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Bragging Rights: Catch the Thrills and Spills of the Tour De France in Person!

Posted on Thursday, November 10th, 2022

Story by: Molly Waldstein | Travel Writer

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A VBT summer cycling trip to France can dovetail with the famous bike race—catching a ringside seat for the race before or after your own French cycling adventure.

Bragging Rights: Catch the Thrills and Spills of the Tour De France in Person!

Bookend Tour de France With an Incredible VBT Cycling Tour of France 

The Tour de France is undoubtedly the most famous international cycling race of the year. And while few of us can compete in the famous peloton of riders striving for position during three grueling weeks of racing across the French countryside, the chance to watch the race live and in person is a treasured fantasy for many avid cyclists. When you take a VBT summer cycling trip to France, you can plan your trip to dovetail with the famous bike race—catching a ringside seat for the race before or after your own French cycling adventure. For example: 

Whether you cheer for the sprinters, climbers, or the all-important domestiques, the Tour de France is an incredible contest of skill, strategy, teamwork, and endurance. Nearly every July since 1903, the contest has taken place through the beautiful French countryside. A visit to France in the month of July is the perfect way to experience the festival atmosphere and the rush and thrill of the full peloton bursting past a crowd of exhilarated fans. In the world of cycling, there’s simply no substitute—and those incredible photos of the event will make you the envy of your cycling friends for decades to come.  

21 Stages to Victory 

The Tour de France takes place in 21 stages over three weeks. Each rider’s time from start to finish is calculated at the end of each stage—the times are then aggregated across all stages to determine the final champion. Although cyclists typically work in teams of eight riders who support each other throughout the race, the winner is the individual with the lowest total time at the end of the final stage—and is entitled to wear the coveted World Champion’s striped jersey in the next Tour de France. It’s the honor of a lifetime. 

The Many Colors of Tour de France Jerseys 

The Tour de France is a field of vibrant colors, and cycling teams often wear eye-catching jerseys to show off their sponsors. A few special jerseys are awarded at the end of each stage to recognize the strongest performers to date. For example: 

  • The yellow jersey, or maillot jeune, represents the cyclist with the lowest aggregate time over all the stages thus far. This person is in the lead to win the overall contest—also called the “general classification.” 
  • The green jersey, or maillot vert, represents the competition’s best sprinter, evaluated on a points-based classification ranking. 
  • The polka dot jersey, or maillot à pois, designates the race’s finest mountain climber—also evaluated based on points within the mountain classification. 
  • The white jersey, or maillot blanc, designates the highest-ranked rider in the overall competition under the age of 26.  

Because scoring happens at the end of each stage, the right to wear the coveted jersey can switch from one cyclist to another several times during the 21-day race. Nothing can compare to the excitement of catching a glimpse of the famous colors whizzing past on the backs of champions who’ve earned the right to wear them. 

La Lanterne Rouge: The Coveted Non-Win Win 

So much teamwork goes into the Tour de France, and the strategic approach involves hard work for every rider. Although the contest will be won by a single individual, each champion has a team of supporting riders—sometimes riding in front of the pack to break the headwind, fetching water and snacks to help keep the top riders going, and sometimes even giving up their bikes to the team leader if needed. These all-important support riders are called domestiques, and although not generally graced with the maillot jeune, they are critically important to the success of their team’s leader. These riders sacrifice a great deal in energy and speed to ensure their team captain has the best shot at taking the yellow jersey. As the saying goes, nobody wins the Tour de France alone! 

Over the course of the race, many riders are forced to drop out. During the first Tour de France in 1903, only 21 of the 60 riders to begin the course were able to finish it. The very last rider to cross the finish line was given the title la lantern rouge—symbolizing the red lantern that swung at the caboose of French trains at the turn of the century. In the modern-day Tour de France, competition for the title la lantern rouge is fierce, and riders will compete to be the last qualifying cyclist over the finish line. In truth, anyone who has the strength and determination to finish the entire Tour de France deserves tremendous accolades! 

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