June 25, 2024
Melinda Head

Pushing the Limits of Human Performance

The Tour de France Starts on Saturday

First established in 1903, the Tour de France is THE premier professional cycling event in the World. This year will mark its 111th edition, starting in Florence on June 29th, and ending (exceptionally) in Nice on July 21st. It’s actually a tour of Italy, Monaco and France.

As one might expect, the usual final trajectory of the race is Paris, but preparations for the Olympic and Paralympic Games have meant that the 2024 Tour will end in Nice, on the Cote d’Azur, with an individual time trial instead.

Riders will cycle 3,492 km (2,169.8 miles) with 52,000 meters of elevation gain, making it the longest of the 3 Grand Tours in 2024 (Giro d’Italia (3,317.5 km), Vuelta a Espana (3,265 km).

In Nice, the final leg of the race will be a time trial, which some say represents the essence of cycling. In a time trial, cyclists compete individually on a designated course, starting at regular intervals. Each rider's clock begins as he descends the start ramp and stops when he crosses the finish line. On the course, there's no shelter, no one to draft behind - just the rider’s mind and body, and his highly tuned aerodynamic equipment against the elements and the terrain.

The defending champion is Dane Jonas Vingegaard (27 years old, 5’9”, 132 lbs.) who won his second consecutive Tour de France title last year. Not bad for a man who worked at a fish factory to provide structure to his training regimen as an up-and-coming rider! Some people affectionately call him “Vingo” or “The Fisherman”. Perhaps surprisingly, he took his wife’s last name and now calls himself Jonas Vingegaard Hansen. He has a 4-year-old daughter.

Jonas Vingegaard with his wife (ex-team marketing manager) and daughter

In April Jonas spent 12 days in hospital after suffering broken ribs, a broken collarbone and a punctured lung during the Itzulia Basque Country race. Will his performance at this year’s Tour de France be affected?

Tour de France cyclists have a typical resting heart rate of 42 beats per minute (bpm) – 60-100 is normal. They have 5% body fat whereas the average man is in the range of 18-24%. A combination of more lean muscle and less body fat allows them to perform at the highest possible performance level for long stretches of time. Athletes who complete all 21 stages of the Tour de France will burn about 120,000 calories, though this depends on terrain, weather conditions and intensity of racing. Just how much is 120,000 calories?  It is the equivalent of 222 Big Macs, for example.

If you want to get in the Tour de France mood beforehand, Netflix has just released its second season of “Tour de France: Unchained”, produced by the same extremely talented folks behind “Formula One: Drive to Survive” (Box to Box Films). Both Season 1 and 2 are well worth watching, as is a Tour de France 2023 summary reel:

If you’re really enthusiastic and want to create your own fantasy Tour de France experience, you can register for free here and create your own team to manage throughout the event.

If you like smut, you may also want to check out “Icarus” (available on Netflix), an excellent documentary film (2017) about the doping scandal in cycling that shook up the sport. “The Armstrong Lie” (2013) is another good watch available on several streaming platforms:

How to Watch This Year’s Tour de France

Article: USA TODAY - 2024 Tour de France begins June 29 and includes historic firsts. Everything to know.

Article: flobikes.com - How To Watch The Tour de France 2024 In Canada

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About the Author

A serial entrepreneur, Melinda is a sociologist and statistician who believes there is no currency with greater value than knowledge

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