Why the Tour de France Is the Toughest Bicycle Race in the World

In 1903, to help boost sales of the sports magazine L’Auto, editor Henri Desgrange organized a bicycle race that became the Tour de France.

Year after year, even in its early iterations, the Tour was looking for stunts to make the race more challenging, going so far as to add one portion, the Tourmalet, that, in the year it was added to the course, couldn’t even be safely crossed by car. But it’s the flat and mountainous stages in combination that make the Tour the most difficult bike race in the world.

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This 21-stage race, occurring over 23 days, must be won strategically.The formations used by the riders in the flat sections are what allow them to sustain enough endurance to climb the mountainous parts. In this video, Vox explains the importance of the Peloton, where cyclists engage in “drafting,” a formation that minimizes wind resistance and allows riders to shore up the energy of their best riders to spend later.

This year’s tour, which is being called the “Highest Tour In History,” will finish this Sunday on July 28 in Paris. But first, the current frontrunner, French cyclist Julian Alaphilippe, will have to take on the Alps. Time to see how well his formation holds.