Saturday Selections: The Tour de France

Yes, there are the doping scandals; yes, it’s a bunch of guys who shave their legs; and yes, the podium girls are a tad sexist, but the Tour de France is too exciting to not make it the top thing that has entertained me this week. Tour time is the only time in my house when I talk more about sports than my husband does.

For those not in the know, the Tour de France is a LONG cycling race that happens every July and takes place (mostly) in France. The race involves about 200 riders who are on teams and takes place over 21 stages in 23 days (two days off to rest). Speed plays a major part, but the true test is endurance. After all, most stages take anywhere from three to five hours and involve super crazy sprints and plenty of big hills. They may shave their legs, but these guys are no wimps.

Every stage is unique and the favorites-to-win can be out of the race after a single mistake (and sometimes a mistake that isn’t their fault). Leaders can be swooped up by the peleton (the main bunched up group of riders) and a burst of energy in the last few seconds can win someone the stage.

Although the “point” of the race is to win the yellow jersey (which goes to the rider with the shortest cumulative time), riders can also win the green jersey for the fastest sprinter, the polka dot jersey for the best climber (personal favorite), and the white jersey for the top young rider. And of course, there’s the winner of each day’s stage.

This year has already seen some exciting action. A nasty fall in Stage One took out one of the favorites, Mark Cavendish; the cobblestones in Stage Five weeded out several cyclists; and yesterday required judges to use a magnifying glass to determine the winner.

The Tour this year has also been fun to watch on a personal level because I’ve gotten to see some of the places I’ve been to – York, London, Cambridge, Lille, and (in the final stage a couple weeks from now) Paris. And yes, the Tour of France started in England – go figure.

If you’ve never paid attention to the Tour, give it a try. The official website has great information about the race, live updates during the stages, and videos and photos from the day’s ride. If anything, take a look just to see some lovely European scenery and a collection of handsome (and smooth-legged) men.

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TAMMIE PAINTER IS THE AUTHOR OF THE TRIALS OF HERCULES: BOOK ONE OF THE OSTERIA CHRONICLES AND AN ARTIST WHO DEDICATES HERSELF TO THE TEDIUM OF CREATING IMAGES WITH COLORED PENCILS.
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