Tour de France opens centenary celebrations

Cycling fans will have the opportunity to commemorate the 100th edition of the Tour de France this weekend by taking to the course of cycling's most famous stage race, two weeks ahead of the Grand Depart.

Tour de France opens centenary celebrations
Last year's Tour de France winner crosses the line. Photo Wyll photographie/AFP

The Tour will celebrate the milestone on Saturday with a host of events organised throughout most of France as part of the "Fete du Tour".

The celebrations are scheduled to take place in all cities through which the race, which gets underway in Corsica on June 29, will pass with numerous activities and rides, ranging from the length of an entire stage to shorter formats of 10 to 50km, planned by tour organisers.

Even the 242.5km ride Givors to Mont Ventoux, which will serve as the Tour's 15th stage, will be open for cycling enthusiasts to tackle, although it will be staggered over two days, allowing for lesser riders to tackle the race's longest stage.

Fans will also be able to meet and greet legends such as Bernaud Hinault, a five-time Tour winner and the last French champion (1985), and two-time victor Bernard Thevenet, who notably put an end to Belgian great Eddy Merckx's Tour reign.

The festivities won't strictly be limited to road cyclist fans either with events also designed for other disciplines such as BMX and mountain biking with vintage bike exhibitions and specially-designed circuits for children on the programme as well.

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Inaugural Women’s Tour de France to start at Eiffel Tower

The route for the inaugural women's Tour de France was unveiled on Thursday with eight stages, embarking from the Eiffel Tower on July 24th next year.

French cyclist Marion Rousse delivers a speech next to Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme during the presentation of the first edition of the Women's Tour de France cycling race.
French cyclist Marion Rousse delivers a speech next to Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme during the presentation of the first edition of the Women's Tour de France cycling race. Photo: Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP.

The first complete edition of the women’s version of cycling’s iconic race starts on the day the 109th edition of the men’s Tour ends.

After a route that winds through northern France, the race culminates in the Planche des Belles Filles climb in the Vosges mountains.

Danish cyclist Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig said she was over the moon to be taking part.

“I want it to be July now so we can get stared,” she said actually jumping up and down.

“The Tour de France is a reference and when you say you are a cyclist people ask about that. Now I can say I race the Tour de France,” she said after the presentation.

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Race director Marion Rousse, a former French cycling champion and now a TV commentator, told AFP it would be a varied course that would maintain suspense over the eight days.

“It is coherent in a sporting sense, and we wanted to start from Paris,” she said of the 1,029km run.

“With only eight stages we couldn’t go down to the Alps or the Pyrenees, the transfers would be too long.

“The stages obviously are shorter for the women than for the men’s races. The men can go 225 kilometres. For the women the longest race on our roster is 175km and we even needed special dispensation for that,” she said. “But it’s a course I love.”

Christian Prudhomme, the president of the Tour de France organisers, was equally enthusiastic.

“The fact it sets off from Paris the day the men’s race ends gives the new race a boost because it sets the media up to follow it more easily.

“It also means that with the Tour de France starting on July 1st and the women’s race ending on the 31st, there will be cycling on television every day of July.”

The men’s race is broadcast in around 190 countries.