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Tour de France: Now and Before
Thursday, July 14th, 2011

The 98th year of the Tour de France is in full cycle as competitors endure one of the the most psychologically and physically challenging athletic events in the world. The more than 2100 mile route through French countryside will be completed in just three weeks. Drawing riders and teams from around the world, competitors vie for the prestigious yellow jersey or maillot jaune, given to the rider with the fastest cumulative time.

The Tour De France has changed over the years. There are lighter bikes, thinner tires, aerodynamic helmets, and let's not forget the countless doping scandals.

However, as much as the competition has changed there are still flat tires, heartbreaking crashes, and stiff competition. And most importantly, the determination and a willingness to push the human body beyond its limits.

Take a look at the Tour De France: Now and Before. 

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1

White jersey of Best Young, Luxembourg's Andy Schleck, speeds ahead of Yellow jersey of overall leader, Spain's Alberto Contador, in the descent of the Col du Tourmalet pass during the 16th stage of the 2010 Tour de France.

(Lionel Bonaventure - AFP/Getty Images)
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2

Cyclist Raphael Geminiani descends the French Pyrenees during the 18th stage of the Tour de France, 14th July 1952.

( - AFP/Getty Images)
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3

Aleksandr Kuschynski of Belarus and Liquigas leads the breakaway group during stage nine of the 2008 Tour de France on July 13, 2008 in Bagneres-de-Bigorre, France

(Bryn Lennon - Getty Images)
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4

The pack rides on July 5, 2010 in the start of the 201 km and second stage of the 2010 Tour de France.

(Joel Saget - AFP/Getty Images)
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5

(from L to R) French Louison Bobet, Charly Gaul of Luxembourg, French RaphaÎl Geminiani, French Antonin Rolland and Belgium Jean Brankart lead the pack, on July 27, 1955 during the 19th stage, Pau-Bordeaux, of the Tour de France 1955.

( - AFP/Getty Images)
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6

The pack rides past cows during the ninth stage of the 2011 Tour de France cycling race run between Issoire and Saint-Flour.

(Lionel Bonaventure - AFP/Getty Images)
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7

Luxembourg's Andy Schleck (L) starts ridding after changing his tyre on July 5, 2010 in the 201 km and second stage of the 2010 Tour de France.

(Joel Saget - AFP/Getty Images)
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8

Belgian Maurice Blomme inflates the tire of his bicycle 22 July 1950 before the start of the 9th stage of the Tour de France.

(Staff - AFP/Getty Images)
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9

American cyclist Christian VandeVelde, 34, of team Garmin-Transitions is viewed after a crash along stage 2 of the Tour de France July 5, 2010.

(Spencer Platt - Getty Images)
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10

Charly Gaul of Luxembourg recovers from his fall during the 9th stage of the 1955 Tour de France.

( - AFP/Getty Images)
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11

Slovenia's Janez Brakjovic receives medical assistance after crashing during the 164.5 km and fifth stage of the 2011 Tour de France. Brakjovic gave up the race.

(Lionel Bonaventure - AFP/Getty Images)
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12

The pendant of Belgium's Francis De Greef on July 13, 2010 prior to the start of the 204,5 km and 9th stage of the 2010 Tour de France.

(Joel Saget - AFP/Getty Images)
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13

A fan sitting on a huge decoration yellow bike on Jul 11, 2010 during the 8th stage of the 2010 Tour de France.

(Joel Saget - AFP/Getty Images)
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14

Muscled legs of a rider prior to the start of the ninth stage of the 2011 Tour de France.

(Joel Saget - AFP/Getty Images)
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15

An Orthopedic therapist checks the cold compression system at Johnny Hoogerland, on the first day off from the Tour de France on July 11, 2011. Dutchman Johnny Hoogerland had 33 stitches inserted to close deep gashes in his leg after he was hit by a car on the ninth stage of the Tour de France.

(Koen Van Weel - AFP/Getty Images)
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16

Italian cyclist Fausto Coppi takes a nap next to his yellow jersey as the Tour de France cyclists had a day off 05 July 1952. Coppi never relinquished the lead and went on to capture his second Tour de France after winning in 1949.

(Staff - AFP/Getty Images)
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17

Tour de France seven-times winner, US Lance Armstrong, is sprayed with water by a fan as he rides on July 11, 2010.

(Joel Saget - AFP/Getty Images)
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Charly Gaul of Luxembourg crosses the finish line on July 25, 1955 in Toulouse and wins the 17th stage.

( - AFP/Getty Images)
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19

Yellow jersey of Overall leader, Spain's Alberto Contador, celebrates on the podium at the end of the 52 km individual time-trial and 19th stage of the 2010 Tour de France.

(Lionel Bonaventure - AFP/Getty Images)
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20

Roger Hassenforder, winner of the 5th stage of the Tour de France 1955, is congratulated by French singer Annie Cordy (L) and fans in Colmar on July 11, 1955.

( - AFP/Getty Images)
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