Throughout Europe, there’s no sporting event that quite manages to captivate audiences year after year, dividing friendships and families when people choose their allegiances. Is it The World Cup? That’s small potatoes compared to The Tour de France.

Those in the United States might not understand the appeal of the race, but getting to know The Tour de France means starting to get excited about watching people on bicycles, too. For most amateur athletes, even a vague understanding of how fit one has to be to even consider making it to the end, let alone winning, is enough to give the race a little bit of time in between other television programming.

The biggest mistake that people make when thinking about The Tour de France is thinking the race just lasts for a couple of days, or is actually not that long, but is spread out time-wise. In reality, the race is thousands of miles long, usually lasts for 21 days of continuous riding, and has been known not just to span France, but the surrounding countries, too. Riders have to navigate some of the steepest and most dangerous roads in France, and must be in peak physical shape to even think about doing a good job.

In fact, a number of riders have actually not survived The Tour de France, whether it was succumbing to heart attacks after ingesting methamphetamine while climbing part of the hills, or simply not being able to keep a bicycle on the road in times of great exhaustion. Riding the race has been compared to running in a marathon non-stop for a month, and it’s no wonder why this seems an appropriate description once viewers take a single look at those treacherous mountain passes.

It’s not just mountain passes, though. The race usually weaves in and out of cities, and traditionally wraps up with a triumphant sprint down busy city streets in Paris. The race is also known for varying in length, with the route changing every year. Sometimes, the difference can be as sizable as a few hundred miles, but usually it’s more of a matter of routes. Anyone who wants to participate, though, should be in top form, as even very athletic riders talk of experiencing a great deal of trouble at the prospect of tackling the race.

The Tour de France is known for the toll it takes on both the body and the mind, to say nothing of the bicycle itself. Add to that the fact that it’s possible to never win a single portion of the race, but still triumph at the end, and no wonder riders are exhausted and disoriented for much of the experience, unsure of exactly where they stand in the rank. That only makes it more fun for the fans, who crowd the streets to shout encouraging words to the riders at every turn.

And while Americans might not have historically cared very much about bicycle racing, that all changed in recent years.. Not only were all of the Americans hanging on the daily results, but there was a huge rise in the popularity of long distance bicycling. Ever since this historic reign of terror, interest in the race has been the standard.

Lance Armstrong is one of the reasons that Americans sat up and took notice of the race, and that is why, for the first time ever, The Tour de France is enjoying a great deal of publicity outside of Europe, and in The States, where bicycle riding is usually only an activity of earnest green-minded college students in San Francisco and Boston, and those too young to have cars. Thanks to Lance Armstrong, the sport is enjoying a surge in its viability States-side, so many more promising riders will be over challenging the Europeans soon.

And finally the Americans understand what it is that the French, the Swiss, the Italians, and so many others have been enjoying for years and years, since the races’ humble beginnings almost a hundred years ago. It’s not about the sport of bicycling, so much, it’s about the idea of a single person, on their own on the side of a mountain, trying to last until tomorrow. The physical and mental endurance of taking on a race that lasts almost a month is legendary, and no matter what the vehicle, worthy of a great deal of applause.

Damian Papworth, a keen cyclist knows how crucial hydration is in the sport, at all levels. For this reason, he created the Cycling Water Bottle website, offering free information on bicycle water bottles

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