The Tour de France takes place over three weeks each July and has been running for over 100 years. The race always begins with the Grand Départ, with the starting location and route changing each year. The cycle route covers approximately 3,300 kms and as the name suggests, the cyclists tour through France on their way to the finishing line at the Champs-Elysees in Paris.
As with most cycling races, competitors enter as part of a team. The race consists of 20 to 22 teams with nine riders each. Traditionally, entry is extended to invitation only, with invitations granted only to the best of the world's professional teams.
The Tour is a stage race, each stage being a one day race, with approximately 21 stages. The time each rider takes to complete each stage is accumulated. Riders are often awarded time bonuses as well as their prize for finishing. Riders who finish in the same group are awarded the same time. Two riders are said to have finished in the same group if there is less than the length of a bike between them. A rider who crashes in the last three kilometres is given the time of the group in which he would have otherwise finished.
The ranking of riders by accumulated time is known as the General Classification. The winner is the rider with the least accumulated time after the final day.
Tour de France 2018
This year’s Tour de France starts on Saturday 7th July in Noirmoutier-en-l'Île, a little commune, just off the coast of the Vendée department in the Pays de la Loire region in Western France. Noirmoutier is home to the most expensive potatoes in the world, Known as "La Bonnotte". Only around 100 tons of this top quality potato are cultivated each year on the island and are harvested by hand.
The race will then wind its way North along the Western coast before turning East through Chartres and reaching Northern France on the 15th of July. Riders will fly down to the South East of France to Annecy for their first mountainous encounter of the race before descending further South.
Stage 20 will see riders battle it out in the Individual Time Trial from Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle to Espelette in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in south-western France.
As is tradition, the race will culminate on Sunday 29th July in Paris Champs-Élysées.