in sports.
This iteration of the Tour de France comes with its fair share of challenges. That includes eight mountain stages (four of which have summit finishes), three hilly stages, and a time trial on the next-to-last day of the event. It will travel through the following mountain ranges:
- The Alps
- The Pyrenees
- The Massif Central
- The Vosges
- The Jura
The course travels north from Nice to the summit of Orcieres-Merlette in the Haute-Alps in stage four. From there, the riders go through the middle of France toward the Pyrenees and two challenging stages featuring mountains. The riders then head north yet again to Le Charente Maritime where they’ll receive a much-needed day of rest.
Afterward, they’ll pick back up on France’s western coast. Massif Central will be the next big summit before another summit finish through the Jura mountains. That will lead to the Alps for two finishes in both Meribel and La Roche-sur-Foron.
The Tour de France may be delayed this year, but as of now, it’s happening. The race has certainly come a long way in its 107 years of existence, and this year’s edition may be the most challenging yet.