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Tour de France

The Tour de France (French pronunciation: [tuʁ də fʁɑ̃s]) is an annual bicycle race held in France and nearby countries. First staged in 1903, the race covers more than 3,600 kilometres (2,200 mi) and lasts three weeks. As the best known and most prestigious of cycling's three "Grand Tours", the Tour de France attracts riders and teams from around the world. The race is broken into day-long segments, called stages. Individual times to finish each stage are aggregated to determine the overall winner at the end of the race. The rider with the lowest aggregate time at the end of each day wears the leader's yellow jersey on the next day of racing. The course changes every year, but the race has always finished in Paris. Since 1975, the climax of the final stage has been along the Champs-Élysées

Spain's stars insist team comes first

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 August, 2008, 12:00am

Country will come first for the all-star Spanish road race team at the Olympic Games despite the presence of five strong individual members.

Spearheaded by newly crowned 2008 Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre and 2008 Giro champion Albert Contador, the squad also includes Samuel Sanchez, Alejandro Valverde and Oscar Freire. Only nine countries qualified with a full quota for the 250km road race - and Hong Kong only has one entry, Wu Kin-san.

'Any one of the five of us could win a medal, but at the Olympic Games we are representing our country first and so the most important thing is that one of us wins for our country,' said Sanchez. 'I always believe cycling is a team sport.'

Sanchez, who came seventh in last month's Tour de France, refused to say whether his country could control the race.

'For many of us, it is the last time we will compete in the Olympic Games, so we will approach it with more intensity and more emotion,' he said.

Valverde, the reigning Spanish road race champion, said Italy and Germany were the teams they feared most.

'It is true we are one of the top teams in the race, but this is a different kind of race. It's the Olympic Games, so it is completely different from other types of racing,' he said.

The 28-year-old, who also won this year's Liege-Bastogne-Liege race, was concerned with the adverse conditions in Beijing.

'When we got off the plane, we immediately noticed the pollution,' said Valverde.

'Now we are a bit used to it, but the first impression was that it was very hot and humid.'

Valverde said they had yet to see the course. 'From what I have heard, it is going to be quite challenging. Also because of the conditions of the heat, humidity and pollution, it is going to be very demanding,' he said.

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