Nicknamed La Grande Boucle, often shortened to just Le Tour, the Tour de France is the world's greatest bike race and biggest annual sporting event.
The Tour de France was founded in 1903 as a publicity vehicle for the newspaper l'Auto and is now owned by the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) which also owns l'Auto's descendent, French sports newspaper l'Equipe and promotes numerous other bike races including the Paris-Roubaix one-day classic and the Vuelta a Espana (Tour of Spain).
Over 23 days in July, the Tour comprises 21 days of racing — known as stages — and two rest days that give the riders a chance to recover. The terrain that stages traverse varies from relatively flat to the high mountains of the Alps and Pyrenees.
Most stages are 'mass-start' with the whole race starting together, and there are usually one or two time trial stages in which riders race against the clock, either individually or as a team.