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Tour de France 101: How long is the race?

By Staff writer, Corresponent / July 5, 2011



This year’s Tour de France is 130 miles shorter than last year, but one of its stages has the highest finish line in course history.

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At 2,131 miles, it’s roughly as long as the route between New York and Salt Lake City. That would take 34 hours to drive – without any of the Tour's hairpin turns or hills so steep you have to throw a sputtering car into second gear.

Each stage, or day of racing, ranges from 14 to 140 miles. The Tour route changes every year, though certain iconic towns are frequent choices. It also changes direction each year: One year it goes clockwise around France, the next year counterclockise – but always finishing in Paris.

This year, the Tour starts at the Passage du Gois on France's western coast and generally follows the coastline north to Lisieux before turning inland for a long, counterclockwise trek that leads through the Pyrénées, Alps, and finally Paris (see map). There are 15 new stage towns.

The 21 stages offer a little of everything, but the mountain stages really separate the best from the pack, known as a peloton.

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