The Tour de France is the world’s most famous cycling race, now running for the 95th time. For 21 days in July, 180 cyclists race about 2,200 miles (the distance from Buffalo to Boise) through the plains and mountains of France. The rider who finishes in the least amount of time wins the Tour’s signature yellow jersey.
Some days, the cyclists race for more than six butt-numbing hours. They ride hard and fast, getting up to speeds of more than 35-miles-an-hour while traversing narrow, steep, curvy roads of the Pyrenees and Alps. In past Tours, some riders have gone off the cliff.
Watching the race is more than just cycling; it’s about seeing the French countryside, Alpine vistas and Gothic cathedrals. Photographer Graham Watson captures the flavor in his race images.
Twenty teams are in this year’s Tour, including two American squads: Columbia (sponsored by the sportswear giant) is wearing baby blue jerseys and Garmin Chipotle (named after a GPS maker and burrito chain) is in white, black and blue argyle.
Whatever you do this Tour, don’t cheer for Lance Armstrong. He’s the hunky seven-time Tour champion and cancer survivor, but he’s retired and won’t be in this year’s race. Check the official race roster to pick your favorite rider and put your money on one of the guys in the top ten.