The Hard
Way

The toughest race in the world, the tour of suffering, the big loop: Now that’s the Tour de France

This – the largest cycling event in the world – is a true test of team spirit, the will to win, and absolute perfection. It is a platform for the best to compete, where first-rate athletes deliver superlative performances and legends are born.

A spectacular arrival in Paris

The “tour d’honneur” is a truly unforgettable moment for athletes and spectators alike. As the peloton – la pelote is a French word meaning “platoon” – takes its lap of honor on the final day of the Tour, culminating in a spectacular finish along the Champs Elysées in Paris, there couldn’t be a more fitting reward after several grueling weeks of competition. This is where the endless cheers of hundreds of thousands of spectators, the exertion and strain, liberation, dedication and fascination reach their climax every year.

On the podium

As official partner of the event, the familiar yellow of Continental shone beneath Paris’ Arc de Triomphe in 2018, surpassed only by the yellow jersey of overall winner Geraint Thomas from Wales. Cruising over the finish line on high-tech Continental tires, this year’s champion can also count has two Olympic victories under his belt along with three world titles in the team pursuit. Back in 2013, and again between 2015 and 2017, it was yet another athlete supported by Continental – British cyclist Chris Froome – who took the top spot on the podium. A taste of victory builds an appetite for more, which is why Continental will be continuing its involvement in the sport over the coming years as the official partner of the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España.

For years I just kept working hard, waiting for things to happen, and all that work has paid off now.

Geraint Thomas, winner of the Tour de France 2018
The Tour de France 2018 champions from left to right: Winner of the young rider classification, Pierre Latour (France), overall winner Geraint Thomas in the yellow jersey, King of the Mountains Julian Alaphilippe in the polka-dot jersey (France) and the best sprinter, Peter Sagan (Slovakia), in the green jersey.

Mr. Brindley, you were there to see the peloton ride down the Champs Elysées to the finish line after taking part in the Continental competition. What was that like?

Mr. Brindley: I couldn’t believe I’d won the competition and at first, I honestly thought I’d received the email by mistake. I was so lucky that Continental took care of everything so all I had to do was get to the airport. When we arrived at the hospitality area we were made to feel like VIP’s – we had undoubtedly the best view of the finish line. Watching the advertising caravan was good fun and seeing the riders pass so close to us was amazing. A great race and brilliant company.

 

From the home trainer to the Champs-Élysées: Juhani from Finland and Aaron from Great Britain were the lucky winners of the Grand Prize in the Ride-to-Win Challenge from Continental Magazine, @ContiBicycleTires and @GoZwift.

Are you a cyclist yourself?

I personally try to ride 2 or 3 times a week either outdoors or on the turbo trainer and I like to switch between mountain and road bike. I’m lucky enough to live near some great trails and I’ve recently started entering more sportive.

Do you use Continental tires?

I’ve switched to Continental’s 28mm Grand Prix 4000s on my new wheels and I’m really enjoying how fast they feel with a bit more comfort.

Who do you think will be on the podium in 2019?

I will miss being on the finish line with Continental next summer as I had such a great weekend. Next year as always it will be difficult to stop Team Sky, however I’d love to see one of the Yates brothers win as they were so exciting to watch this year.
 

 

 

 

For us as cyclists, there’s no doubt that Continental tires are the best in the world for all requirements and weather conditions.

 

Servais Knaven, Sport Director Team SKY
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The winners – seven Tour riders from Team Sky from left to right: Spain’s Jonathan Castroviejo, Britain’s Luke Rowe, Tour de France winner Britain’s Geraint Thomas, Britain’s Chris Froome, the Netherlands’ Wout Poels, Colombia’s Egan Arley Bernal Gomez and Poland’s Michał Kwiatkowski.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

There may only be a few spots available on the podium, but cycling is a team sport. This is illustrated perfectly by the exceptional performance of Team Sky under the leadership of general manager David Brailsford – all on Continental tires. The team has worked relentlessly to support its two top riders, Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome, over almost three-and-a-half-thousand kilometers and ultimately ensure the success of the entire team. What’s more, six of the top ten riders from this year’s Tour de France placed their trust in the expertise behind the German tires: in addition to Thomas and Froome, riders from other teams included Romain Bardet (France) for AG2R La Mondiale in 6th place, Mikel Landa (Spain) for Movistar in 7th, Ilnur Zakarin (Russia) for Katusha Alpecin in 9th and Nairo Quintana (Colombia) for Movistar in 10th.

 

Only the best material
is good enough

Over the course of the three-week Tour, the professional cyclists spend over 80 hours in the saddle as they punish themselves through wild sprints, dogged pursuits and bold breakaways. And that’s not forgetting the torturous weather conditions of extreme heat, rain and storms or the various surfaces that they have to contend with such as the notoriously jarring “pavés” cobblestones on the way into Roubaix. Then, of course, there are the grueling climbs up endless inclines, the thin air up in the Col du Tourmalet, breakneck descents, the lonely race against the clock in time trials and the monotony of the “Hell of the North.” There’s no doubt about it: Cycling and the constant risk of falling it brings represent the ultimate challenge. But it’s not just the riders who need to push themselves to their limits – the materials, too, are expected to contend with the harshest of conditions. That is why the tires are subject to intensive material testing and meticulous research to ensure they are perfect for the job: In fact, seven of the 22 World Tour teams chose Continental racing tires in the “Competition Pro LTD” series this year.

The “black gold” from Korbach

The special racing tires from the Continental plant in Korbach, Hesse, are painstakingly manufactured by hand.

Black Chili compound

More grip and service life with less rolling resistance: Tires with the revolutionary Black Chili tread compound achieve an unprecedented level of performance. They combine new, synthetic rubbers with natural rubber to form exceptionally refined, high-performance tread compounds. Tiny amounts of optimized carbon black particles are then added to these mixtures to suit each respective tire perfectly.

Traditionally progressive

The bicycle tire manufacturing industry began in Germany with Continental: The first air-filled models – or pneumatics, as they were known back then – were manufactured in 1892, even before the first car tires.

Vectran™ Breaker

Puncture protection redefined: Vectran is a synthetically manufactured, high-tech fiber inspired by the natural wonder of spider silk. It is spun from a molten liquid-crystal polymer before being processed into a multi-strand fiber. Vectran is incredibly tear-resistant and extremely light, making it the ideal choice for a puncture resistance breaker.

 

Even the support team needs to finish safely

Over 4,000 people made up the support team accompanying the 2018 Tour, from the organizers through to the media representatives. All official vehicles of the Tour de France – used by race directors, doctors, timekeepers and service professionals – are fitted with an exclusive edition of the latest car tire model – the PremiumContact 6. Safety is always the utmost priority for Continental, which is why the company’s “Vision Zero” strategy is also the declared objective for the Tour de France in a bid to ensure no more accidents or road deaths.

 
 

The champions of the next generation

The next generation of Tour competitors is already taking their places in the starting line-up in active preparation to compete at the highest level: Each year, these talented young cyclists are invited to ride ahead of the peloton in the Tour de France as the official “Cadets Juniors du Tour.” The young riders compete under the same conditions as the professional teams for a taste of the real racing atmosphere: Two hours before the main event, they make their way to the starting line to ride the first and last 30 km of each stage, enjoying the cheers of the crowds as they cross the finish line. They can then take their seats in the booth to watch as the pros arrive. Unlike the actual Tour de France, the young riders are not timed or ranked because the focus is on familiarizing themselves with the unique nature of the Tour. And who knows? The youngsters may well be cheering on the professionals now, but some of them may just end up sharing the podium with them in the not-too-distant future. As the official partner of the Tour de France, Continental is delighted to support the next generation of cycling talent.

 

A Tour with tales to tell

1. Back in the 1920s, the cyclists would smoke heavily during the race because it was believed that this would open up their lungs ahead of steep inclines. Fast-forward to the 1960s and many of the participants would consume alcohol throughout the event to alleviate the pain in their legs. 

2. A total of 44,400 vertical meters were climbed in 2018, which equates to around five times the height of Mount Everest.

3. This year’s winner of the 9th stage to Roubaix generated a total of 313 watts along the way, which is enough to charge around 150 smartphones.

4. An average of 10 liters of liquid (water and electrolyte drinks) are consumed over each stage, with this figure potentially doubling depending on the climate and altitude.

5. Empty drinks bottles thrown away by the riders are collected and highly prized by fans of the Tour. But not all bottles are found, which is why many teams have already switched to bottles made of 100% biodegradable materials.

6. The entire peloton goes through around 800 tires over the course of the Tour.

7. The closest finish of the Tour de France was back in 1989, when Greg LeMond beat Laurent Fignon by just 8 seconds. After a total of more than 3,200 kilometers over the entire Tour, this winning margin was just 82 meters.

8. The average speed of the Tour has risen from 25.67 km/h in 1903 to around 40 km/h today.

9. Even on rest days, most athletes spend several hours on their bikes to avoid lactic acid buildup in their muscles.

10. Riders burn over 120,000 calories in total in the saddle, equivalent to around 12 Big Macs a day.

11. Until 1937, riders in the Tour de France did not have the luxury of gear-changing mechanisms and had to stop to change gears manually when climbing up hill and riding back down.

12. The winner of the first Tour after the Second World War in 1947 was the Frenchman Jean Robic, who was very short in stature. To compensate for his weight disadvantage, he would fill his water bottles with lead for the descents. After being banned from using solid materials in this way, he filled the bottles with mercury instead. 


13. The longest Tour took place in 1926. The riders covered a total of 5,745 kilometers over 17 days, which corresponded to an average daily cycle of 338 kilometers.

14. Four riders have won the Tour five times: Jacques Anquetil (France), Eddy Merckx (Belgium), Bernard Hinault (France) and Miguel Indurain (Spain).

15. One of the most spectacular victories of all time was achieved by Eddy Merckx in 1969, when he won the general classification, the mountains classification, the points classification and the combativity award for being the most aggressive rider.

A glance at the cycling calendar reveals that the next race is just around the corner. The springtime favorites will be starting in April 2019 with the Flanders Tour, Paris–Roubaix, La Flèche Wallonne and Liège–Bastogne–Liège. These will then be followed by the legendary Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España, where we are sure to see many of the Tour de France champions back in the saddle once again on Continental tires.