The Tour de France cycle race sets off on Saturday June 29, 2013 – passing two notable milestones.
This year’s Tour de France is the 100th race and the one to win to forever go down in the record books for the current crop of riders.
And a fact for pub quizzes is this year’s race is the first to start off mainland France – in Porto Vecchio, Corsica.
The island is buzzing as a media frenzy builds around the teams of expectant riders.
Last year’s winner and Olympic gold medallist Sir Bradley Wiggins has pulled out for health reasons – but that still leaves plenty of British Olympic cycling talent ready to roll from the starting line.
Chris Froome is the main British hope in the race.
He took the Olympic time-trial bronze behind gold medallist Wiggins at last summer’s London games.
This year, he has had a blazing season with Team Sky alongside other Olympic winners like Mark Cavendish.
He is hotly tipped as a favourite to take the coveted yellow jersey and the crown as the centennial Tour de France winner when the race finishes in the plush Paris Champs d’Elysee on July 21.
Froome is fresh from Team Sky’s second first and second place pairing in the Criterium du Dauphine earlier this month. Froome grabbed the top spot followed by team mate Richie.
Another British gold medallist will try to aid Froome to win.
Pursuiter Geraint Thomas has a turn of speed that makes him a great pace maker. Although he is willing to play second fiddle in the Sky team to Froome this year, he wants to make his name as a Tour de France champion in the future.
“I want to have a go, but I am way off yet,” said Thomas. “I have my eye of several week long races next year and hope to build up my stamina gradually for the more gruelling long distances.”
From Corsica, the racers will cross to the Cote d’Azur and work their way around France. The Tour de France takes in six key mountain stages this year that promise to sort the champions from the rest.
The race is contested by 198 riders making up 22 teams.
The race around the Corsican coast will be followed closely by the media and officials aboard a ferry ship cruising close inland.