Nuns, Cows, and Ridiculous Costumes: Beautiful, Strange Scenes From the Tour de France

Oddball fans, striking landscapes and other pictures from this year's race.

You may not have known, with Lance Armstrong no longer participating and all, but the Tour de France still exists.

Some of the world's best cyclists have been pedaling through France this summer, on their way to the finish line in Paris, a tradition started in 1903.

The annual event came about as an idea to increase sales for French sports magazine, L'Auto (now known as L'Equipe). A 26-year-old cycling and rugby writer at the time, Géo Lefèvre, suggested a bicycle race round France to promote the publication. The idea worked -- circulation jumped from 25,000 readers just before the first Tour to 65,000. By 1923, L'Auto was selling 500,000 copies a day.

The Tour has long since evolved into a cultural celebration, a staple of summertime in France. The month-long event attracts approximately 15 million spectators throughout the country, some who camp out to well in advance to get the best view of the cyclists passing through their town.

The United Kingdom's Christopher Froome is currently the leader in this year's race, wearing the famous yellow jersey. The race concludes July 21 with a final stage that takes the cyclists from Versailles to the Champs--Élysées.

Below, via Reuters, scenes from this year's race so far as the world's best cyclists trek through some of the world's most picturesque landscapes, passing a diverse range of fans along the way:

The pack of riders cycles past Sisters of the Cosolation congregation during the 228.5 km fifth stage of the centenary Tour de France cycling race from Cagnes-Sur-Mer to Marseille July 3, 2013. (REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen)
Fans picnic as the pack of riders cycles on its way during the 228.5 km fifth stage of the centenary Tour de France cycling race from Cagnes-Sur-Mer to Marseille July 3, 2013. (REUTERS/Eric Gaillard)  
The pack of riders cycles on its way during the 205.5 km seventh stage of the centenary Tour de France cycling race from Montpellier to Albi July 5, 2013. (REUTERS/Eric Gaillard) 
The pack of riders cycles on its way during the 205.5 km seventh stage of the centenary Tour de France cycling race from Montpellier to Albi July 5, 2013. (REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier)
Race leader yellow jersey holder Team Sky rider Christopher Froome of Britain (C) cycles in the pack during the 168.5 km ninth stage of the centenary Tour de France cycling race from Saint-Girons to Bagneres-de-Bigorre July 7, 2013. (REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen) 
A hairdresser combs a customer's hair in a hairdressing salon as the pack of riders cycles on its way during the 197 km tenth stage of the centenary Tour de France cycling race from Saint-Gildas-des-Bois to Saint-Malo July 9, 2013. (REUTERS/Eric Gaillard) 
Spectators look at the pack of riders cycling on its way during the 173 km thirteenth stage of the centenary Tour de France cycling race from Tours to Saint-Amand-Montrond July 12, 2013. (REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier) 
Team Sky rider yellow jersey holder Christopher Froome of Britain cycles past the Mont Saint-Michel during the 32 km individual time trial eleventh stage of the centenary Tour de France cycling race from Avranches to Mont-Saint-Michel July 10, 2013. (REUTERS/Eric Gaillard)
Publicity vehicles from the Tour de France caravan make their way during the 145,5 km third stage of the centenary Tour de France cycling race from Ajaccio to Calvi, on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica July 1, 2013. (REUTERS/Eric Gaillard) 
Didi Senft, a cycling enthusiast better known as 'El Diablo' (The Devil), jumps as the pack of riders cycles during the twelfth 218km stage of the centenary Tour de France cycling race from Fougeres to Tours July 11, 2013. (REUTERS/Eric Gaillard) 
Cycling fans Laetitia and Franck wave to riders from a window of their house decorated with a tandem bike during the 242.5 km fifteenth stage of the centenary Tour de France cycling race from Givors to Mont Ventoux July 14, 2013. (REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen) 
Cycling fans of Europecar team pose of during the 242.5 km fifteenth stage of the centenary Tour de France cycling race from Givors to Mont Ventoux July 14, 2013. (REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen)
The pack of riders cycles past a French flag on Bastille day during the 242.5 km fifteenth stage of the centenary Tour de France cycling race from Givors to Mont Ventoux July 14, 2013. (REUTERS/Eric Gaillard)
Cycling fans from the "Les Deuches Sarthois " club stand in Citroen 2CV cars as they attend the twelfth 218km stage of the centenary Tour de France cycling race from Fougeres to Tours July 11, 2013. (REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen) 

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