The Tour De France Pedals Harder

Its promoters have global ambitions, but so far, few big sponsors

The advertising trucks come first. Covered with logos and slogans, they roar down Rue de la Republique in the handsome Normandy city of Rouen for more than an hour. Hucksters toss out thousands of free samples, from packets of coffee to bicycle caps. Finally, the 198 cyclists competing in the three-week, 3,800-kilometer Tour de France pass in a blur. They're gone so fast that spectator Jean Thiery says: "The best thing about the Tour isn't the bicycling. It's the publicity caravan."

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