Vive La Tour de France
The Tour de France is the world's oldest and best-known bumpy road for cyclists. First run in 1904, the race takes place in France every year and covers a distance of some 3,200 kilometers.
Up to 100 professional bike jockeys will line up at the start, and push off. Although of course, they don't all finish. In 1919, only ten of the 69 entrants made it to the finish line, the smallest conclusion ever. And all for the honor of wearing the traditional yellow jersey, the visual sign of who is leading the pack in time. While that lead may change hands during the run, it has been worn by as many as eight different riders in 1987's event. Eddie Merckx managed to hang onto it for a total of 96 days over the seven Tours that he rode in. Joop Zoeternelk holds the record for most trips from start to finish, with 16 Tours to his credit, beginning in 1970 and running till 1986.
The logistics of the race itself, not to mention all the associated events and duties, is mind-boggling. An average event involves 60 permanent employees and 200 temps, up to 9,000 police personnel and 3,000 regular gendarmes, 3,000 government officials, 1500 vehicles and more than a dozen medical personnel.
Is it a popular sport? You bet! In 2005, some 15,000,000 spectators lined the route at different points to watch the race, live. And on broadcast, it garnered an unbelievable two billion viewers.