The Tour de France and its Geography


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The Tectonics of the Mediterranean Region. Image by Woudloper

The tectonics of the mediterranean region can provide challenges to those crossing by auto. Image by Woudloper

Sedimentary Rocks and Rolling Plains

In the north, central, and west of France much of the countryside is covered by a flat, unglaciated plain that is interspersed with rolling hills. Occupying a central position on the plain is the Paris basin consisting of a layered sequence of deposition-created sedimentary rocks. The final sprint of the race ran from Versailles to Paris’ Champs-Élysées.

Tour de France: Geographic Challenges

Regional temperatures across France in July were around 30°C with little variation between regions except for the warmth of Corsica.

But elevation differences, the real test of the tour, were what made or broke the riders.

One cyclist, Colombian Nairo Quintana, with the most stage wins in the mountains, was declared the ‘King of the Mountains’. It seemed like experience in high altitude countries like Kenya and Colombia was a distinct advantage.

2014 Tour de France

Selected Stages of the Race with the Temperature and Elevation Ranges. Image by Jim Gibson

Selected Stages of the Race with the Temperature and Elevation Ranges. Image by Jim Gibson

The 2013 tour began in Corsica but the 2014 version’s Grand Départ is planned for Leeds, Yorkshire, England and the Pennines anticline with its underlain Carboniferous limestone.

In three stages riders will head for London.

According to Pete Cossins, writing in Cycling News, “organizers estimate a minimum of three million people turning up to watch the three stages, and even more if the weather is good.”

And, getting back to the Gaia theory, there’s also a goal associated with the race, as Pete Cossins also explains: “We want every child in Yorkshire to have access to a bicycle.”

Think I’ll attend. After all, my maternal great grandmother was born near Wakefield in Yorkshire. I’ll do some biking, check out the geography, cross the hills and vales created by the glacial drift deposits, just like I once did in Galt.


Steinmann Institute. Geology of the Alps. Accessed August 4, 2013. 

J. Vergés. Pyrenees Geological Setting. Accessed August 4, 2013.

Le Tour de France. Accessed August 4, 2013.

P.F. Karrow. Pleistocene Geology of the Galt Map-Area. (1961). Ontario Geological Survey. Accessed August 4, 2013.

Pete Cossins. Plans for 2014 Tour de France Grand Depart Taking Shape. (2013). Cycling News. Accessed August 4, 2013.

Awenda Park. Kettle Lake Formation. (2013). Accessed August 4, 2013.

Merriam Webster. Schist. (2013). Accessed August 4, 2013.

Encyclopedia Britannica. Anticline. (2013). Accessed August 4, 2013.

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