History and general description
The race was founded as a publicity event for the newspaper L’Auto (ancestor of the present l’Ã‰quipe) by its editor, Henri Desgrange, to rival the Paris-Brest et retour (PBP) ride sponsored by Le Petit Journal and Bordeaux-Paris sponsored by Le VÃ©lo. In the early days of the race, it was a near-continuous endurance event. Racers slept by the side of the road and were required to avoid all assistance, but several competitors in the second Tour de France were disqualified for taking a train part of the way. These days, the tour is a “stage race”, divided into a number of stages, each stage being a race held over one day. There are service vehicles (motorcycles and cars) that provide information, food, water, and access to mechanics. Some of the vehicles are “neutral” for all the racers and some are team vehicles. Most stages take place in France though it is very common to have a few stages in nearby countries, such as Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany, but also non-neighbouring countries such as Ireland, England and the Netherlands. The three weeks usually includes two resting days, which are sometimes used to transport the riders long distances between stages. In recent years, the first stage is preceded by a short individual time trial (1 to 15 km), called the prologue. The traditional finish is in Paris on the Champs-ElysÃ©es. In between, various stages occur, including a number of mountain stages, individual time trials and a team time trial. The remaining stages are held over relatively flat terrain. With the variety of stages, sprinters may win stages, but the overall winner is almost always a master of the mountain stages and time trials.Many places and – especially – mountains occur frequently (sometimes almost annually) in the parcours (the course taken by the stage or race), and have gained fame on their own. The most famous mountains are those in the hors-categorie (peaks where the difficulty in climbing is beyond categorization), including the Col du Tourmalet, Mont Ventoux, Col du Galibier, the Hautacam and Alpe d’Huez.
Other major stage races include the Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy) and the Vuelta a Espana (Tour of Spain). The Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and World Cycling Championship comprise the Triple Crown of Cycling.0
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