TheGrand Tours are known for their infamously hard climbs, breathtaking battles to the top and impressive feats of athleticism. We’re taking a look at the 3 cycling Grand Tours which dominate our cycling calendars over the summer.
The cycling Grand Tours are the three major European cycling races which take place between May and September each year. All three Grand Tours are three-week races with daily stages for professional cyclists to tackle. The three tours are famous for their gruelling climbs, tests of endurance, and feats of power.
The three Grand Tours are the:
Tour de France
Vuelta a España
Tour de France
The Tour de France is one of the Grand Tours which is held primarily in France, and takes place during July, annually.
The Tour de Francewas first held in 1903, making it the oldest of the 3 cycling Grand Tours. The race consists of 21 stages, each a day long, and the route of these stages primarily takes place in France. Around 20 teams take place with a number of riders each, and each rider is timed on each day.
Whilst this cycling Grand Tour is a men-only race, there have been many versions of the race for women over the years. The 'Tour de France Femmes' was held for the first time in 2022, allowing female riders to compete in their own version of the iconic race.
Iconic climbs of the Tour de Franceinclude the infamous Alpe d’Huez climb. With its seemingly endless hairpin bends in an upwards gruelling challenge, this stage is usually vital in determining the winner of the cycling Grand Tour.
The rider with the lowest accumulative time during the Touris the current leader and wears the famous yellow jersey.
There are 4 riders who have won this cycling Grand Tour the most times. Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, and Miguel Indurain have each taken the title 5 times.
In 2012, Bradley Wiggins became the first Brit to win this prestigious cycling Grand Tour.
Kenyan-British cyclist Chris Froome has won the Tour four times (2013, 2015, 2016, 2017).
Welsh Geraint Thomas won the Tour in 2018.
The Giro D’Italia Grand Tour takes place in Italy primarily, and is usually held in May or early June.
The Giro D’Italiawas first held in 1909 and welcomes cyclists from all over the world. This cycling Grand Tour primarily takes place in Italy, although the route often dips in and out of its neighbouring countries. As with the other cycling Grand Tours, the Giro consists of 21 stages with each stage taking place over a number of days.
There are a number of types of stages that are used in the Giro: the mass-start stages, individual time trials, and team time trials. As with the Tour de France, there are iconic climbs of the Giro D’Italiawhich push the cyclists to their limits, including those through the Alps and Dolomites.
3 riders have the most Giro wins: Eddy Merckx, Alfredo Binda, Fausto Coppi each have 5 Giro wins to their names.
British-Kenyan rider Chris Froome won in 2018 riding for Team Sky.
Tao Geoghegan Hart won in 2020, riding for the INEOS Grenadiers.
As with the Tour de France the cyclist with the shortest aggregate time is the leader, and begins the following stage wearing a pink jersey (or la maglia rosa). Within the Giro, there are other competitions taking place - with the ability to win the mountain, points, young rider, or team classifications.
Vuelta a España
The Vuelta a España is the Grand Tour held primarily in Spain, which usually takes place over August and September annually.
La Vuelta a Españawas first held in 1935. The Vuelta primarily takes place in Spain, but as with the other cycling Grand Tours, often visits other European countries. The Vuelta welcomes riders from all over the world to compete in two time trials, passage through the mountain chain of the Pyrenees, and cross the finish line in Madrid.
There are multiple mountain stages for each year of the Spanish Grand Tour, which in the past have included:
Lagos de Covadonga
Les Praeres de Nava
Puerto de San Lorenzo
As with the other cycling Grand Tours, the rider with the lowest time at each stage of the ride will be the leader, donned in the red jersey. Whilst there are also winners of different classifications, which each wear different jerseys: points, mountains, combination, and team classifications.
Roberto Heras holds the record of most Vuelta victories, with four.
Alberto Contador, Tony Rominger and Primož Roglič have each won three times.
British-Kenyan Chris Froome won the general classification in 2011 after Juan José Cobo was found guilty of doping by the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale). Froome also won in 2017, taking the points and combination classification in the same year.
In 2018, British cyclist Simon Yates won the Vuelta, also taking the combination classification in the same year.
Ride the Grand Tour Stages Virtually with Wattbike
Complete the Tour de France stages with Alex Dowsettto get a proper taste of the tour. This tempting tasting menu will get the job done in eight stages, each under 45 minutes, charting the heady heights and peak pressure moments that make for a complete Tour de France experience.
Connect to the Zwift cycling appand pedal yourself through virtual races from the cycling Grand Tours. You can even compete with friends along the iconic routes with visually spectacular recreations of real-world locations.
Not only that, but the app offers the chance to enter the Zwift Racing League, which involves teams competing in virtual events on smart bikes or turbo trainers.