Tour de France is set to kick off in … England?


A section of cobblestone road riders traversed in 2010. (Christophe Ena/EPA)

For bicycle enthusiasts, it’s the best time of year. Yes, the Tour de France has kicked off Saturday morning in England! Wait, what?

No, that’s not a typo. The first three of the 21 stages of the annual race that goes through July 27 will start and finish in England. This is the first time in seven years that the race, which takes place mostly in France, will hold stages across the English Channel. The Exeter Express and Echo writes:

The first stage will see the riders navigate a 190km route from Leeds to Harrogate. This is a stage that will excite the sprinters of the tour, who are battling it out for the green jersey. …

The second stage, which makes its way from York to Sheffield, is a stage more suited to the climbers.

The stage peaks at Holme Moss, which is one of the most iconic climbs in the UK, it has featured on most major cycle races since the 1950s. …

The third and final stage before the Tour returns to France will take place in the south of England, from Cambridge to London. This stage is another for the sprinters.

Britain’s part of hosting this tour will finish on the Mall, which is iconic for being the finish line of the London marathon.

Besides England, the Tour de France will also go through parts of Spain and Belgium, the latter of which will be the starting point for what many think might be the most dangerous section of the race — Stage 5. The section starts easily enough in Ypres, Belgium, but ends terrifyingly on a stretch of cobblestone roads in France that the Tour’s Sports Director Thierry Gouvenou calls a “battlefield.”

And he’s not joking. Wheel punctures, crashes and chaos are to be expected, at least if 2010′s cobblestone experience indicates anything. One rider, Frank Schleck, wiped out so hard on the cobbles that he was forced out of the Tour and ordered to get emergency shoulder surgery!

Hopefully, the cyclists are able to avoid that result this time around, but if you want to see for yourself, the stage airs on July 9.

Marissa Payne writes for The Early Lead, a fast-breaking sports blog, where she focuses on what she calls the “cultural anthropological” side of sports, aka “mostly the fun stuff.” She is also an avid WWE fan.
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