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July 9, 2012

Tour de France 2012: Part one

Equal parts travelogue, party, and sport, the Tour de France enthralls us every year with spectacular scenery and fierce competition. The 99th Tour this year covers 3,497 kilometers over 20 stages and a prologue, and can loosely be divided into three parts: the mostly-flat "sprinters'" stages in the first week, the high passes of the Alps in the second week, and the sharp ascents of the Pyrenees in the third week. Throughout, millions of fans with no need for tickets crowd the roads for the largest free sporting event and rolling party in the world, which unfolds in the world's largest stadium: the entire country of France, with bits of Belgium and Switzerland tossed in for good measure. The race itself is shaping up as a showdown between defending champion Cadel Evans of Australia and Bradley Wiggins of Britain. Disrupting matters was a devastating high-speed crash that took down almost half the peloton on stage six, already infamous as the Metz Massacre. The list of grisly injuries astonishes: broken tibia, punctured kidney, ruptured spleen, punctured lung, broken collar bone, fractured wrist, broken ribs, and more. Already almost 20 of the original 198 riders have abandoned with serious injuries from multiple crashes. Gathered here are images of the first week of the Tour, from the favorites to the domestiques, the gorgeous scenery, and the passionate fans. Thanks to photographer Veeral Patel for making his images available. -- Lane Turner (33 photos total)

A fan cheers on the peloton riding in the sixth stage of the 2012 Tour de France cycling race starting in Epernay and finishing in Metz in northeastern France on July 6, 2012. (Joel Saget/AFP/GettyImages)

A performer, dressed as the mailman in "Jour de Fete" (The Big Day - 1949), a film comedy by French director Jacques Tati, poses during the individual time-trial and prologue of the 2012 Tour de France cycling race in Liege, Belgium on June 30, 2012. (Joel Saget/AFP/GettyImages) #

Fabian Cancellara negotiates a roundabout on his way to win the prologue, an individual time trial with start and finish in Liege, Belgium on June 30 2012. (Christophe Ena/Associated Press) #

The pack passes farm fields during the second stage between Vise and Tournai, Belgium on July 2, 2012. (Christophe Ena/Associated Press) #

The peloton climbs towards the Citadel in Namur during the second stage on July 2, 2012. (Christophe Ena/Associated Press) #

The peloton climbs towards the Citadel in Namur during the second stage on July 2, 2012. (Veeral Patel) #

The peloton rides past spectators wearing chicken costumes during the second stage on July 2, 2012. (Stephane Mahe/Reuters) #

Defending champion Cadel Evans rides the third stage between Orchies and Boulogne-sur-Mer in northern France on July 3, 2012. (Joel Saget/AFP/GettyImages) #

A fisheye view shows spectators as they take pictures from a window of the peloton passing through Aire-sur-la-Lys during the third stage on July 3, 2012. (Christophe Ena/Associated Press) #

Liquigas-Cannondale rider Peter Sagan of Slovakia holds up his arms as he wins the third stage in Boulogne sur mer on July 3, 2012. (Stephane Mahe/Reuters) #

Employees of GDF-Suez wave a French flag as they wait for riders on a wind turbine during the fourth stage from Abbeville to Rouen on July 4, 2012. (Joel Saget/AFP/GettyImages) #

Breakaway riders David Moncoutie, Yukiya Arashiro, and Anthony Delaplace ride the fourth stage on July 4, 2012. (Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/GettyImages) #

The peloton rides along the coast during stage four on July 4, 2012 in Dieppe. (Bryn Lennon/Getty Images) #

The peloton rides in Dieppe during the fourth stage on July 4, 2012. (Stephane Mahe/Reuters) #

The peloton passes the seaside during stage four on July 4, 2012 in Ste Marguerite sur Mer. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) #

A mechanic adjusts the shoe of overall leader Fabian Cancellara during the fifth stage between Rouen and Saint-Quentin on July 5, 2012. (Joel Saget/AFP/GettyImages) #

The peloton passes a church in Rouen during the start of the fifth stage on July 5, 2012. (Christophe Ena/Associated Press) #

Residents of Lyons-la-Foret watch the peloton pass during the fifth stage on July 5, 2012. (Christophe Ena/Associated Press) #

Fans wave a French flag as the peloton rides during the fifth stage on July 5, 2012. (Joel Saget/AFP/GettyImages) #

A fan gestures towards Australia's Jonathan Cantwell after he crashed during the fifth stage on July 5, 2012. (Joel Saget/AFP/GettyImages) #

Podium hostesses walk off the stage as American Tejay van Garderen, wearing the best young rider's white jersey, celebrates on the podium of the fifth stage in Saint-Quentin on July 5, 2012. (Laurent Cipriani/Associated Press) #

The peloton passes a cathedral during stage six from Epernay to Metz on July 6, 2012 in Chalons. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) #

Equestrians watch the peloton pass during stage six on July 6, 2012 in Metz. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) #

Richie Porte of Australia and Bernhard Eisel of Austria ride during stage six from Epernay to Metz on July 6. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) #

The peloton passes pine trees during the sixth stage on July 6, 2012. (Christophe Ena/Associated Press) #

Switzerland's Fabian Cancellara eats as he rides in the sixth stage on July 6, 2012. (Joel Saget/AFP/GettyImages) #

Riders try and get back on their bicycles after a massive high-speed crash just 25 kilometers from the finish line during the sixth stage on July 6, 2012. (Christophe Ena/Associated Press) #

Doctors tend to Wouter Poels of The Netherlands after the crash during the sixth stage on July 6, 2012. Poels suffered internal injuries including a ruptured spleen and kidney, a bruised lung, and three broken ribs. He remounted the bike and rode another 10 kilometers before abandoning the race, and is still in the intensive care unit of a hospital. (Laurent Cipriani/Associated Press) #

American Tom Danielson rests in the grass after the stage six crash on July 6, 2012. Already riding with a separated shoulder from a crash days earlier, Danielson was forced to abandon the race. He finished in the top ten in 2011. (Laurent Cipriani/Associated Press) #

Riders pass sunflowers during the seventh stage between Tomblaine and La Planche des Belles Filles on July 7, 2012. (Bogdan Cristel/Reuters) #

Traditional Swiss horn blowers watch as the peloton passes during the eighth stage between Belfort and Porrentruy, Switzerland on July 8, 2012. (Laurent Cipriani/Associated Press) #

Germany's Jens Voigt, at age 40 the Tour's oldest rider, leads a breakaway in the eighth stage on July 8, 2012. (Joel Saget/AFP/GettyImages) #

Fans cheer on Sweden's Frederik Kessiakoff climbing at the end of the eighth stage in Porrentruy, Switzerland on July 8, 2012. (Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/GettyImages) #


 
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