The Tour de France is the most prestigious road cycling race in the world and covers approximately 3,600 kilometers (2,200 miles) throughout France and bordering countries. The race lasts for 3 weeks and attracts professional cyclists from all around the world. It alternates between clockwise and counterclockwise circuits.
This race was created in 1903 by Henri Desgrange and the newspaper L’Auto. It takes place every year in July and is organized by ASO (Amaury Sport Organisation). The number of teams usually varies between 20 to 22, with 9 riders in each. Entry is by invitation to teams chosen by the race organiser. Team members help each other and are followed by managers and mechanics in cars.
In France, the race is also nicknamed «la Grande Boucle», which means the «big loop» as it goes through many French cities. In 2009, 78 TV channels broadcasted the Tour de France in 170 countries.
The race is broken into day-long segments, called stages (in French: étapes). Individual times to finish each stage are totalled to determine the overall winner at the end of the race. The rider with the lowest aggregate time at the end of each day wears a yellow jersey. The route changes every year but has always finished in Paris. Since 1975, the climax of the final stage has been along the Champs-Élysées. The Tour de France is the most prestigious of cycling’s three “Grand Tours”. The other two Grand Tours are the Giro d’Italia (Italy) held every May and the Vuelta a España (Spain) held every August–September.
The New York Times said that the “Tour de France is arguably the most physiologically demanding of athletic events.” The effort was compared to “running a marathon several days a week for nearly three weeks”, while the total elevation of the climbs was compared to “climbing three Everests.”
The Tour changed in 1930 to a competition largely between teams representing their countries rather than the companies that sponsored them. The costs of accommodating riders fell to the organisers instead of the sponsors and Henri Desgrange raised the money by allowing advertisers to precede the race. The procession of often colourfully decorated trucks and cars became known as the publicity caravan. It formalised a situation which had already arisen, companies having started to follow the race. The procession sets off two hours before the start and then regroups to precede the riders by an hour and a half. It spreads 20–25 km and takes 40 minutes to pass at between 20 and 60kmh. Vehicles travel in groups of five. The advertisers distribute publicity material to the crowd. The number of items has been estimated at 11 million, each person in the procession giving out 3,000 to 5,000 items a day. The bank, GAN, gave out 170,000 caps, 80,000 badges, 60,000 plastic bags and 535,000 copies of its race newspaper in 1994. Together, they weighed 32 tons.
The “maillot jaune” (yellow jersey) is worn by the general classification leader.
- One rider has won seven times:
Lance Armstrong in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005 (seven consecutive years).
- Four riders have won five times:
Jacques Anquetil in 1957, 1961, 1962, 1963 and 1964;
Eddy Merckx in 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972 and 1974;
Bernard Hinault in 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982 and 1985;
Miguel Indurain in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 (the first to do so in five consecutive years).
- Three riders have won three times:
Philippe Thys in 1913, 1914, and 1920;
Louison Bobet in 1953, 1954, and 1955;
Greg LeMond in 1986, 1989, and 1990.
- Seven riders have won the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia in the same year:
Eddy Merckx three times, in 1970, 1972, 1974
Fausto Coppi two times, in 1949, 1952
Bernard Hinault two times, in 1982, 1985
Miguel Indurain two times, in 1992, 1993
Jacques Anquetil one time, in 1964
Stephen Roche one time, in 1987
Marco Pantani one time, in 1998
The “maillot vert” (green jersey) is awarded for sprint points.
At the end of each stage, points are earned by the riders who finish first, second, etc. Points are higher for flat stages, as sprints are more likely, and less for mountain stages, where climbers usually win. In the current rules, there are 5 types of stages: flat stages, intermediates stages, mountain stages, individual time trial stages and team time trial stages. The number of points awarded at the end of each stage are:
35, 30, 26, 24, 22, 20, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 points are awarded to the first 25 riders across the finish line.
25, 22, 20, 18, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 points are awarded to the first 20 riders across the finish line.
20, 17, 15, 13, 12, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 points are awarded to the first 15 riders across the finish line.
15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 points are awarded to the top 10 finishers of the stage.
In addition, stages can have intermediate sprints in which 6, 4, and 2 points are awarded to the first three. In case of a tie, the number of stage wins determine the green jersey, then the number of intermediate sprint victories, and finally, the rider’s standing in the general classification.
The King of the Mountains wears a white jersey with red dots (“maillot à pois rouges”).
This jersey was inspired by a jersey that one of the organisers, Félix Lévitan, had seen at the Vélodrome d’Hiver in Paris in his youth. The competition gives points to the first to top designated hills and mountains. The difficulty of a climb is established by its steepness, length and its position on the course. The easiest are graded 4, most of the hardest as 1 and the exceptional (such as the Tourmalet) as beyond classification (in French it is called “hors catégorie”). Notable hors catégorie peaks include the col du Tourmalet, Mont Ventoux, col du Galibier, the climb to the ski resort of Hautacam, and Alpe d’Huez.
Climbs rated “hors catégorie” (HC): 20, 18, 16, 14, 12, 10, 8, 7, 6 and 5.
Category 1: 15, 13, 11, 9, 8, 7, 6 and 5.
Category 2: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, and 5.
Category 3: 4, 3, 2 and 1.
Category 4: 3, 2 and 1.
For the last climb of a stage, points are doubled for HC and categories one and two.
One rider has been King of the Mountains seven times: Richard Virenque in 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2003 and 2004.
Since 1975, there has been a competition for young riders. From 1975 to 1989 and from 2000, the leader has worn a white jersey (maillot blanc in French).
The prix de la combativité goes to the rider who most animates the day, usually by trying to break clear of the field. The most combative rider wears a number printed white-on-red instead of black-on-white next day. An award goes to the most aggressive rider throughout the Tour.
In 1959, a Super Combativity award for the most combative cyclist of the Tour was awarded. It was initially not rewarded every year, but since 1981 it has been given annually.
The team prize is assessed by adding the time of each team’s best three riders each day. The competition does not have its own jersey but since 2006 the leading team has worn numbers printed black-on-yellow. The competition has existed from the start; The best national teams are France and Belgium, with 10 wins each.
Multiple winners :
By nationality :
Champs Elysées, Paris.
For more information about the Tour de France, you can visit the official website: http://www.letour.fr/us/index.html