It lasts three weeks, attracts around 15 million spectators and is here once again – the Tour de France is back for its 95th edition starting on Saturday, July 7. Here we take you through a potted history of the Tour and present some facts and figures.
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
Back in 1903, the idea of the Tour was dreamed up by French sports newspaper L’Auto as a publicity stunt to help increase its circulation. It not only fulfilled its objective, but also managed to destroy the rival paper of the time and become one of the most attractive events for competitive cyclists overnight.
Only the gutsy and the tough of the professional cycling world entered the 2,428km, 19-day event and the first champion, Maurice Garin, managed to beat 59 other cyclists to take the title by a margin of two hours and 49 minutes.
The Tour very nearly didn’t make it through to its second year with the amount of cheating involved. This was cheating of the non-chemical kind and involved riders catching trains, taking cars and dropping spikes to puncture opponent’s tyres.
Night stops, bike changes and technical help were against the rules of the Tour at this stage, so it’s not surprising that the sleep-deprived competitors were tempted to jump on the train every now and then.
Rather than cancelling the Tour, the officials only added more rules and more mountains making the challenge almost impossible and earning the organisers the label of ‘assassins.’ Now the race is very different with trainers, doctors and experts offering technical advice to every rider, not to mention the huge amounts of money wrapped up in team sponsorship.
Today, the Tour involves more riders, more kilometres and more controversy with competitors demanding the unimaginable from their bodies in the bid to get their hands on that yellow leader’s jersey.
* American Lance Armstrong is the only person to have ever won the Tour seven times. Eddy Merckx, Jacques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain have all won five.
* The smallest Tour-winning margin was set by American rider Greg LeMond in 1989. He beat Frenchman Laurent Fignon by just eight seconds.
* The youngest winner of the Tour was Henri Cornet who was 19 years old and took the title in 1904.
* The publicity caravan arrives before the race does. This consists of a parade or around 200 floats and vehicles.
* The Tour’s podium girls are selected by the race organisers from over 500 applicants every year. Podium girls are forbidden to socialise with riders.
* Tour de France bikes weigh around 6.8 kilograms (14.9 pounds). A carbon-fibre team replica will set you back between £5,000 and £7,000.
|THE JERSEY CLASSIFICATIONS|
OVERALL LEADER – YELLOW JERSEY
Coloured jerseys are awarded to the leaders of each of the main race classifications. Here’s our guide to what’s what in Tour couture…
The coveted yellow jersey – or maillot jaune – is worn by the rider who has completed the race in the least amount of time. As such, they top the general classification (GC) of the race. Whoever wears the yellow jersey when the races finishes in Paris, wins the Tour de France overall.
POINTS LEADER – GREEN JERSEY
This jersey is the one that the sprint specialists want the most. Points are awarded for riders who cross the finish line first, leading to sprint specialists battling for the line on flat stages. Points are also awarded for intermediate sprints, which are positioned along the route. The rider with the most points wears the green jersey.
KING OF THE MOUNTAINS LEADER – POLKA-DOT JERSEY
When the race hits the mountains of the Alps or Pyrenees, it’s the wiry climbing specialists who wrestle for the mountains jersey. The distinctive red and white polka-dot jersey is awarded to the rider who collects the most mountain points – the most points are awarded to the rider who reaches the top of designated climb first. There are several categories of climb dependent on the severity of the ascent. The bigger the mountain, the more points on offer.
|PAST TOUR DE FRANCE WINNERS|
|1976||Lucien Van Impe||Belgium|
|1980||Zoop Zoetemelk||The Netherlands|
|1986||Greg LeMond||United States|
|1989||Greg LeMond||United States|
|1990||Greg LeMond||United States|
|1999||Lance Armstrong||United States|
|2000||Lance Armstrong||United States|
|2001||Lance Armstrong||United States|
|2002||Lance Armstrong||United States|
|2003||Lance Armstrong||United States|
|2004||Lance Armstrong||United States|
|2005||Lance Armstrong||United States|
|TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: GUIDE|
|TOUR DE FRANCE 2007: LAST YEAR’S STAGE REPORTS|
Forgotten what happened last year? This will remind you…
Tour de France 2007: full final results
Stage 20: Alberto Contador wins Tour de France 2007
Stage 19: Contador set for Tour victory
Stage 18: Casar wins last transition stage
Stage 17: Bennati sprints to victory
Stage 16: Rasmussen takes all on Col d’Aubisque
Stage 15: Vintage Vino
Stage 14: Vino’s Tour hopes crumble in Pyrenees
Stage 13: Vinokourov blasts back in time trial
Stage 12: Boonen back to win the stage
Stage 11: Hunter storms eventful stage
Stage 10: Vasseur takes stage by a tyre width
Stage 9: Soler goes solo
Stage 8: Rasmussen wins stage and takes race lead
Stage 7: Gerdemann takes stage and the yellow jersey
Stage 6: Boonen wins sprint with broken gears
Stage 5: Pozzato wins stage
Stage 4: Mighty Thor takes the stage
Stage 3: Cancellara powers home
Stage 2: Steegmans wins
Stage 1: First blood to McEwen
Prologue: Cancellara wins, Wiggins fourth