Tour de France is the annual bicycle race held in France during the summer and sponsored by Amaury Sport Organisation. The race consists of 21 stages covering a distance of about 2,200 mi miles over a period of 23 days. The cyclists have only two days to rest. Although it is primarily held in France, the course traverses through the neighboring countries and in some instances, it even starts outside France. The route takes cyclists across flat roads, mountains, valleys, towns, and villages. The stages have different names and distances. Tour de France is more than just an individual effort; in fact, it is more of a team effort. There are about 20-22 teams with eight or nine riders each. The team leader who is always the strongest rider leads each team. The team members cycle around the team leader to protect him at every stage. They repair his puncture and fetch water when he needs a drink. In most cases, the team leader rides behind his team, a strategy to protects him from wind resistance, until he breaks off from the team to win the race. The prize money is shared among the members who also pride in the glory of contributing to a successful team. The overall winner of the race is determined by averaging the time taken to complete the 21 stages. The cyclist with the least average time is considered the winner.
History of the Tour de France
Tour de France began in 1903 as a strategy to boost the sales of the newspaper L'Auto that was nearly pushed out of business by Le Vélo. The race proved a success and the organizers made it an annual competition. The only time the race was not held was between 1915-1918 and 1940-1946 because of the First and Second World Wars respectively. Between 1903 and 1967, the race ended at Parc des Princes while from 1968 to 1974, it ended at Piste Municipale. From 1975 to present, the race has ended at the Champs-Élysées. Maurice Garin won the first and second series of the Tour de France but was stripped his second win for cheating.
Tour de France Records
Wins by Country
France has the largest number of Tour de France titles. Twenty-three French cyclists have won the title 36 times. France won the inaugural race in 1903 and held the winning title for another 5 years until Luxembourg managed to take the win in 1909. France took the title back in 1910 and 1911 before Belgium began to lead the race with wins in 1912-1914 and 1919-1922. France won again in 1923, from 1930-1934, 1937, 1947, 1953-1957, 1961-1964, 1966-1967, 1975, and 1981-1985. France also leads in number of stage wins with 702. France has the most winning streaks (8) and has the second-longest winning streak with 6 consecutive wins from 1903-1908. Interestingly, France has not won the Tour de France since 1985.
Ten Belgians have won the title 23 times. As mentioned previous, Belgium got their first win in 1912 and managed to carry the win through to 1914 and again from 1919 to 1922 (no races were held from 1915-1918 due to WWI). Belgium won intermittently from the 1920s to 1970s with wins in 1926, 1929, 1935-36, and 1939. Belgium won their next race over 20 years later in 1969 and held the title with wins in 1970, 1971, and 1972. Belgium won again in 1974 and again in 1976. Belgium holds the longest winning streak with 7 consecutive wins from 1912-1922 (no races were held from 1915-1918 due to WWI). In addition, Belgium has second-most stage wins at 471. Although they have managed to hold on to their position as the country with the second most general classification winners, Belgium has not won the Tour de France since 1976.
Seven Spaniards have won the title 12 times and seven Italians have won the title 10 times. Luxembourg has won the race five times. Three Britons have won the race six times with Chris Froome winning four of the six titles. Geraint Thomas of the UK won the 2018 Tour de France to became the third British citizen to do so.
Wins by Cyclist
French cyclists Bernard Hinault and Jacques Anquetil, as well as Eddy Merckx of Beligum and Miguel Indurain of Spain have all won the race a record five times. Eddy Merckx of Belgium (34) and UK’S Mark Cavendish (30) are the only cyclists to have won 30 or more stages of the race.
Gregory James "Greg" LeMond won the race in 1986, 1989 and 1990, and remains the only American to win the race. American Lance Armstrong won seven consecutive series from 1999 to 2005 but was stripped of the titles for doping. This also lost the US their 7 year consecutive winning streak from 1999 to 2005 and dropped them from 4th place (tied with Italy for 10 wins) to 7th place with only 3 wins.
Meanings of the Jersey Colors
There are four distinct jerseys in the Tour de France; yellow, white, green, and white with red polka dots. The overall winner of the race wears the yellow jersey. The first 10-25 riders of each stage wear the green jersey. The number of cyclists wearing this jersey depends on the terrain of the stage. The fastest cyclists under the age of 25 are awarded the white jersey. The white with red polka dots is known as the “King of the Mountains jersey”; it is awarded to the first rider who reaches the crest of a mountain or hill.