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Vive the grand Tour de France

by Bernard O'Shea

No sporting event showcases a nation’s beauty to greater extent than the Tour de France. The world’s biggest annual sporting event has an aura of its own, attracting legions of fans. Some love it for all the dramas of the race – the heroics, the falls, the joys and triumphs, the tears and disappointments; others because it’s a virtual three-week, 3400-plus km tour of the country, culminating in the traditional grande finale on the Champs-Élysées in Paris. For many people, though, the highlights are the gruelling stages up in France’s spectacular mountain ranges.

Normally the Tour de France is held in July in the summer sunshine, but for obvious reasons the 2020 tour had to be postponed until the French authorities felt it was safe enough. As France is now experiencing a severe second wave of COVID infections, fans can be grateful that this year’s tour, the 107th in the event’s history, saw the light of day, even if it was a more autumnal light. It finishes on September 20.

The boulevard of mostly broken dreams.

The route changes from year to year, and alternate between a clockwise and anti-clockwise direction. This year it started in Nice in the south-east corner of the country, next year it will begin in the north-west, in Brest in Brittany, on June 26. The event will finish in Paris on July 18, earlier than originally planned so as not to clash with the rescheduled Olympics in Tokyo starting on July 23, 2021.

Nice was the scene of the ‘Grand Depart’ in 2020.

You could be at the Tour de France in 2021

France’s national tourism development agency, Atout France, is holding a “Ticket to Ride” competition for Australians, offering a trip for two to Paris, including flights and accommodation, and a spot at the final stage of the race on the Champs-Élysées. You can enter here but you have to do so before midnight AEST on Wednesday,  September 30. The one lucky winner will be drawn on Friday, October 2, 2020.

Bonne chance! Good luck! TTW

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