Google is making it easier for cycling fans to follow this year's 100th Tour de France from afar by tracking the event online via a special Google+ page, a YouTube site and an interactive site that includes Google Maps and Street View images.
The 100th running of the Tour de France, one of the most prestigious bicycle racing events in the world, began June 29 and continues through Sunday July 21, when the cyclists complete the event in Paris after covering some 2,115 miles after 21 stages.
The Tour de France Google+ page features daily updates on the race and the riders, with insights into the happenings behind the scenes and on the road as the pack travels over the road course. The Google+ page had more than 500,360 followers by the afternoon of July 8.
Also featured on the page is a special YouTube site, where viewers can catch the latest updates and reports and video about the race. A free Android app is also available in the Google Play Store to keep fans up to date on the race around the clock.
Perhaps the coolest feature of Google's coverage of the Tour de France is the special "Your Tour" interactive page that lets visitors go to and explore the race course via Google Maps and Street View images. Visitors can use the on-screen controls to scroll through the countryside along the course and follow the main stages of the race course on a map. Several "Easter Egg" stages are also included that highlight famous past moments in Tour de France history from 1903, 1954 and 1964. (See the first three "stages" on the interactive site for these historic Easter eggs).
Viewers can click on the stages of the tour to get maps of the day's ride, along with an illustration about the elevations of the course that day and the ride length.
The 2013 edition of the race began on June 29 with Stage 1, which was won by Marcel Kittel of Germany. The first stage was a 132-mile stage in Corsica, a French island in the Mediterranean Sea. It was the first time that the Tour de France has ever been held in Corsica, according to organizers.
Stage 9 was completed July 7 in the Pyrenees Mountains in France, where Ireland's Dan Brown won the stage, according to a report from The (London) Telegraph. After the first nine stages of the Tour, Christopher Froome of Great Britain leads the overall race and wears the yellow jersey, which is worn each day by the overall race leader.
After several days of rest for the riders, the next stage begins on July 10 as the field races in a 20-mile time trial, or sprint, event from Avranches to Mont Saint-Michel in France.
This year's Tour de France is a different event since Lance Armstrong, the American seven-time winner of the event, was stripped of his seven consecutive victories in October 2012 in connection with doping allegations. The Armstrong case, and the doping allegations that chased him for years, put a pall over the sport even as the investigations into his conduct were under way in past years. Armstrong won the Tour de France seven years in a row, from 1999 through 2005, until the wins were expunged.
Armstrong isn't out of the headlines, however.
The disgraced Armstrong will now participate in an annual recreational bicycle ride across Iowa on July 21, which also happens to be the day when the Tour de France is completed, according to a story by The (London) Independent.
"It marks Armstrong's first official cycling engagement—not to mention his first major public appearance—since he admitted using several banned substances and blood doping during his professional career, in a widely watched television interview with Oprah Winfrey in January," the paper reported.
The Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, or RAGBRAI, race is sponsored and organized by The Des Moines Register newspaper. As many as 10,000 riders are expected to take part in the weeklong, 406-mile trek from the banks of the Missouri River in the West to the Mississippi, according to The Independent. "Armstrong was banned from professional cycling for life in October 2012, following a report by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency which accused him of leading 'the most sophisticated, professional and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.'"