By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In answer to the Tour de France, the Tour do Rio gets underway today (Wednesday, August 28th) for its fourth annual event. The bicycle race, which will see over hundred entrants traverse across the state of Rio as they cover over 800km (almost 500 miles) of mountainous track over four days.
The course is divided into five stages, passing over twenty cities and will begin and end here in the city of Rio itself, as cyclists chase the R$180,000 prize money.
The first stage sees contestants cycle from Barra da Tijuca in Rio down the Coast Verde (Green Coast) to Angra dos Reis, passing Itaguaí and Mangaratiba on the way. On Thursday, August 29th the tour goes to Volta Redonda, Valença and Levy Gasparian before finishing in Três Rios.
The athletes will move from Angra dos Reis to Volta Redonda in official team cars and the transit is not part of the competition. The third and fourth stages, over Friday and Saturday, will be the most arduous.
Friday, August 30th sees the climb go further into the state’s mountains as the tour reaches Itaipava, Petrópolis and Teresópolis. Meanwhile, Saturday’s fourth stage is the race’s longest day as cyclists need to cover 196.3km as they cover the descent from Teresópolis and pass Guadpimirim, Cachoeria de Macau, Casemiro de Abreu and Rio das Ostras.
Then Sunday’s final stretch will bring the tour back to the Cidade Maravilhosa through São Pedro da Aldeia, Rio Bonito, Niterói, across the Niterói-Rio bridge and back into the city, finishing in Quinta da Boa Vista. There are also various “moutaineer awards” across the five stages for the first cyclist to reach a marked “steep climb”, as well as bonus sprints for fastest speed before or after a climb. Each “bonus sprint” point is also marked by an adhesive sign on the road.
Winners of bonus points will get a few seconds discounted from their total and color coded vests for bonus winners to wear. The first to cross a bonus sprint sign will be awarded with a green jersey.
Over a hundred cyclists are expected to enter the event across nineteen teams; ten Brazilian and nine international. Teams from Argentina, Portugal, Ecuador, France, Italy, U.S., South Africa and Colombia have all come to Rio to compete. To encourage more youngsters to join, there is also a youth category for those under 23 years old.
As the competition grows in South America one of the aims is to promote bicycle riding as not only a healthy pastime but an alternative method of transport. According to the organization, “One of Tour do Rio’s missions is to spread bicycle culture and promote the largest bicycle culture in Latin America.”
Brazilians are already looking forward to the event with over 10,000 likes on the tour’s Facebook page. Many users plan to go to Boa Vista to cheer for the cyclists, such as Noé Class, who posted “I will attend the finishing. Last year it was a great show!”
The Brazilian entrants will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of last year’s winner, the competition’s first Brazilian champion at the third time of asking. Kleber Ramos, from the Real Cycling Team, collected the yellow shirt given to the victor, closely followed by his teammate Alex Correia. The first event in 2010 was won by U.S. rider Christopher Jones and 2011 saw Colombian Juan Suarez don the yellow jersey.
In comparison, the Tour de France, the most famous bicycle race, has 21 stages over 23 days and covers around 3,200 km (around 2,000 miles). It is part of the three Grand Tours, along with the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta da España.