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Tour de France Course

Each year, the course chosen for the Tour de France varies, though nowadays they traditionally finish at the Champs-Elysées in Paris. The race starts in a different town every year and currently every other year it starts outside France.

2005 Tour de France image from the 2005 Tour de France

The choice of towns to host each stage comes down to a combination of money and sporting considerations - the towns will pay for a start or a finish, but they need to be near a mountain or a cobbled road or be near another town who wants to host the Tour. The cost for the town to host the stage is well and truly paid back with the amount of money brought in through increased exposure and tourism.

Most of the stages of the Tour take place in France, though it is also common to have a few stages in nearby countries, such as Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany. Other countries that do are not neighbors of France have also hosted stages of the event, such as the Republic of Ireland, United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

The first mountain stage was added in 1910. The inclusion of mountain stages, particularly the challenging climbs in the Pyrenees and Alps, added a new dimension to the race's difficulty and excitement.

The tour is held over three weeks, which usually includes two rest days. During these rest days, the cyclists may need to be transported a long distance to the next stages.

The itinerary the race changes each year and alternates between clockwise and anti-clockwise direction around France.

Some of the visited places, especially mountains and passes, recur almost annually and are famous on their own.

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