Tour de France: 100 Tours, 1,000 stories

Tour de France 2012 final podium: Froome, Wiggins, Nibali

The Tour de France is Wimbledon, the Ashes and the FA Cup final all rolled into one huge, mobile athletic extravaganza.

It's the world's toughest mainstream sporting event, but it transcends sport - as well as showing which cyclist can cover the race route in the shortest time, it's also an advertising vehicle, showcase for the landscape and cities of France (and elsewhere) and an opportunity for thousands of holidaymakers to line the roadside and become part of the colour of the Tour.

Above all, the Tour's biggest selling point is its creation of a narrative. The unfolding, three-week stories, the dramatic tension between the leading characters and the constantly changing backdrop are what draw the public to the Tour and, after 99 events, interest in the race is at an all-time high.

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Edward Pickering is a writer and journalist, editor of Pro Cycling and previous deputy editor of Cycle Sport. As well as contributing to Cycling Weekly, he has also written for the likes of the New York Times. His book, The Race Against Time, saw him shortlisted for Best New Writer at the British Sports Book Awards. A self-confessed 'fair weather cyclist', Pickering also enjoys running.