By: Michael Lander
For several weeks, every summer, the world gets an opportunity to witness some true athleticism and some incredible feats of human endurance and perseverance.
While traveling along a route that spans approximately 2,200 miles, (3,664 kilometers), over mountains, through cities, towns and rural areas, some of the best in the world gather together to compete in a sport that is unlike anything else in the world. It is the premier and renowned cycling event known as the Tour de France.
This year, the tour is hosting its 101st race, consisting of 21 stages with 22 teams, each one comprised of nine members, for a total of 219 cyclists who started on July 5, but which will have even fewer who will ultimately finish when the tour ends on July 27.
For those who love the sport, and are truly passionate about cycling, the tour is a must-see event that they look forward to each year. Part of the obvious thrill for most is watching the strategy and jockeying for position, coupled with sprints to the finish line, but there is so much more that can easily draw someone in. This is especially true for those who ride a bike themselves.
More than anyone else, cyclists have a much greater understanding and a much deeper admiration and respect for those who participate in events like the Tour de France. For some, the tour gives them a chance to live vicariously, and to imagine, if just for a moment, that they are actually one of the cyclists in one of the greatest of all races.
At another, more surreal level, this cycling event, and others like it, can also be seen and appreciated as if it were a form of art. With a synchronicity of motion, the uniformity of movement with the cyclists leaning and turning as if there one, and with a gracefulness by which the bicycles seem to glide on the surface of the road, it can almost feel as if it is a moving canvas of color and motion laid out before us.
Even though very few people will ever earn the distinction of being able to get to the level at which they can participate in an event like the Tour de France, it does offer something for the rest of us none-the-less. Not only can we be entertained by what we see, but it can serve as an inspiration and show us what any of us are capable of achieving through hard work, training, stamina, and a single-minded focus to succeed.
When the race is done, and the yellow jersey is awarded to the winner, and other jerseys are given to other classification winners, we not only find who the best is in the world of cycling, but we have moment in time when we can admire those who can do the seemingly impossible.
It is, however, not just a triumph for them, but for all of us since it demonstrates that, in spite of great adversity, we too may be able to overcome the overwhelming challenges that we face in our very own lives. With that, the tour also does more for cycling than just about anything else does by promoting it and giving it a stage that might otherwise go unnoticed by those who have yet to discover the greatness that it has yet to offer them.
To learn more about the Tour de France, watch CNN's Patrick Snell video on everything that you need to know to understand the tour and click on the following link for additional background information on it - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tour_de_France.