The sun is shining and a horde of elite athletes are hitting the tarmac and competing to squeeze out the best times, and that can only mean one thing. That's right, it's Tour de France time again.
This year, the distance of the race clocks in at a mind-boggling 3,540 kilometres. And after setting off from Düsseldorf, the peloton works its way through Belgium and Luxembourg before arriving in France to complete the majority of the 21 stage race.
Big test: Best watches for cycling
But since us mere mortals aren't able to take time off from our regular lives to take part in a cycling grand tour, it's time to find an alternative that will let you have a slice of the action. If you're already a user of Strava, linking up your favourite cycling fitness tracker and picking out sections from each gruelling stage is an option at your disposal.
Below, we'll break down a few that you may want to tackle as you follow along with one of the world's biggest sporting events.
Popular route: Col d'Izoard from Guillestre
One of the most popular segments that the riders will travel through is this 14.1km ride just west of the Italian border, with over 11,000 cyclists currently passing through.
Make no mistake, though, this isn't for the faint-hearted. The climb to reach the elevation peak of 2,330m will have riders essentially battling against 990m of uphill gradient for the duration.
The average time of pros currently rests just under an hour, but the rest of the Strava community takes an average of around 25 minutes longer. Take some water and just keep in mind how much fun the trip back will be.
Get high: Valloire-Galibier
While the above climb will see you reach some serious heights, this 17.8km stretch during Stage 17 of the race will see you hit a whopping 2,624m.
If you want to fare well against the thousands who have gone through the same stretch, though, you'll have to be a strong cyclist. While the current KoM paced through the segment in 52:45 at an average speed of 20.3km/h, even the average time of all pros pales in comparison at 01:10:58.
If that's too much pressure, just train your sights on besting the average time of the entire community — 01:46:28.
Quick sprint: Montée N-D Garde
Sometimes you don't want to spend your whole day working out or scaling up a mountain face in the saddle. So if you just want to try and master a segment in the fastest way possible, take a look at this sprint in the heart of Marseille.
The riders will drift through this segment during Stage 20 of the race, just before the surge back up to Paris for the finish. Forget all that, though, and aim to dash through the 0.7km in quicker than the current KoM time of 03:19.
With the average time of attempts currently sitting around the nine minute mark, and a steep incline to battle against — not to mention the cars to watch out for — you'll have to seriously get your skates on, but it beats riding for miles and miles, right?
Lengthy trip: Col de la Croix
Looking for a workout that will will truly test your mettle? Well, look no further than this 29km segment, which takes the community an average time of 02:29:27 to complete.
You'll have to contend with an elevation ramp of 1,336m as you make your way through the segment, and those who want to compete with the pros will be facing an average finishing time of 01:38:55 — no small feat.
And if think you can handle all that, you can always try keep your average pace just above 21.1km/h and pip the current KoM time of 01:22:30.
Elevate things: Grand Colombier par Virieu
If you don't feel the burn in your legs as you make your way uphill, does it even count? Well, if you take on this route between Lyon and Geneva, there's no danger of that, as the 19.2km segment will see you tolerate an elevation difference of 850m in just 8.4km.
With such a steep climb, don't expect to be pacing through the winding section — even the pros only manage an average pace of 13.4km/h.
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