In the world of sports, the most grueling competitions don't always get the most attention. Especially in America, most sports fans focus on team sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer and hockey. Team sports deserve a lot of attention - the athletes work extremely hard. Few sports, though, are as demanding as cycling.
Tour de France: This weekend, the most famous bicycle race will begin in France. The Tour de France features nearly 200 of the world's greatest cyclists racing for about three weeks. The racecourse is about 2,000 miles long and winds its way throughout the entire country. Millions of fans will line the streets to cheer for their favorite riders. Although the course changes from year to year, it always ends in Paris, France's capital city.
Different landscapes: One of the most challenging features of the Tour de France is that it covers many different regions in France, which all have varying terrain. Some areas are flat, but some days the course winds through the mountains. The weather changes quite a bit throughout the race, some days can be very cold or very hot.
What makes it so hard?: If you ride your bike around town a lot, you know how tiring going up hills can be. And on a hot summer day, even riding on flat roads can take a lot out of you. Well, imagine going up and down huge mountains for three weeks straight in the middle of the summer! Over the years, various cyclists have said that completing the Tour de France is like running one marathon every week. Others have compared the mountain stages to riding up Mount Everest. In order to be a successful cyclist, you need great physical endurance and very strong legs.
Mental toughness: Another challenging feature of the Tour de France is staying positive. At times, cyclists are exhausted and hot. They want to give up. Their leg muscles feel like they're burning and a huge mountain looms ahead of them. They can't rest until they get to the top. How do they keep going? They have to find ways to keep themselves motivated. Winning the Tour de France isn't just about being physically strong, but being mentally strong as well. Competitors need to believe that they have the strength to complete the race. Most of all, they can't give up, no matter how tired they are.
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