As one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, France welcomes over 80 million visitors per year. For us Brits, it’s easy to become part of these figures by popping across The Channel, so why not time your French jaunt with the world’s most gruelling cycle race, the Tour de France? You can catch it at the roadside as it progresses over the three weeks from 1 to 23 July.
Make sure you’re in the right place at the right time to line up with all the onlookers as a total of 198 riders dart past – and the atmosphere electric! Click here for links to route maps and full details on each stage of the race. This information should help you plan your French holiday, while taking into account where and when to see the action.
In addition to witnessing world-class cyclists during the event, there’s so much to experience in France while you’re there: Aside from mouth-watering cuisine, there’s its quintessentially chic lifestyle, shopping, art and architecture as well as a multitude of outstanding museums, Roman temples and Renaissance chateaux.
The 2,200 mile-long race is impressive: it visits a total of 635 towns and cities, 34 French departments and four countries over its 21 stages of flat, hilly and mountainous terrain – an exhausting challenge to say the least.
The “Grand Départ” took place in Dusseldorf, Germany – it’s not unusual for the Tour to take a detour outside of France (there have been stages in the UK in the past). The race then moved on to Liege and Longwy in Belgium, before continuing on to Luxemburg’s Mondorf les Bains, travelling onwards through the French Alps and the Pyrenees to the finish line on the Paris Champs Élysée on Sunday 23 July.
Previous winners to look out for
Britain has been doing rather well in the Tour de France lately. In fact, British riders have won four of the past five races: Sir Bradley Wiggins won in 2012 and Chris Froome, the current defending champion, has won three of the last four races.
It’s also well worth keeping your eyes peeled during the coverage for highlights of the tremendous achievements of previous cycling greats like Miguel Indurain, Bernard Hinault and Eddy Merckx, all five-time champions of this famous race.
The coloured jerseys
The jerseys are iconic of the Tour de France so a general understanding of what each one represents helps keep you in touch with the progress of the racers.
At the end of each stage, different colour jerseys are handed out to the riders who top the rankings in a variety of disciplines:
Yellow is for the overall race leader, judged purely on fastest overall time.
Green is known as the Points Classification jersey, but is often called The Sprinters Jersey. Riders accumulate points across several mini sprints within each stage of the race, while the first 10 to 25 who finish also collect points towards an overall score.
Red polka dots are for the ‘King of the Mountains’. This category is again judged on points, this time awarded to the first rider to reach the crest of particular hills and mountains. Climbs are graded for their steepness, length and position on the course with points corresponding to the grade.
White is worn by the fastest overall rider under the age of 26.