The greatest sporting event in the world…

4 Jul

Today sees the start of one of the most physically enduring, mentally testing sporting events the world has to offer.

The 96th Tour De France covers an incredible 3455km over the course of 23 days, consisting of 21 stages, with 10 flat stages, seven mountain stages, one medium-mountain stage, two individual time-trial stages, and one team time-trial stage.

The epic, gruelling race gets underway in Monaco, and reaches its climax in Paris.

There are several key battles in the prestigious race, and these are symbolised by coloured jerseys.

The yellow jersey, also known as the Maillot Juane, is for the race leader.

The green jersey, the Maillot Vert, is for the best sprinter, with Britain’s very own Mark Cavendish staking a serious claim for this.

A polka dot jersey will be worn by the king of the mountains, the Maillot a Pois Rouge, and the white Maillot Blanc is for the best rider under the age of 25.

The riders are amongst the fittest athletes in the world, burning a staggering 7000 calories a day, and getting the balance between intake and output is key to completing the full race.

This year race is special for a number of reasons, however the most exciting component being the return of cycling legend, and inspiration to so many, Lance Armstrong.

Having retired from professional cycling four years ago, cycling fans will be rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of seeing the heroic Armstrong back on the bike.

Lance Armstrong has won the Tour de France seven times, more than any other competitior. Lance won these Tours in consecutive years, and considering the battles and challenges he fought just to stay alive, his success on the bike is all that bit more special.

In October 1996, Lance was diagnosed with testicular cancer, which then spread to his abdomen, lungs and his brain. He was given just a one-in-five chance of survival, at best.

The likeness between the Tour and cancer was uncanny for Lance, having to remain mentally strong at all times, and overcome a huge physical battle you could only begin to imagine.

Bout after bout of chemotherapy swept across Lance’s cancer-ridden body, cleaning up the various sites where cancer had settled.

Lance used the bike as means of escape, having been beaten by his step-father as a child; he would cycle for miles at a time, just to get away.

He continued to cycle throughout his therapy, despite his doctors warning him against pushing himself too hard. Lance learned to love his bike, before it was a means-to-an-end, a way of making money because he was good at it; now, he needed his bike.

Finally in late 1998, he got the all-clear, and just a year later, was celebrating his first Tour de France success, the first of seven.

Before the cancer, Lance was a stocky well-built cyclist, after his strenuous treatment he was just a frail frame of skin and bones, he had to start again from scratch.

Lance Armstrong is an inspiration to millions, he fought the dreaded disease so many of us face, and came out strong, going on to achieve unprecedented levels of success.

He has documented his story to the world, showing those who suffer that there is light at the end of the tunnel. He has also raised millions of dollars which has been used to aid research and try and combat the deadly disease.

As the Lance Armstrong Foundation states, “Unity is strength, knowledge is power and attitude is everything” and Lance is a shining example of this, and what can be achieved when you truly set your sights on it.

My greatest respect goes to Lance Armstrong, my idol both in the sporting world, and out of it.

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