How to watch the Tour de France: everything you need to know

Don't miss a minute of the world's most famous cycling race

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It's Le Tour time again: time to watch the world's best cyclists glide by at fantastic speeds through fantastic scenery. If you can't get out to the continent then sat on the sofa is the next best place to watch the action unfold, and we're here to help you stay informed.

With a multi-stage, multi-day event like the Tour de France it can be all too easy to miss a crucial moment, but we're here to stop that from happening: read on to find out what's being shown, where you can find it, and how to stay in touch from your mobile phone.

Tour de France 2016: Dates and times

Tour de France bikes

This year's Tour de France gets underway on Saturday 2nd July and finishes on Sunday 24th July - that's more than three weeks of pure cycling goodness. This year is the 103rd edition of the event and it's going to be starting in Manche in Normandy for the first time.

There's going to be something to watch on 21 of the 23 days of Le Tour: the only gaps are Monday the 11th and Tuesday the 19th of July, which are officially designated rest days. That means 21 stages in total, covering a variety of different types of terrain and locations.

Tour de France helmets

The exact time schedules vary between stages but there are full details on the official Tour de France website. The first stage, on Saturday, begins at 12.20pm local time which is going to be 11.20am here in the UK, with other stages starting a little earlier or later.

On most days, racing will be underway around lunchtime and carry on through the afternoon until the early evening - if you're chained to a 9-5 job you might catch the start of each stage during your lunch hour and just make it home in time for the end.

Tour de France: TV coverage

Tour de France visor

For those of us in the UK, the Tour de France will be shown on the free-to-air channel ITV4, and British Eurosport, which is available through packages on Sky Digital, Virgin Media and TalkTalk TV (you can't get Eurosport on Freeview, BT Vision or Freesat at the moment).

Both ITV4 and Eurosport are covering the stages live and putting together highlights packages for the evening, so you can spend your whole day watching elite cyclists glide through picturesque French scenery or catch up with the best bits later on in the evening.

Tour de France spray

You can check up on all the times for every day via your favourite TV listings site or app, but Stage 1 coverage starts on ITV4 at 11am and on Eurosport at 11.45am on Saturday the 2nd. The evening highlights are being broadcast at 7pm (ITV4) and 8.30pm (Eurosport).

If you've got Freeview then you can find ITV4 on channel number 24; for Eurosport, check the listings on whatever box you've got installed under your television set. Of course, this being 2016, you can also tune in to the event online, which brings us neatly to...

Tour de France: Online coverage

Tour de France bikes

If you've got a TV licence then you can tune into ITV4 for free on the web through the ITV hub website. There are also free apps for Android and iOS to watch Le Tour on the go - just make sure you've got a Wi-Fi connection or the data plan to cope with all that video.

Eurosport has a live web player of its own but it's going to cost you £6.99 a month (or £4.99 a month if you stump up for a whole year at once). You certainly won't miss anything if you sign up - Eurosport is creating a separate online channel dedicated to the Tour de France.

Tour de France overhead

The Eurosport online player is actually quite advanced: as well as tuning into live streams, you can change camera angles at some points, and rewind live broadcasts for up to 3 hours. There are also apps for Android and iOS you can make use of if you're a subscriber.

If you need even more video content on top of that then the official Tour de France site has you covered: you can expect a ton of updates across all the usual social media channels as well as video and photo uploads as the event unfolds, so you shouldn't miss anything.

Tour de France: Find more information

Tour de France website

The Le Tour site that we've just mentioned has just about everything you need to stay up to date with the event: maps and guides for each stage, information on all the teams, plus a guide to the history of the Tour de France so you can get up to speed on previous events.

There are 198 riders taking part in this year's cycling extravaganza - 22 teams of 9 riders each - and Wikipedia has a decent overview of all the stages involved if you want to be able to see all the dates, distances, course types and locations on a single page.

Tour de France brochure

The Grand Départ site focuses on the start of the race and has a tourism slant to it, but even if you don't want to book a short trip it has plenty of background information on the routes the cyclists will be zooming through during the first few days of Le Tour 2016.

If you want to catch up away from your laptop and TV then there are official Tour de France apps for Android and iOS with stacks of info on the race and all its stages. Meanwhile, offers one of the best non-official Tour de France hubs online.