A newbie’s guide to the Tour de France

tour de france explained primer

Every year, millions of people around the world are captivated by the annual Tour de France.

If you aren’t one of these people and don’t understand what all the fuss is about, or if you simply don’t understand the rules and terminology, here is a quick primer so you can join in on the fun this year.

The Tour de France began in 1903, but the idea started the year before when a French newspaper wanted to generate some publicity and increase readership for their publication.

At the time, there were only two notable newspapers in the country with  Le Vélo being the most popular.  L’Auto was started as a rival publicationm but didn’t quite achieve the success its backers hoped.

The idea for a multi-day, multi-stage cycling race came from young Géo Lefèvre, the newspaper’s cycling reporter. During a crisis meeting, then 26-year old Lefèvre put forward the idea for Le Tour.

The concept was modified and shaped into a reasonable facsimile of what we see today: a race that traversed small towns in France, taking cyclists a few weeks of arduous rides to complete.

The first Tour de France wasn’t quite the high-performance, perfectly planned event we see these days. But its founders will doubtless deem it a  success (even in hindsight) because it obviously led to over a century of tradition. It did also boost the  readership of the newspaper, so it achieved its original goal.

The Tour de France has evolved since then, but much of it has remained the same. Every year, towns compete to be added as waypoints along the Tour de France route, and a committee selects those to join the prestigious ranks of those who have hosted the race for a day.

The race continues to attract riders from all over the world, though the prestige (and money) of the Tour de France attracts a much broader range of cyclists than in the race’s early years. The race itself is still a fantastic example of variety, as it is divided into large and small mountain stages, hilly sections of road, and flat sections for quick sprints.

What’s the deal with the Yellow Jersey at the Tour de France?

Many new Tour de France fans don’t understand why one rider wears a yellow jersey and why a new rider sometimes wears it the next day (don’t worry, they wash it first).

The yellow jersey, on the other hand, is well-known for being worn by the current overall race leader.

But just because a rider is wearing the Yellow Jersey does not mean they will be the winner in the end, although the final winner does “win” the Yellow Jersey.

Other jerseys at the Tour de France

Other jerseys include a green jersey, a white jersey, and a polka dot jersey. They are given to the race’s overall points leader, the best young (under twenty-five years old) rider, and the best climber, in that order.

It comes in Stages and in teams at Le Tour

The race is divided into stages, as previously stated. The stages are sections of the race that are completed in a single day and add up to form the race as a whole.

Riders do take a break at the end of each stage—after all, they are only human—only to resume the next morning at the next stage.

Cyclists frequently compete as members of a team. Cycling may appear to be an individual sport, but teams have been a part of the Tour de France for a long time.

In a race, teams can help each other a lot by pacing each other, blocking off the competition, or “slip streaming” for maximum speed by riding directly behind one another. Previously, teams were organised based on the riders’ national origin, but now teams are organised based on sponsors.

The riders’ finishing positions in the Tour de France are determined by simply adding each rider’s time on each stage to get a total race time. The cyclist with the fastest overall time wins the Tour de France, joining a long line of legendary athletes dating back over a century.

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