So here we are. In less than 24 hours, the most important race in cycling will roll from Porto Vecchio with eyes on Paris. Almost four hundred eyes will fix similarly, with flashes of yellow, green, polka dots, or solo flyers for epic stage wins filling their dreams tonight—that is, if they can find a way shut for some much needed sleep. This is the Tour de France. No one rides the Tour de France for training. Le Grande Boucle sits atop almost any aspiring cyclist’s wish list. It is cycling.
The gateway drug for any fan of bike racing, this race stops the world in its tracks and captures its attention. Not just the pinnacle of cycling, the Tour de France sits upon a high pedestal for all sport. This year is particularly important, being the 100th edition of the race. But what makes le Tour so special? Why has it transcended cycling into the sports mainstream? There are harder, longer, tougher races. There are races that punish, humble, or even crush the strongest riders on earth more than the Tour. Why exactly is the Tour so special?