Planning The Route Of The Tour De France The Tour de France is the most prestigious bicycle race in the

world, so it is e asy to imagine that the route has to be chosen very carefully. However, to lesse r degrees the routes of all cross-country races of all sorts must be chosen care fully as well with safety and exciting features in mind. The Tour de France is a long race, but every leg has to be concluded in approxim ately the same time - the hours of daylight basically - no matter what the obsta cles are. This means that not every stage can be of the same length as it would be in a stadium. Spectators, both at the event and those watching it on TV, expect to see some of the most beautiful scenery in France, whilst watching the best competitors in t he world trying to give their best under demanding conditions of heat and gradie nt. For the Tour de France is played out usually in the mountains. The Tour de France has been held for over 100 years and it has always been one o f the objectives of the route committee to plan a path that is roughly equally s trenuous as the previous races so that the athletes over the decades may be comp ared to a certain level. Of course, training regimens and the technology of the equipment have improved m uch and the cyclists are all professionals nowadays, whereas decades ago, many, if mot all would have been part-timers - amateurs. This makes meaningful compari sons over decades virtually meaningless. One of the factors to consider is the fact that there are different styles of cy clists. Some are excellent sprinters, some are power-climbers, some are marathon cyclists, so the route planners have to make sure that the course does not give one particular type of cyclist an unfair advantage. Access for rescue services is a further consideration, because one of the most w ell-liked features of the Tour de France is seeing the cyclists charging through a tiny, remote village that no outsiders have ever heard of. It is also a great pleasure for the villagers to find themselves on the path of the Tour de France - the highlight of decades. In fact, villages find it so appealing to be on the path, that there is a length y selection process, which is comparable to countries applying to hold the Olymp ic Games. The mayor or the village will have a proposition drawn up and people w ill be picked and trained to present it to the route planning committee. This is a problematic process and often involves big changes to a small village, After all, they will have to be able to provide food and maybe shelter for thou sands of visitors, which may be more than the total populace of the whole villag e itself. This may become even more of a difficultly if the village is chosen as a rest po in} for an overnight stay - what with the cyclists, the mechanics, the trainers, the doctors, the planners and thousands of spectators. Planning the route of the Tour de France is a difficult job and one for which th e route planners rarely receive the thanks that they deserve. Owen Jones, the author of this piece, writes on many subjects, but is currently concerned with <a href="http://2012londonolympicsvolunteers.com/london-olympic-d ates.html">London Olympic Dates</a>. Click this link if you are interested in th e <a href="http://2012londonolympicsvolunteers.com">2012 London Olympics Volunte ers</a>.