The largest sporting event in the world, the Tour de France is currently underway. It began on Saturday, July 2nd and ends on Sunday July 24th. Established in 1903 by journalist Géo Lefèvre to increase sales of L’Auto magazine it began with 60 cyclists, of who, only 21 completed the six stage race.
Over a century later, le tour has grown to include 20-22 teams of nine riders and now consists of 21 stages taking place over 23 days during June/July each year. The route covers 3,519km and primarily goes through France with the exception of some stages taking place in nearby countries, Spain, the Principality of Andorra and Switzerland this year.
The 3,500 +km route changes each year, but, the format stays the same. It features at least two time-trials, the passage through the mountain chains of the Pyrenees and the Alps and the finish in the Champs-Élysées in Paris.
Your Twitter timeline or official Tour de France website will keep you up to date on winners and stages but when you run out of conversation, these fascinating Tour de France Facts will come in handy.
10 Fascinating Tour de France Facts
Need for Speed
The fastest average speed of the Tour de France was 41.5km/hour during the 2005 tour. The slowest average pace was recorded in the 1919 tour at 24.1km/hour. Bear in mind that during the early years a gearing system was banned; meaning cyclists had to ride up hill on a single speed. They were given the option of getting off their bikes and manually changing gears.
Each of the nine team members must wear identical kits, this means matching socks, gloves, helmets, shorts and jerseys. The only exception is the leader jerseys.
Yellow Jersey: The leader, the rider with the lowest cumulative time wears a yellow jersey. The yellow jersey is a nod to the yellow pages of the L’auto-Velo, the newspaper that started the Tour.
Green Jersey: The cyclist with the most riders points wears a green jersey.
White and red polka dotted jersey: The King of the mountain, determined by a point system based on hill climb performance, wears the white jersey with red polka dots. The polka dots are based on the polka dotted candy wrappers of the original sponsor, Chocolat Poulain.
White jersey: The rider younger than 26 years who has the lowest cumulative time wears a white jersey.
White number on Red: The most combative rider of the day gets to wear a white number printed on red paper the following day.
Numbers printed on Black/Yellow: The team with the lowest cumulative times amongst their three leaders wear numbers printed on black or yellow paper the next day.
The Gentleman’s Agreement
Riders have a gentleman’s agreement which allows riders to take a “pauses pipi”, a quick potty break without trying to make up time on each other.
Burn Baby Burn
The average tour rider will burn 123, 900 calories over the tour. That roughly equates to 252 double cheeseburgers from McDonalds!
Whilst cheating in the tour is nothing new – the first incident was recorded in 1904 – the most creative cheat did not utilise banned substances or blood transfusions. He chose lead. In 1953, French rider Jean Robic swopped one of his water bottles for a bottle filled with lead. The bottle helped him soar down a mountain at record speed.
The Long and Short of it
The tallest rider was Johan van Summeren at 198cm and the shortest rider was Samuel Dumoulin at 158cm. The heaviest rider was the Swiss Magnus Backstedt at 94kg. The lightest rider was Leonardo Peipoli weighing in at 57kg.
Age is but a number
The youngest rider to win the Tour de France was Henri Cornet in 1904. He was 19 years old. The oldest rider to win was Belgium’s Firmin Lambot in 1922. He was 36 years old.
A spectators Sport
The tour de France attracts 12 million spectators along the route. They travel on average 130km to see stages of the Tour de france and will spend on average 6 hours at the roadside. 30% of spectators are women.
Numbers to know
3: chains worn out by a single rider.
4: riders have died during the Tour.
10: riders finished the tour in 1919, the lowest finisher rate.
2,000: journalists attend the tour.
4,700: hours of TV coverage the Tour gets annually.
8,400: food bags handed out at feeding stations during the tour.
13,000: French military police on the tour.
42,000: water bottles used by teams in the race.
€2,295,850: total prize money for the entire 2016 Tour de France.
€500,000: prize money for the race winner of the 2016 Tour de France.
€1000: Amount every finisher of the tour gets as a reward for slogging it out for the entire 3 weeks.
3.5 billion: The amount of people around the world who watch the Tour de France on TV.
188: Countries around the world that broadcast the Tour de France.
Most stages won by a single rider: Eddie Merckx holds the record with 34 stage wins (1969: six stages and overall; 1970: eight stages and overall; 1971: four stages and overall; 1972: six stages and overall; 1974: eight stages and overall; 1975: two stages). He also holds the record as the rider with the most days spent in the yellow jersey at 96 days.
This year, Mark Cavendish’s 29th stage win put him into second place in the all-times list.
Most stages won in a single tour: Three riders share this record, winning eight stages in a single tour. They are Charles Pelissier (1930), Eddy Merckx (1970, 1974), and Freddy Maertens (1976).
Most riders to wear the yellow jersey in one tour: In 1987, eight riders wore the yellow jersey – more than in any other year.
Biggest winning margin is 28 minutes and 27 seconds by Fausto Coppi–Stan Ockers in 1952.
Smallest winning margin is 8 seconds Greg LeMond–Laurent Fignon in 1989.
Fastest individual time trial: Greg LeMond did the fasted time trial in 1989. He averaged 54,54 kph over 24.5 km.
Fastest team time trial: Team Gewiss did the fastest time trial in 1995. Averaging 54.930 kph over 67 km.
Connacht Cycling: Interesting Tour de France Facts; Reader’s Digest: 24 Fascinating Facts about the Tour de France; Real Buzz: 10 Incredible Facts about the Tour de France; Yorkshire: Key Facts and Figures on the World’s Largest Annual Sporting Event; Road Cycling UK: Tour de France 2016 Prize Money in Numbers
Zissy is the co-founder of Nutreats. She likes to make things, do things and wear things.