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5 interesting facts about the Tour de France

The famous cycling race, the Tour de France is possibly the world’s greatest ever endurance race and is steeped in history and tradition. With its iconic yellow jersey and challenging alpine ascents, this formidable cycling competition attracts the crème de la crème from around the world to compete over three weeks. Full of heated rivalries, outrageous scandals and sometime bizarre tactics, the Tour’s long history has been littered with noteworthy headlines, culminating in a huge fan base of spectators for this riveting event.

Image showing a group of professional cyclists riding uphill

Here are some interesting facts about the sporting competition and how it originated:

Tour de France origins

The Tour de France was originally created in 1903 by the editor and cyclist Henri Desgrange, of the French newspaper L’Auto, as a way of boosting sales. This cycling competition was launched to directly compete with the newspaper Le Velo, at a time when L’Auto desperately needed to widen its readership. The six day race became a success and the sales of L’Auto were massively boosted as a result. As the pages of the newspaper were yellow, race organisers decided that the leader’s jersey, known as the maillot jaune (yellow jersey in French) would also be yellow.

Coloured Jerseys

During the Tour the riders compete for four coloured jerseys:

  • The White Jersey is awarded to the best young rider (25 and under) and was introduced in 1975.
  • The Red Polka Dot Jersey is given to the ‘King of the Mountains’, the cyclist with the best climbing ability, determined during the mountain segments.
  • The Green Jersey goes to the best sprinter on flat terrain.
  • The Yellow Jersey is worn by the rider who is leading the race overall.

Basic Facts

The 2016 Tour de France is scheduled to take place between the 2nd and 24th July.

The 2015 Tour de France winner is the British cyclist Chris Froome.

The event is also known as La Grande Boucle or more simply Le Tour.

The Tour de France is a prestigious and lengthy cycling race that is held in France and sometimes surrounding countries.

Although in 2013 the Tour celebrated 100 years, the event is in fact 10 years older as it was not held during the First and Second World Wars.

The race involves 21 stages and covers a distance of approximately 2,186 miles or 3,519 kilometres.

The first cyclist to win the Tour de France in 1903 was the Frenchman Maurice Garin.

France has had more winners of the Tour de France than any other country.

The Tour has been won five times each by the following cyclists:

  • Jacques Anquetil of France in 1957 and 1961-1964.
  • Eddy Merckx of Belgium in 1969-1972 and 1974.
  • Bernard Hinault of France in 1978-1979, 1981-1982 and 1985
  • Miguel Indurain of Spain in 1991-1995. Miguel was the first cyclist to win the race five consecutive times.

Lance Armstrong was awarded seven consecutive Tour de France wins (1999-2005) in his professional cycling career, but in 2012 he was stripped of those titles due to allegations of doping. The International Cycling Union declared that no one else would be awarded wins for those events.

Greg LeMond was the first American to win the Tour de France title in 1986. He also went on to win both three and four years later. What makes this an incredible victory was the fact that he had been shot in 1987 by his brother-in-law while out hunting turkey, just two years before winning the event again. Not only was he badly wounded, but he has 35 pellets from the accident still left in his body.


The Tour is rich in history and traditions. For example, when the peloton decides en masse that it is time for a toilet stop, the entire group has a break, ensuring there’s no advantage for holding it in for unnecessary lengths of time.

If a member of your team is wearing the leader’s yellow jersey, no matter what you think of him or whether you feel you could go quicker, it is your job to protect the yellow jersey’s lead at all costs. If you were to attack him you would rapidly find that your professional cycling career was over.

Equipment Wear and Tear

It’s not just the riders that must endure physical hardship during the Tour, it’s the bikes too. During the three week long endurance test the peloton (main pack) will expect to change around 792 tyres, while each individual rider will expect to wear out one chain per week, so a total of three during the course of the event. The Tour’s rules state that a minimum weight for a bicycle is 14.998 pounds, even though frames and components have become light enough to build road bikes of 10 pounds and under. This minimum weight ensures all competitors are using similar equipment.

Distance and Height Climbed

This gruelling and physically demanding event takes place over 21 days with 2 scheduled rest days. In this time they will cover approximately 3,500 kilometres, which is equivalent to cycling from London to Cairo. While this sounds like a very long distance, the ascents climbed are unfathomable. The heights scaled are equivalent to climbing Snowdon, Ben Nevis and Scafell Pike plus Mont Blanc, Kilimanjaro and the mighty Everest all in 3 weeks!

Calories Burned

It is estimated that the average rider in the Tour de France will burn a whopping 124,000 calories over the 21 day race. That is the calorie equivalent of 619 iced doughnuts or 252 double cheeseburgers!

5 Interesting Facts about the Tour De France Infographic