The Tour de France is a famous cycling race, held annually in France during the month of July. The Tour de France, Giro d'Italia, and Vuelta a España are referred to as the Grand Tours of professional cycling. The course of the race changes from year to year, often passing through neighboring countries, but traditionally finishes on the Champs-Elysees in Paris. The tour often starts in countries other than France to create more publicity.
The Tour de France was first run in 1903, and has been completed every year since, except for the war years 1915 - 1918 and 1940 - 1946.
The Tour de France is a stage race; that is, it consists of a series of one-day races over different routes, with the overall winner determined by the combined time from all events, with bonus and penalty times removed and added. The race is typically composed of 20 or 21 stages and a short prologue time trial, with some stages being flat and others being hugely mountainous. Most are mass start stages and a few are Time Trials, team or individual. The mountainous stages are where the larger time gaps are made.
Riders who compete in the Tour de France are members of corporate-sponsored teams of nine riders. These nine riders work together to help the team leader or other team members to increase their standing. Two teams competing in the 2013 Tour de France were based in the United States: BMC Racing and Garmin-Sharp
Riders in the Tour de France compete in several different competitions; the leader of each competition is awarded a jersey at the end of each stage race. The Yellow Jersey is awarded to the overall race leader. The Green Jersey is awarded to the leader of the points competition, in which points are awarded to riders winning a series of sprint races. The Polka-dot Jersey is awarded to the "King of the Mountains" leader, given to the rider who has the best record climbing designated hills and mountains in the race. The White Jersey is awarded to the "Best Young Rider", the rider under the age of 25 with the highest placement in the overall race standings.
Greg Lemond was the first American to win the Tour, in 1986. Lemond won again in 1989 and 1990. American Lance Armstrong won the race a record seven times from 1999 to 2005. While the French media often accused Armstrong of drug use, such claims were never supported by his drug test results, however, in 2012 Armstrong was stripped of all results and victories since 1998, and the 7 Tours he won now have no victor. The 2006 winner was another American, Floyd Landis, however his victory was contested due to a failed drug test following a stage victory. The controversy came after a number of riders, including race favorites Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich, were banned from competing in the race just a few days before it began due to allegations of drug use. Landis was eventually stripped of his title, and Spanish rider Oscar Pereiro became the 2006 winner. The most recent Tours have been won by Cadel Evans (2011), Bradley Wiggins (2012) and Chris Froome (2013). Other famous riders to have competed include Eddy Merckx, Alberto Contador and Adam Hansen.