Is the Tour de France getting easier?

THE 97th Tour de France finishes on Sunday July 25th in Paris after 3,642km (2,263 miles) of cycling over 21 gruelling days. Although this year's route is regarded by many as particularly tough, it could be considered a mere jaunt through the sunflowers compared to earlier Tours. When the first race was staged in 1903 riders cycled 2,428km over six stages. But distances rapidly climbed to reach a peak of 5,745km in 1926, with the winner completing the race in 238 hours and 44 minutes at an average speed of 24.3km/h. Since then the length of the Tour has fallen steadily but the average speed of the winner has risen to around 40km/h.