We explain what the yellow, green, polka-dot and white jerseys worn by riders in the Tour de France represent

The most prestigious race in the cycling calendar is fast approaching, and soon our TV screens will be adorned with the very best riders battling it out for the yellow, green, white and polka-dot Tour de France jerseys.

The jersey for each category is awarded to the leader of that classification at the end of every stage, and the recipient earns the right to wear it during the following day’s race.

Here we take a brief look at what they are and how they are won.

tour de france jerseys: yellow jersey

Yellow jersey of overall race leader

Tour de France jerseys: Yellow – overall classification leader

Also called the maillot jaune, the Tour de France yellow jersey is the most coveted item of clothing in professional cycling. The wearer is the rider who has completed the race in the least amount of time, and as such tops the overall or general classification of the race.

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In 2012, Bradley Wiggins became the first British rider to finish in Paris in the Yellow Jersey at the end of the prestigious race – with Chris Froome following up in 2013, 2015 and 2016.

Last ten winners of the Tour de France general classification:

tour de france jerseys: green jersey

Green jersey of points classification leader

Tour de France jerseys: Green – points classification leader

Points are awarded to riders according to the position that they finish each stage, and there are additional points for intermediate sprints during some stages.

Stage winners get the most points, with less points awarded to those that cross second, third, etc. The number of points on offer will vary depending upon the type of stage – with more on offer during pure sprinter’s days. The points are then tallied up after each stage and added to points won in all previous stages. The green jersey (maillot vert) is awarded to the rider with the most points.

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The jersey took its colour because the initial sponsor was a lawn mower manufacturer – though the colour was changed once in 1968 to accomodate a sponsor. Whilst the jersey is often considered to be a ‘sprinter’s jersey’, the winner often needs to be an all-rounder: someone who can finish well in fast finishes as well as mountain days. However, the most points are awarded on the flattest days.

Both Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault successfully won both the general classification and the points classification with Merckx achieving the biggest sweep in 1969 with the points, mountain and general classifications to his name.

Last ten winners of the Tour de France points classification:

tour de france jerseys: polka dot jersey

Iconic polka dot jersey of the King of the Mountains

Tour de France jerseys: Polka-dot – King of the Mountains classification leader

Mountains points are awarded to riders who crest the Tour de France’s climbs first. The amount of points awarded depends on the severity or ‘category’ of the mountain – the bigger it is, the more points are on offer.

Climbs are divided into five categories: 1 (most difficult) to 4 (least difficult) – then there’s the ‘Hors Categorie’, denoted by HC which represents the most challenging of ascents. The tougher the category, the further down the standings the points reach – a HC climb will see points awarded down to the top 10 over the summit, whilst a fourth category climb results in points for the top three riders.

The organisers decide which mountains or climbs will be included in the competition, and which category they fall into. If the stage features a summit finish, the points for the climb are doubled.

The points are tallied up after each stage and added to points won in all previous stages. The distinctive white-with-red-dots jersey (maillot à pois rouges) is given to the rider with the most mountains points. The first climber’s award was given out in 1933, and the jersey arrived on the scene in 1975

Last ten winners of the Tour de France mountains classification:

tour de france jerseys: white jersey

White jersey of best young rider

Tour de France jerseys: White – Best young rider classification leader

The least distinctive of all of the classification jerseys – it’s plain white – is awarded to the under-26 rider who has completed the Tour de France in the least amount of time. This jersey was first introduced in 1975.

Before 1975, there was still a white jersey – but it went to the rider in the highest position across the general classification, points and mountains. This was called the ‘combination classification’.

Last ten winners of the Tour de France young rider classification:

Non-jersey classifications: combativity and team competition

There are two further classifications that do not earn the winner(s) a coloured jersey – the Combativity Award and Team Classification.Non-jersey classifications

The Combativity award isn’t a classification as such, as the award is given to a rider who has been deemed by a race jury to have shown ‘fighting spirit’ during each individual stage. However, a ‘Super Combativity’ award is handed out on the final stage.

The Team Classification is based on the squad which has collectively completed the race in the least amount of time.