Strap on your helmet for these fast facts and figures about the annual international bicycle race known as “Le Tour de France”.
- The Tour de France is run in mainland France, although since the 1960s, neighbouring countries — including Belgium, England, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain — have all hosted segments (or parts of).
- While the route changes each year, the Champs-Élysées in Paris has been the finishing mark since 1975.
- Cycling’s most prestigious road race is also known as “La Grande Boucle”, which in French loosely translates to “The Big Loop”.
- The inaugural event took place in 1903 and was initially organised to increase sales of the magazine L’Auto.
- Except for when it paused during the two World Wars, the race has been held annually since its inception.
- Normally, between 20 and 22 teams compete, with nine riders in each.
- Today’s “Le Tour” consists of 21 day-long stages over a 23-day period and covers approximately 3,500km. The shortest race was 2,428km in 1904; the longest was 5,745km in 1926.
- Finishing times for each stage are tallied and at the end of each segment, the competitor with the lowest combined time is the race leader, donning the coveted yellow jersey. The overall winner of the Tour de France is the rider with the lowest aggregate time at the end of the race.
- While the riders aim for the overall win, there are three further classifications within the Tour:
– Points (for the sprinters – the leader wears the green jersey);
– Mountains (for the climbers – the leader wears the white jersey with red polka dots);
– Young Rider (for those under 26 years old – the leader wears the white jersey).
- Sadly, to date there have been four cyclists who’ve died during the Tour de France (1910, 1935, 1967 and 1995).
- With Lance Armstrong being stripped of his seven consecutive wins between 1999 and 2005 for using performance enhancing drugs, Miguel Indurain, Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Mercks and Bernaud Hinault have won the most races with five each. The Spaniard, Indurain, won consecutive titles (1991 – 1995).
- Henri Cornet is the youngest winner ever (1904), doing so just shy of his 20th birthday, while at 36 years and 4 months of age, Firmin Lambot is the oldest (1922).
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