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Breaking Away - Tour de France

Author: Skyla Burrell

I was 11 years old when the movie ‘Breaking Away’ hit the theatres in 1979. It was my first exposure to competitive cycling and to be honest I had no particular interest in the sport. Instead, I wanted to see the film because of the freckled kid who was also in the ‘Bad News Bears’, Jackie Haley. I remember thinking it was pretty exciting and I liked the competition aspect of it, as prior to that this Southern California girl pretty much only knew about beach cruisers.

Fast forward to 2002 and competitive cycling news seemed to be spilling over to the mainstream media, mostly due to the rise of bright, shining, squeaky clean Lance Armstrong. Win one Tour de France, ah…well anyone could do that. Win the Tour de France twice, well now that’s quite a feat, isn’t it? By the time 2002 arrives and the magic Mr. Armstrong has won his 4th consecutive Tour de France, everyone on the planet is taking notice. 2005 brings new heights to the sport with a 7th consecutive win and the retirement of the magic man. As it turns out, magic was used in the form of performance-enhancing drugs and *poof* all those wins were wiped from the records.

This is not a story of old childhood crushes or fallen heroes, think of it more as a guide for the casually interested. For the person that really does not know much about the Tour de France and who may benefit from knowing some fun and interesting facts. Very helpful if one is ever stuck in an elevator with anyone in tight shorts and say, a bicycle helmet.

Let’s start with a current fun fact. Did you know that online sportsbooks take all types of interesting wagers on the Tour de France? Gambling City offers an extensive list of trusted bookmakers, like Bwin Sports, who are currently taking wagers on the outright winner and the winner of each stage. Another long established sportsbook taking wagers on the race is RedBet who, in addition to standard events, offers lines on the ‘Top Young Rider’ and the ‘King of the Mountain’ where you wager on the quickest time up the most brutal mountain portion of the race.

Let’s go back in time a little with some historical facts for your arsenal. The Tour de France story began in 1903 with cyclist Maurice Garin grabbing the first-ever winner spot. That’s the same year the Wright brothers learned to fly and the same year Henry started a little car company called the Ford Motor Company. In other words, it was an exciting time full of ideas. Fun fact, the cycles used in the 1903 Tour de France weighed, on average, just shy of 40 lbs. The cycles used today in competition come in at a super-model weight of just under 15 pounds. Another fun fact, in 1903 the average speed was 26 mph; by 2017 the average speed had skyrocketed to an average of 41 mph.

What exactly is the Tour de France? In a nutshell, it's an epically long, multi-stage race that takes just about 3 weeks to complete and is held each year in July. The course is 2,200 miles long and the competition is comprised of 22 teams with 8 cyclists each. The total prize money for 2018, is a whopping €2,287,750!

And finally, some inquiring minds might want to know that aside from the yellow jersey given to the winner of each stage of the race, the dress code is selected by each team and usually the biggest debate is sock length.