The predominance and importance of cycling in Paris – and France – is easy to come across when just taking in the sights in the city. Paris counts with over 100 km (60 miles) of cycle lanes in the city and bike rentals are popular among its millions of yearly tourists.
However, France’s own cycling culture goes beyond the relaxing bike tour around its capital city: Paris is home, every year, to the final stage of the prestigious and strenuous Tour de France.
The Tour de France is a three-week 3,500 km (2,200 mi) annual professional bicycle race that gets Parisian culture worked up towards the end of every June. This massive race is broken into day-long stages that travel along all of France – and sometimes even other countries. Its final route runs along Paris, crossing the finish line in the Champs Élysées. Arguably the world’s leading cycling race, huge crowds witness the event along all of its stages, some people even setting camp by the side of the road in order to ensure a privileged viewing spot for when the cyclers zoom past.
The winning cyclist is whoever runs the race in the least amount of time. Some stages are quite linear, and all cyclists compete against each other to be the first to cross the stage’s finish line. However, some stages are against the clock. A winner is selected at each stage and given a yellow jersey to wear. Once all cyclists have crossed the final finish line at Champs Élysées, the overall winner is announced and the French President himself presents the winning jersey.
The Tour de France is regarded as a very difficult and strenuous race and is often labeled as the most physiologically demanding of all athletic sports. Lance Armstrong, the world-famous American cyclist, won the Tour de France for seven consecutive years (1999-2005).
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