French Cons Roll in 'Penal Tour de France'
Breakaway sprints banned as prisoners set off on 1,500 mile exercise
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 4, 2009 3:19 AM CDT
The pack passes the Eiffel tower during the 21st stage of last year's regular Tour de France.   (AP Photo/Bas Czerwinski)
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(Newser) – Nearly 200 French prisoners hit the road today for the first penal Tour de France, the BBC reports. The inmates, accompanied by over 100 cycling gendarmes, will make stops in 17 towns—each with a prison—over the course of the 1500 mile race. The prisoners will cycle in a pack; breakaway sprints are strictly forbidden.

"This project aims to help these men reintegrate into society by fostering values like effort, teamwork and self-esteem," said a spokeswoman for prison authorities. "We want to show them that with some training, you can achieve your goals and start a new life."