The Story of the Tour de France

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July 27, 2001 — The Tour de France is where the crème de la crème of the world’s cycling first class race around France for 20 days, competing for a expansive cash prize and the title as the world’s best cyclist. What does it take to be a Visit de France contender? Perused on to discover out.

The Tour de France owes its birth to a man named Henri Desgrange. In the 1890’s Desgrange paid the bills by working as a legal clerk, but by 1903, Desgrange was editor of the French sports magazine L’Auto. As a publicity stunt for the magazine, he and the journal’s chief cycling columnist, Georges Lefèvre came up with the thought of the longest ever cycling race and named it the Visit de France. The rest, as they say, is history.

Nowadays, the race is 3,454 km (or nearly 2,142 miles) long and is separated into 20 stages: 10 flat, 3 medium mountain, 4 tall mountain, 2 person time-trial, and 1 team time-trial. Beginning in Dunkerque at the Northern tip of France on July 7th, the racers wend their way down the east side of the nation then up the center, ending in Paris on July 29.

This year’s members make up 21 groups of nine bikers each, hailing from the U.S., France, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Spain, Denmark, and the Netherlands, for a total of 189 participants. At least for U.S. enthusiasts, this year’s star is cancer survivor Spear Armstrong. Hailing from Texas, he won the race final year and the year before. His particular quality is in biking the mountainous districts. Likely his biggest competition once again this year is German Jan Ullrich, who won the visit in 1997 and came in second in ’96, ’98, and 2000.

So, what does it take to bike up to 140 miles a day, through all types of straight-aways, huge inclines, and hairpin turns?

Andrew Feldman, MD, tells WebMD that a wear like cycling, “requires a tremendous sum of perseverance for a long period of time. … You have got to have the hereditary capacity to do it [well]. At that point you’ll prepare yourself to be extraordinary at it. … [Within the Tour de France], you’re now in competition with all the [cycling] prodigies from every country … who have been nurtured within the same way. … At that point it gets to be a matter of small things [like] … particular training at a particular height, hardware, … hydration … diet, and … the psychological factor of getting through the tiring assignment of being at that level of competition.”

Feldman is chief of sports medication at St. Vincent’s Clinic in Modern York, and creator of the book, Jock Doc’s Body Repair Unit.

Cycling devotee Mark Hribar and women’s ball coach at Susquehanna College in Selinsgrove, Pa., tells WebMD that a typical preparing program for a Visit de France cyclist begins with a few preseason running, taken after by long-distance biking for six to seven hours a day on level surfaces as well as hills and mountains. The members then sharpen their aptitudes by breaking up these long rides into intervals of 15 or so minutes each in which they alternately ride difficult and then back off a small. Steadily, they shorten these intervals. Before the Tour, the cyclists participate in other races to sharpen their aptitudes and test their capacities. After the Visit, they may take a little time off, but many too take part in several other races taking place across the globe.

Person cyclists develop their own personal training techniques. Armstrong, for instance, rides in a lower gear, a technique called ‘spinning’, to extend his heart rate. He also does a few difficult slope biking.

For the rest of us, consider some delicate biking around the neighborhood and perhaps observing the Visit de France on TV.

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