Tour de France: Toughest Bike Race Ever
The 100th edition of the Tour de France is rolling along nicely, and definitely being closely followed by cycling fans around the world. In this guest post by Joe Jamieson, he imagines what it would be like to actually train and compete in the world’s toughest sporting event.
Tour de France: Toughest Bike Race Ever
By Joe Jamieson
So you want to race in the Tour de France? Perhaps it’s time to re-think! This 100 year old road bicycle tour is one of the most grueling competitions in the world. You can’t just be a great cyclist to compete, you have to be world-class.
History of the Tour de France
The race was first held in 1903 to increase sales of the magazine L’Auto. Since then it has blossomed into one of the most important sporting events in the world. Every year the Tour de France attracts millions of spectators and millions of dollars in sponsors and advertising.
Currently the race consists of 21 stages held over the course of 23 days. The majority of the race is located in France with some sections extending to surrounding countries. The total distance covered by the race is around 2,000 miles. It is a team race with around 20 teams, nine riders each. At the end of the tour there is a winning team, and an individual champion is crowned as well.
Preparing and Training for the Tour de France
For those who are truly serious about even finishing the Tour de France, there is a need for absolute to preparation. This is not a spare time endeavor, and only the most professional cyclists should apply. If said professionals are not independently wealthy, they need to find sponsors to support them. What kind of money are we talking about? For some of the top teams, up to £650,000 has been spent just on aerodynamic testing of bicycle designs.
This race is as serious as it gets, and some have even died on the race course. Imagine ripping down a mountain at over 60 mph on two tyres barely one inch thick. These guys certainly must have bullet-proof life insurance policies (if you fancy yourself as a Tour de France rider, get a fantasy quote!).
The training for the tour involves the most advanced physical exercise techniques in existence. There are team trainers, nutritionists, doctors and many other persons involved in getting each racer in top condition. The race involves days where riders spend all day in the Pyrenees and French Alps mountain ranges. These are among the most difficult road race courses on the planet. An adequate level of fitness can only be reached by a very small percentage of human beings with a top notch team backing them up.
Again, given the huge investment in the race, the nutrition of the racers has reached the level of complex science. Top sports nutritionists like Barbara Lewin, a sports nutritionist who owns Sports-Nutritionist.com plan every bite of food that is taken by the athletes. Exact amounts of carbohydrates, protein, electrolytes, vitamins and minerals are calculated and administered carefully. Special nutritional supplements are also implemented based on scientific research and the experience of the riders. The competitors are also followed closely by doctors who monitor the riders’ weight and vital statistics.
Obviously, such an intense preparation and race course can take its toll mentally. Only the most fit, both physically and mentally, can even begin to think of just finishing the tour. Most teams carry a team psychologist to help handle stress. The wisest team coaches also know how to vary training routines so that riders don’t get stale. Time for relaxation and recreation are vital.
In the end though, it is up to each rider. In this competition you must be on the bike for hours on end climbing up huge mountains. Under actual race conditions these climbs can be excruciating. Also, the fans can come into very close contact with the riders. Picture riding for four hours up a steep mountain and then some crazy fan appears yelling at you and slapping you on the back. Only extremely strong people with a will of iron can reach the top of these climbs. Those that reach the podium number a few among billions.
The bicycles used in the tour are the fruit of many decades of craftsmanship and development. High-tech metals and carbon fiber are used to shape bike tubes. Light weight and durability are essential and this means the bikes are expensive with some costing up to £10,000. This is for a piece of metal and rubber that weighs less than 20 pounds.
The clothing is pretty straightforward with lycra being the rule for jerseys and shorts. A lightweight composite helmet and top of the line sports lenses are used also. Finally, the shoes are specially fitted with cleats that might be made of carbon material for light weight and strength.
The Tour de France is held every July. Professional cyclists who are truly serious about entering usually have at least a three year plan. Is the Tour de France the toughest bike race ever? Yes.