There are a lot of good reasons to follow the 2012 Tour de France. Seeing the best in any endeavor compete is always a thrill, especially when the arena is a picturesque country filled with rolling countryside, castles, quaint villages and mountain peaks. The riders may have ulterior motives, however. As Christ Fontecchio at Podium Cafe points out, the Tour de France is also flush with cash to be doled to the athletes for anything and everything.
Now, I'm not an insider but people who are tend to say things like "teams pay their year's worth of bills at the Tour." What they mean is, they compensate a year's worth of sponsorship through their exploits at the Tour. This is especially true of cycling industry sponsors, who like to run ads in August saying "our wheels just won the yellow jersey!" and distribute posters to that effect to every bike shop in the western world.
Inside the teams themselves, there is another important development going on at the Tour: prize money! This is undoubtedly the biggest direct cash payout available in the sport, and somehow I doubt, looking at the numbers, that this goes unnoticed.
Riders not only earn money for winning the maillot jaune or maillot vert for the Tour's overall and points leaders, respectively. Prizes are also given out for each stage's most competitive rider, as well as for simple participation. A grand total of 3,412,546 euro will be handed out at this year's Tour, making it an excellent source of income for many riders, as well as a grand sporting tradition.