For the past 113 years, Tour de France has continued to attract global attention as the biggest annual cycling event ever. It couldn’t be held for 4 years during World War I and for another 6 during the WW II. Therefore the 2016 competition is the 103rd edition of le Tour. The 21-stage race is primarily held in France but it also occasionally enters bordering nations. The 2016 Tour de France is scheduled to enter Spain, the Principality of Andorra and Switzerland. The current edition began on July 2, 2016 and it has already seen 10 stages out 21. These include 5 flat stages, 4 mountain stages and one hilly stage on July 12. Now only 192 cyclists have remained in the competition after covering 1966.5 out of the Tour distance of 3519 kilometers. The 11th stage is a flat run between Carcassonne and Montpellier and it takes off on Wednesday afternoon.  Defending champion Christopher Froome of Great Britain is the current Tour leader after 10 stages and his compatriot Adam Yates is right behind.

Chris Froome Leads Tour de France copyBesides Tour de France, there are two other cycling events, which together make the 3-week long Grand Tours in Europe. However, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta s Espana pale in comparison to the much more prominent Tour de France. Incidentally, first edition of Tour de France in 1903 was held in attempt to promote the sale of a magazine called L’Auto that no longer exits. However L’Auto is now transformed to L’Equipe, a daily newspaper devoted to sports. It is owned by the Amaury Group, founded by the late media tycoon Philippe Amuary. Marie-Odile, the widow of Philippe Amaury is now in-charge of Amaury Sports Organization that controls the Tour de France. In more than 100 years of the tournament’s glorious history, there were several incidents of cyclists using alcohol or other performance enhancement drugs but the most blatant of these has been the one involving US cyclist Lance Armstrong. Initially Armstrong kept denying the allegations but it was proved he had used Erythropoietin, EPO and other banned substances. Armstrong was unceremoniously stripped of his 7 consecutive titles won during 1999-2005 and slapped a life ban from world competitions. During the Oprah Winfrey show in January 2013, Armstrong admitted to using banned substances.

The 2016 Tour de France began on July 2 with Mont Saint-Michael Island Monastery at Normandy hosting the start. Since then, 10 stages were completed by July 12, 2016. Le Tour has four main individual classifications contests besides team competition. General Classification is the most important. It is calculated by adding each rider’s finishing times on each stage and the winner is someone, who accumulates the least time. A yellow jersey identifies the winner in this classification. There are two individual trials as well and first three riders earn 10, 6 and 4 seconds’ time bonus for top three finishes. In Points’ classification, riders receive points for finishing fastest at each stage but no more points are added at time-trial stages. A green jersey identifies the winner in points’ classification. The third classification is Mountains’ Classification, in which points are awarded for reaching the top of the most difficult ascents first. The winner is identified by a Polka-dot jersey. In stages 9, 12, 17 and 19 double points will be awarded for fastest summit finishes. The Tour also has a young Rider Classification, which works in the same way as General Classification, except that riders should be born on or after January 1, 1991. Finally the Team Classification is calculated by adding the finishing times of best three riders per team on each stage and the team accumulating the least time will be the winner.  

The 10th stage on July 12 was won by Michael Matthews of Australia. 193 riders began at the principality of Andorra and Slovakia’s Peter Sagan looked as most active in the uphill start that was to see the Tour’s highest summit of Port d’Envalira at an altitude of 2408m. Rui Costa of Team Lampre-Merida was the lone leader to the crest and in the downhill later he was joined by Sagan, Vincenzo Nibali of Team Astana and Michael Matthews of Team Orica-BikeExchange. There were several breakaway attempts but Matthews was unfazed as he out-sprinted Sagan in a tactical battle. Matthews was helped by his Orica-BikeExchange teammates, who blocked Sagan and allowed him to take the top spot.

Chris Froome Leads Tour de France copy

The stage 11 will take the Tour across Southern France and most top contenders will look further into next stages to accumulate as many points as possible. But at this point in Tour de France, race leader and defending champion Chris Froome still looks best placed to notch up another victory. His lead is not huge but his team has the capability of holding the yellow all the way to Paris. The 12th stage takes them to the tough climb on Mont Ventoux on Thursday the first individual time trial takes place on Friday. It is here that Froome has a big chance to extend his lead. The Brit also won in the 2013 edition but crashed out in 2014. Froome’s threat may come from the pint-sized Colombian Nairo Quintana of Team Movistar. Quintana had twice finished as runner-up to Froome on the Tour but he hasn’t given up.