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7 Exciting Facts About the Tour de France, and Where to Stream the Race
Lasting nearly three weeks and involving several hundred competitors, the Tour de France is one of the biggest sporting events across the globe — and in the world of cycling, it’s definitely the biggest. This much-anticipated annual race faced some setbacks during the COVID-19 pandemic, and while the world hasn’t returned to normal yet, devoted cycling fans (and those of us who simply love edge-of-our-seats competition) are eager for the big return slated for this summer.
In honor of the Tour de France’s grand 2021 re-entry to the sporting universe on Saturday, June 26, we’re taking a look at some fun facts that’ll get your anticipation building even more. Plus, you’ll discover where and how you can watch every minute of the race from the comfort of home — no cleats or helmet necessary.
Thousands of People Are Involved
You might already know that a bevy of bicyclists participate in the race — 198 riders spread across 22 different teams compete each year. But the number of people involved in ensuring the race goes off without a hitch is much higher than the number of athletes participating. Organizers take logistics to the next level with team staff members, members of the race jury, thousands of security professionals and members of the media. If you include the spectators in that count, the numbers — pre-pandemic, at least — can run into the millions . From city to city along the race route, hundreds upon hundreds of people follow the action throughout the course of the event. And organizers and support staff keep things running smoothly to the finish line.
The Race Has a Surprising Connection to a Newspaper
The first Tour de France wasn’t held because a bunch of bicycling fans got together and thought it’d be a great idea to start a competition — at least not totally. It was actually a promotional event hosted with the intention of bringing more publicity to L’Auto , a French newspaper that focused on reporting details about different sporting events. Although L’Auto has since closed down, the parent company of its replacement, L’Equipe , continues to organize the Tour de France today.
It’s Not Just Big, but Also Long
And it’s long in multiple ways, too. The race itself takes place over the course of nearly a month, with 21 different day-long segments making up the bulk of the competition. The length of the course is also extensive, however; it’s typically over 2,000 miles long and can pass through multiple neighboring countries. It wasn’t even always this short, either — in 1926, the course encompassed a winding 3,570 miles and took a full month for riders to finish.
Different Jerseys Mean Different Things
As you watch the race, you’ll notice cyclists wearing the bright kits and bibs that represent their teams — but you’ll also spot some even more unique colors and designs among the pack. One of these is a yellow jersey, called the “maillot jaune,” that’s bestowed upon the racer who had the lowest cumulative ride time for the day. Other special jerseys include the green “maillot vert,” which is awarded to the rider with the most points, and the “maillot a pois” — a red and white polka-dotted jersey given to the cyclist who earns the most points during the areas of the course that have steep inclines to climb. The rider who wears the maillot a pois is affectionately known as “the king of the mountain.”
There Was Almost Only One Tour de France
The first Tour de France took place in 1903 – and that was almost the one and only iteration of the race. That’s because newspaper editor Henri Desgrange, who helped organize the initial tour, was so aghast at the conduct not only of the fans but also of the competitors in the 1903 race that he wanted to discontinue it despite its clear appeal. Boisterous crowds turned violent, with spectators assaulting racers as they passed along the course. The riders themselves found numerous ways to cheat, disqualifying themselves in the process. But the Tour de France was so lauded — and it increased circulation of L’Auto so extensively — that the organizers had no choice but to continue hosting the event.
The Race Has Its Own Language
Bonking, anyone? As you’re watching the Tour de France, you might hear commentators use some curious turns of phrase — and many of them will be unique to the race itself. Boost your bicycling know-how by learning what these terms mean before catching one of the race segments:
- Bonking: Cyclists don’t want to “bonk” during this race; it means they’ve run out of energy and are too wiped to continue.
- Peloton: No, it’s not the fancy exercise bike you bought during the pandemic. In Tour de France context, a peloton is the main group of riders where most of the participants are cycling together.
- Sag Wagon: If someone bonks, they may need the assistance of the sag wagon. This is a car that follows the pack of cyclists and picks up those who become too fatigued or injured to keep riding.
- Musket Bag: While it may sound like something you’d find at a Civil War battleground, a musket bag is sort of like a bagged lunch — but it’s packed with energy gels, water, sandwiches and other fuel for the cyclists. It’s also called a “musette” or, sometimes, a “bonk bag.”
- Lanterne Rouge: In French, this term means “red light,” and it refers to the cyclist who’s in the very last place in the race. Being in this position gets riders ample attention, and those who know they won’t win sometimes compete for this distinction instead.
You Can Watch the Action at Home — Here’s How
Now that the race has returned to regularly scheduled programming in 2021 following its 2020 pandemic postponement, you might be eager to catch the three-week racing saga unfold from the comfort of home. Fortunately, you have the convenient option to stream the tour live on both NBC Sports and NBC’s Peacock streaming service.
The race coverage on Peacock is only available through Peacock Premium, a paid tier of the service that costs $4.99 — a worthwhile investment if you’re a serious cycling fan who can’t wait to watch this Grand Tour. NBC Sports is accessible if you’re already paying for regular cable, but without that subscription you won’t be able to stream the program online or watch it on TV unless you spring for Peacock.
Keep in mind that, if you’re not already a Peacock subscriber, you’ll receive a free weeklong trial to better help you determine if the service is right for you. You can use that to catch up on the race and decide if you want to make the month-long (or longer) investment.
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The Tour de France Has Its Own Champagne for VIPs
Apparently, being one of the best cyclists in the world comes with some perks.
Mike Pomranz has been covering craft beer for nearly two decades and trending food and beverage news for Food & Wine for 7 years.
The Tour de France -- aka the only cycling event most people can name off the top of their head -- kicked off in Brest over the weekend on Saturday, June 26. And if you happened to be hanging out in the VIP area, you may have had the chance to sip on a very exclusive new tipple: Champagne Castelnau -- the Tour de France's official Champagne sponsor -- has released a limited-edition bottling to be served exclusively in the VIP areas of the departure and arrival villages of each stage of the 23-day event.
Champagne Castelnau cuvée Véloce -- as the exclusive bubbly is called -- is "named in admiration of the sheer velocity that the astounding athletes reach throughout the course," according to the brand. The French word "véloce" can be translated to English words like "speedy," "rapid," or "swift." Champagne Castelnau also says the bottling is intended to "commemorate its 10-year-long partnership with Amaury Sport Organization, the organizers of Le Tour de France." This year's race will wrap up in Paris on July 18.
As for the wine itself, Castelnau describes the cuvée as a limited-edition bottling of their Brut NV blend -- billed as "the youngest and freshest wine in their portfolio." Incumbent Cheffe de Caves Elisabeth Sarcelet added that this blend had been selected specifically for a celebration after "hours of endurance."
Meanwhile, Véloce is far from Champagne Castelnau's first Tour de France-inspired wine. Back in 2019, the brand similarly celebrated its partnership with Amaury Sport Organization with a limited-edition Brut Reserve NV bottling called "Cuvée Siècle" to commemorate a "century" of the Yellow Jersey. And more recently, earlier this year, Castelnau released their Hors Catégorie C.M 1993 -- named after the height of the Col de Madeleine, the most difficult mountain pass from the Tour de France in 2013, which is the same year the bubbly was bottled.
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- Tour De France Champagne Tradition
Since 1975, The Tour de France has finished on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris. Traditionally, this final stage starts with an in-the-pedals celebration that includes Champagne served by the race leader’s team, on-the-road photo opportunities and some joking around.
While I have not yet been able to uncover what brand of the bubbly is served, the tradition once again highlights Champagne’s permanent fixture as the drink of celebration.
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Team jumbo-visma shares a glass of champagne.
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Champagne Castelnau is the official Champagne of the Tour de France
Champagne Castelnau has replaced Jacquart as this year’s exclusive Champagne poured on the Tour de France.
Champagne Castelnau has signed a three-year deal with Tour de France in an attempt to raise their profile in France and the UK (its largest export market).
With two days left of the Tour, it is widely believed Bradley Wiggins will clinch the first British victory of the Tour.
Pascal Prudhomme, General Manager, of Champagne Castelnau said he hoped to mimic the success of Skoda in France since the car manufacturer became the official partner of the race nine years ago.
Champagne Castelnau is owned by one of the sparkling wine region’s largest cooperatives, the Coopérative Regionale des Vins de Champagne (CRVC).
Pascal added that he believed the new tie-up with the Tour would also be an encouragement for the growers, which supply grapes to the cooperative.
“It shows them that the brand is strong and we are investing in it,” he said.
Meanwhile, within France, Pascal said he expected the brand to benefit from the visibility among the VIPs present at corporate events running alongside the race, particularly the many guests and buyers from French supermarket chain Carrefour, which has sponsored the Tour’s polka dot jersey since 2009.
The tour has a long association with Champagne, not just due to the region’s regular appearance in the race, but also because of the wine’s historic use as a source of energy for the riders.
It is said that Maurice Garin, who won the first Tour de France in 1903, kept himself fuelled on a mixture of Champagne and coffee.
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Chris Froome celebrates fourth Tour de France as he drinks champagne on ride into Paris
British ace cruised to brilliant triumph as he enjoys procession into French capital with hard work already done
- Duncan Wright
- Published : 18:51, 23 Jul 2017
- Updated : 21:32, 27 Jul 2017
CHRIS FROOME proved he is the Daddy of the Tour de France as he savoured a FOURTH win — joining Britain’s sporting greats.
The Team Sky ace hopped off his bike straight for a reunion with wife Michelle and baby son Kellan — who wore his own yellow jersey with ‘Froome’ on the back.
As he was joined on the podium by his family, Froome, 32, said: “It’s amazing to see them again — it feels like more than a month on the road.
“I’m speechless. There is something magical about the Champs-Elysees when you’ve spent three weeks thinking about this moment.
“I want to dedicate this to Michelle and Kellan — your love and support makes this all possible.
“My life with you is what makes all the sacrifices worth it. And I will be back to win No 5 next year!”
Froome insisted his latest triumph would not be overshadowed by doping slurs.
UK Anti-Doping chiefs are currently carrying out a probe into Team Sky’s conduct.
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Froome rapped: “What’s happened does not detract from my achievements.
“I won’t waste energy getting caught up in something that doesn’t involve me.
“When you have a three-week bike race, especially one that’s been this close for the Yellow Jersey, it’s just not something that’s on you radar.
“It’s all just noise in the background.
“It’s the same as a Frenchman going ‘Boo’ at the roadside. You hear it, but it doesn’t stop you pedalling.
“I hope people take me for what they see. I think people have come to know me a lot better over the last few years — and the French public has certainly turned.
“I’ve had an amazing reception on the roads and it hasn’t always been like that.”
Froome’s fourth Tour de France title was hailed by world cycling chief Brian Cookson.
The UCI president said: “It’s a superb performance. Historically not many people have achieved anything like this, so hats off to him.
“I think it is regrettable that people have a negative view of success.
“I have to assure everyone that all teams are treated equally and that our anti-doping procedures, for example, are rigorous and independent with no conflicts of interest and so on.
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