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NETHERLANDS: The Tour de France has chosen Rotterdam for its Grand Départ — or starting point — and the city has been preparing for the event for the past several months.

On Saturday, the 5½-mile circular prologue starts at 4:14 p.m. at the Zuidplein, traveling through the southern suburbs and along the river Maas to finish about 7:45 p.m. On Sunday, the Tour leaves Erasmus Bridge at 12:20 p.m. on its way to Brussels. The city is planning other tour-related activities, such as Le Grand Départ Truck, which runs various cycling activities and photo exhibitions.

For more details and routes, check the official Le Grand Départ website at

BELGIUM: On Sunday afternoon, Brussels will welcome the finish of the first stage of the Tour de France in front of the King Badouin Stadium. This year’s race honors the 65th birthday of five-time winner Eddy Merckx by following a route that takes riders by his hometowns of Meise and Tervuren.

After a night in Brussels, the racers take off at 12:30 p.m. Monday from the Royal Palace on a route that ends in Spa. In addition to hosting the race, Brussels has organized a bike parade, giant screens at various sites and a big picnic at the foot of the Atomium, a monument built for the 1958 Brussels World Fair. See The Tour de France website is

FRANCE: Car enthusiasts can drive to Mulhouse on Friday and through the weekend for the annual Automobile Festival, which celebrates the history of the automobile. The Alsatian town is the site of the Cité de l’Automobile, one of the largest auto museums in the world. Highlights of the festival include rallies, exhibitions, competitions and the Sunday grand parade, with 100 years of automotive history as its theme.

The parade begins at 2 p.m. See (in French).

SPAIN: It’s man versus horse in the Galician town of Sabucedo through July 4 during the annual Rapas das Bestas (“reaping of the horses”). The traditional event is an unusual round-up during which 600 to 700 wild horses are driven down from the hills Saturday (visitors are invited to help) and corralled. In the next three days, villagers show their courage by wrestling the animals to the ground, using only their bare hands, branding them and cutting their manes and tails. The horses are then released back to the hills. In addition to the matches, there is plenty of food, drink and entertainment and a special Mass at dawn. Tickets to watch the wrestling are 10 euros for adults and 5 euros for children. See the program at


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