Wednesday, 10 March 2010

The wonder of the Tour de France

For most Americans, the initial images that come to mind when one mentions sports are group athletics on a field. Football, baseball, and basketball are the holy trinity of sporting events States-side, but to Europeans, older and more traditional activities reign supreme.

Even more important, those European sports that might sometimes seem "wimpy" to Americans are actually more more grueling and require more endurance. Bicycle races across multiple countries and miles and miles run during soccer games are a whole lot more of an effort, after all, than just running around a baseball diamond, enjoying a whole lot of free time in the dugout.

One of the biggest sporting events not just in France, but all over Europe, is The Tour de France. A race that pits riders from countries all over the world against one another, themselves, and the elements, it is not a race for the faint of heart. Lasting over three weeks, the race is broken down into day-long segments, known as stages, which can involve anything from the final sprint into Paris to climbing some of the most heart-popping sections of the Alps...on nothing but one's own leg power.

One of the most exciting parts of The Tour de France is the fact that, every year, the route changes. In actuality, the distance for the race can vary a great deal, with the shortest clocking in around 1,500 miles, and the longest somewhere around 3,570 miles. Riders never know quite what they're going to get, and neither do the fans, who line small mountain passes as well as city streets, ecstatic to cheer their favorites on.

But not just anyone can qualify--or survive--a ride in The Tour de France. Riders planning on tackling The Tour de France have to be in peak physical shape, because the race is one of the most demanding sporting events in the entire world of sports, not just bicycle racing. With very little time to rest and recuperate, and literally hundreds of miles of biking up and down mountain roads ahead of them, riders have to train for months and months to get anywhere ready to compete.

Aside from that, the race is known for being daunting emotionally, since much time is spent alone, unsure of one's standing in the race, and dealing with the very real thought that, after the next hundred miles, 900 more are waiting. It takes a lot out of anyone, even a famous bicyclist, to compete in this race.

And while Americans might not have historically cared very much about bicycle racing, that all changed in recent years.. Not only were all of the Americans hanging on the daily results, but there was a huge rise in the popularity of long distance bicycling. Ever since this historic reign of terror, interest in the race has been the standard.

Who managed to change American opinion on The Tour de France? A single rider, Lance Armstrong, who managed to win The Tour de France not once, not twice, not three times, but SEVEN times, in a row. He managed to come back from a devastating cancer diagnosis to triumph in the race, and led to a lot of bicycling-related patriotism for those Americans who might not have even been interested in the race in the first place.

No matter the reason, one thing is definitely certain about The Tour de France: it's not a sporting event for the faint of heart to participate in, and anyone watching has to give a whole lot of kudos to anyone strong--or crazy--enough to decide they're ready to take on the mountains and the landscape of France for three weeks at a time, with only a bicycle.

Damian Papworth, a keen cyclist understands how important hydration is in the sport, at all levels. For this reason, he created the Cycling Water Bottle website, offering free information on bicycle water bottles

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