A Comprehensive Guide to Tour de France

What is Le Tour de France?

Even if you've never ridden a bike, you've likely heard of the Tour de France, and with good reason. Tour de France stands as one of the world's most popular sports events. The NFL has the super bowl, soccer has the world cup, and biking has the Tour de France. Though many websites argue about the actual numbers, they all agree on one thing: the Tour de France is one of the world's most renowned sports events around the world. In fact, it is part of the three big grand tours. (Giro d'Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta a España) So, what is the this all about, and why is it so popular? To put it simply, the event is a 23-day race consisting of 21 different stages and 2 rest days. Teams of 9 compete in 1 race every day during the event. As the race goes on, rider's times are noted, and points are awarded, creating a couple different classification brackets. Ultimately each team fights to obtain each stage win. (See the "Jersey" section below.)

Tour de France Stages:

Flat Stages: 9

Hill Stages: 3

Mountain Stages: 7

Time Trials: 2

Rest Days: 2

Other Facts:

Total Racers: 198

Total Teams: 22

Total Race Distance: 2,102 mi. (2021)

Total Stages: 21

Total Duration: 23 Days

History of Tour De France

Dating back to 1903, the Tour de France has been around. Initially created to help the sports newspaper "L'auto" boost its readers, the event has evolved into something more. In fact, the first race looked quite different than what we see today. With just 60 riders and no teams, you might argue that the race was even more brutal back then. Unlike today's Tour de France, the first race was a solo competition with each leg consisting of no aid and 250 mile long stages. 


Through the years, competition only increased, and as a result, more regulations had to be put in place. Through various scandals, and countless races, the event has since evolved into everything it is today. Indeed, in its over 100-year history, the Tour de France has had many changes; however, one fact still remains: The Tour de France has always been one of the world's most extreme sports events.

How is a winner determined?

When choosing a victor, the Tour de France is no different than most other races. Simply put, the rider with the lowest accumulative time is the victor of the race. However, there is also a point system as a separate, though slightly less prestigious, classification. (See below) As each stage takes place, riders gain points for both themselves and their teams. Though the ultimate winner is the rider that obtains the lowest time, the rider with the most points also earns some praise and respect. For a complete understanding of how scoring works, click here. Likewise, a few different colored jerseys were created for those leading in each classification.

Scoring Chart:

Yellow Jersey

The yellow jersey or the maillot jaune is the most coveted jersey of the entire event. This is because the person with the most points gets to wear it. In other words, the person wearing this jersey is the leader of the entire race. The ultimate goal of racers is to be wearing this Jersey while riding down the finish line at Champs-Élysées. When a rider takes the lead, a jersey printer van creates a new jersey for the rider with their respective sponsor logos, as shown in the video below:  

Green Jersey

As stated above, the second most prestigious jersey is the green jersey. This jersey is given to the rider that currently holds the most points in the competition. Due to the intermediate sprint points that can be earned, this jersey is most often held by professional sprinters like the legend Peter Sagan.

Green Tour de France jersey

White Jersey

The white jersey was created to symbolize the future of bikers in general. Much like the yellow jersey, the white jersey goes to the person with the most points with one other catch; the white jersey can only go to riders that are 25 years of age or younger.

Tour de France white Jersey

Polka Dot Jersey

Simply put, the red polka dot jersey goes to the best cyclist at climbing. "It owes its appearance to track racing specialist Henri Lemoine, who competed between the 1930s and 1950s, and that Félix Lévitan, co-director of the Tour with Jacques Goddetwhich, had particularly noticed. While Belgium’s Lucien Van Impe was its first winner and claimed the mountains classification six times, just like his illustrious predecessor, Spain’s Federico Bahamontes, the so-called “Eagle of Toledo”, Frenchman Richard Virenque holds the record for victories with seven titles." 

- https://www.letour.fr/en/the-jerseys-tour-de-france/the-polka-dot-jersey

tour de france red polka dot jersey

Things to Know

Stages Tdf 2021

STAGE 1 (Sat 06/26): Hilly - 123 mi.

STAGE 2 (Sun 06/27): Hilly - 114 mi. (Bonus points at Mûr-de-Bretagne, First Passage)

STAGE 3 (Mon 06/28): Flat - 113 mi.

STAGE 4 (Tue 06/29): Flat - 93.5mi.

STAGE 5 (Wed 06/30): Time-Trial - 16.9mi.

STAGE 6 (Thu 07/01): Flat - 100mi.

STAGE 7 (Fri 07/02): Hilly - 155mi. (Bonus points at Signal d'Uchon)

STAGE 8 (Sat 07/03): Mountain - 94mi. (Bonus points at Col de la colombière)

STAGE 9 (Sun 07/04): Mountain - 90mi.

----- Rest Day (Sun 04/04) -----

STAGE 10 (Tue 07/06) Flat - 118.6 mi.

STAGE 11 (Wed 07/07): Mountain - 123.6mi. (Bonus points at Mont Ventoux, second passage)

STAGE 12 (Thu 07/08): Flat - 99.1mi.

STAGE 13 (Fri 07/09): Flat - 136.7mi.

STAGE 14 (Sat 07/10): Hilly - 114.3mi. (Bonus points at Col de Saint-Louis)

STAGE 15 (Sun 07/11): Mountain - 119mi. (Bonus points at Col de Beixalis)

----- Rest Day (Mon 07/12) ----

STAGE 16 (Tue 07/13): Hilly - 105mi.

STAGE 17 (Wed 07/13): Mountain - 110.9mi.

STAGE 18 (Thu 07/14): Mountain - 80.8mi.

STAGE 19 (Fri 07/15): Flat - 128.6mi.

STAGE 20 (Sat 07/16): Time-Trial - 19.1mi.

STAGE 21 (Sun 07/18): Flat - 67.4mi.

*Note* Bonus points will be given on stages 2, 7, 8, 11, 14, and 15. These bonuses will only count toward the general classification and not the points classification. First place will gain 8 seconds, second will gain 5, and third will gain 2.

Let's Talk Strategy

As already mentioned, the Tour de France is not a solo event. It can be pretty daunting to see the initial group of bikers at the starting line; however, once you know what to look for, the mass of bikers becomes much more interesting to watch. We won't go over every detail, like this guide, but here are the basics:


Each team is composed of 8 total members. The team is broken up into 1 leader and 7 servants known as "domestiques." The leader will be the team's chosen contender and the person they most expect to see on the podium. Throughout each stage, the 7 domestiques are assigned the task to protect the leader at all costs. This means several things, including fetching food or water, providing a slipstream, or even giving up their bike.

Top Contenders - TOUR DE FRANCE 2021

Tadej Pogačar - Slovenian - The yellow jersey winner of 2020 - Team: UAE Team Emirates

Primož Roglič - Slovenian - Top UCI World Ranking Holder - Team: Jumbo–Visma

Geraint Thomas - Welsh - 2018 TdF Winner - Team: Ineos Grenadier

David Gaudu - French - Team: Groupama-FDJ

Julian Alaphilippe - French - Team: Deceuninck-Quick-Step

Chris Froome - British - Four Time TdF Champ. - Team: Israel Start-Up Nation


Important Lingo

Grand Départ

The first stage of race.

Peloton

The largest group of riders on the track.

Breakaway

When one or more riders break away from the group.

Directeur Sportif

The director sportif is essentially the head coach of any given team.

Lanterne Rouge

The last rider in at the rear of the race.

Sag Wagon

A vehicle that follows racers to pick up those who drop out and carry gear.

Slip Streaming

Using the pocket of calmer air behind another rider.

Bonking

When a rider is completely spent and has run out of energy.

Domestique

Riders that sacrifice themselves for other team members.

Flamme Rouge

A red flag that signals 1k. to the end of any given stage.

Musket bag

Bag that contains food and water and is handed to riders as they pass by selected locations.

Recap and More

The video below is a great resource for anyone looking to better understand the Tour de France or refresh their memories on in:

2021 TdF Course & Website

2021 Tour de France map

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