July 26- The Tour de France

The Tour de France is the most popular and challenging bicycle race in the world. The tour is held annually in July for 25-30 days. More then 150 competitors race along a 2,000 mile course mostly through France.

The Tour is unique because its course changes each year and it's a stage race; meaning the course is divided into many stages. There is usually a stage a day. Each stage emphasizes a different skill such as climbing and sprinting. The final stage is along the famous avenue in Paris called the Champs-Ely sees. By this point, only about half the competitors have finished the race. Each racer is timed in each stage. The competitor that has the lowest total time at the end of a stage gets to wear the yellow jersey for the next stage. The cyclist who wines the tour keeps the jersey. Each cyclist belongs to a team of 9 cyclists. Team vehicles carry supplies such as water, food, and spare bikes along the way. Each team has a leader. The other 8 help him by shielding wind or supply food and water.

This year after the 16th stage of the Tour, Lance Armstrong was leading by 1 minute and 7 seconds. Armstong finally won his 5th tour in a row, which ties the record. Jan Ullrich of Germany won silver and is looking to steal the tour from Lance next year.

It was fun to follow the tour while we were in France and Germany. The TV and newspapers coverage was amazing-we found as many as four stations covering the tour and newspapers had many pages about the tour everyday-often with updates as the front page headline. It was obvious that everyone in Europe follows the Tour de France with great interest.