The Tour de France (French pronunciation: ) 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 a yellow jersey. 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.
The tour typically has 21 days of racing and covers 3,200 kilometres (2,000 mi). The shortest Tour was in 1904 at 2,420 kilometres (1,500 mi), the longest in 1926 at 5,745 kilometres (3,570 mi). The three weeks usually include two rest days, sometimes used to transport riders from a finish in one town to the start in another. The race alternates between clockwise and anticlockwise circuits of France. The first anticlockwise circuit was in 1913. The New York Times said the "Tour de France is arguably the most physiologically demanding of athletic events." The effort was compared to "running a marathon several days a week for nearly three weeks", while the total elevation of the climbs was compared to "climbing three Everests."
The number of teams usually varies between 20 and 22, with nine riders in each. Entry is by invitation to teams chosen by the race organiser, the Amaury Sport Organisation. Team members help each other and are followed by managers and mechanics in cars.