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The Tour de France is a bicycle race held every year where competitors bike through various parts of France to determine who is the victor. This event is a grueling competition where bikers average speeds near 25 miles per hour (40 kilometers per hour) and work their way through flat land areas as well as through steep mountain passages and climbs. Set in a variety of stages, the bikers cover roughly 2,125 miles (3,500 kilometers) over a 23-day period.
Over the history of the Tour de France only two non-Europeans have ever stood in the victor's circle--Greg LeMond in 1986, 1989, and 1990, and Lance Armstrong, who has won the past six races (1999-2004). These men, both Americans, have brought a great deal of pride and interest to the cycling community in the United States. Armstrong in particular presents a compelling figure. Diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1996, a cancer that spread to much of his body--including his brain, Armstrong was given a fifty percent chance of survival. Through radiation and chemotherapy, Armstrong rid his body of the disease and went on to win his first Tour de France in 1999, riding as a member of the United States Post Office team.
Armstrong's six consecutive wins in the event broke the record held by Spaniard Miquel Indurain, who had posted five Tour de France wins. During the 1999-2003 stretch, Germany's Jan Ullrich played the role of the bridesmaid as he finished second to Lance Armstrong each year. 2004 found Ullrich, one of Armstrong's most admired foes, bringing home a fourth place finish.
The Tour de France itself takes competitors and spectators alike through some of France's most beautiful and historic areas. The race usually has six to eight of its 21 stages through scenic, yet difficult, mountain terrain in the Alps and Pyrennes. The Tour de France is typically held ini July and concluds in Paris, the city of lights. For individuals and cycling enthusiasts who would like to experience the beauty of France and the excitement of biking assorted stages of the Tour, Tour de France cycling vacations have become a popular destination.
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