Starting July 3, 2010, 22 teams from 12 countries will begin the 97th Tour de France. The race is scheduled to be completed on July 25. The Tour is the best known and most prestigious of cycling’s three “Grand Tours.” The other Grand Tours are the Giro d’Italia held every May in Italy and the Vuelta a Espańa held every August-September in Spain.
Four teams will be representing the United States during the 2010 Tour, competing with one team each from Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Kazakhstan, Russia, Switzerland, and the Netherlands; two teams each from Belgium and Italy; three teams from Spain; and four teams from France. Of these teams, 16 were chosen because they were the top-ranked in the world. The other six were chosen by race organizers as “wild cards.”
The Tour is a stage race: the race is divided into 20 stages plus one prologue. Each stage covers a set distance in one day, and the riders record a time for each stage. Individual times for each stage are totaled to determine the overall winner at the end of the race. The entire 2010 race will cover 3,600 kilometers (about 2,230 miles), with stages ranging from 102.5 km to 227.5 km (plus an individual time trial day of 52 km). Two rest days are inserted between race days 9 and 10 and days 16 and 17.
The stages are described as either plain (flat), hilly, medium mountains or high mountains. The 2010 race includes 9 plain, 2 hilly, 2 medium mountain, and 6 high mountain stages, plus the 8.6 km prologue in Rotterdam and the individual time trial. Between the start in Rotterdam and the finish line in Paris, the riders will climb le Tourmalet (the highest road in the central Pyrenees Mountains) twice, ride over 13.2 km of cobblestone streets, and cross 23 high mountain passes.
Despite being called the Tour de France, the actual race route varies from year to year and may cross through several countries. In 2010, the race will start in the Netherlands, cross Belgium and wind clockwise through France. In 2009, the 3,445 km (2,141 mile) race visited five countries after starting in Monaco: France, Spain, Andorra, Switzerland and Italy.
If you want to follow all the latest news about the Tour as the start date approaches, the official Tour de France website in English is http://www.letour.fr/us/homepage_horscourseTDF.html. If you click on the tab “All About the Race” and then on the “Race Preview 2010” tab and select “Teams,” you get to a page that lists all 22 teams with links to the individual team websites. Lance Armstrong, perhaps the best known of American cyclists, is a member of Team RadioShack. The 2009 Tour champion, Alberto Contador of Spain, is part of Team Astana.
Versus, the official U.S. broadcaster of the 2010 Tour, posted a TV viewing schedule at http://www.versus.com/blogs/2010-cycling-events/tour-de-france-tv-schedule.