This exciting and popular bicycle race is held in France every year, and today is Day 1 of the 2012 race.
Riders and teams from around the world will race for three weeks and will pedal 3,497 kilometers (more than 2,000 miles), including nine flat “stages” (day-long segments) and nine mountain stages. There will be only two days of rest, while being transported from the end of one stage to the beginning of another.
Hmm...pedaling your bicycle as fast as you can in the Alps or Pyrenees Mountains, and finishing a day's race at the summit of a mountain, sounds tough enough—to do it for three weeks sounds impossible! Yet people do it, and they love it, and they come back year after year.
This official website shows a map of the year's racecourse. The race will finish on July 22 in Paris, with riders traveling one of the most famous avenues in the world, the Champs-Elysees, to the Arc de Triomphe (Arch of Triumph).
Watch some of the race, if you can. NBC Sports has some race coverage in the U.S. and provides videos on its website.
Learn more about France. Kid Activities has a lot of ideas—including a Slowest-Bicycle-Wins “race” to honor the Tour de France.
Did you hear that Nik Wallenda crossed Niagara Falls two weeks ago (Friday, June 15) for the first time in history? Well, Wallenda's crossing was at the widest, wildest, wettest spot. This 1859 crossing (by a guy named Gravelet) was a lot tamer because it was higher up on the river. (But Gravelet later crossed the Falls on a tightrope while blindfolded, then while pushing a wheelbarrow, then on stilts, and then while carrying another man!!!)