Tour de France jerseys: Yellow, green, white and polka-dot explained

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

Tadej Pogačar and Sam Bennett won the jerseys at the 2020 Tour de France
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

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 racing.

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

Tadej Pogačar wins the Tour de France 2020

(Image credit: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

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 (GC) of the race.

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, 2015-2017. Geraint Thomas took the 2018 race, with Colombian Egan Bernal winning in 2019.

Last 10 winners of the Tour de France general classification:

Sam Bennett wins stage 21 of the 2020 Tour de France

(Image credit: Getty Images)

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.

>>> Tour de France 2021 route: Details of all the stages in the 108th edition

The jersey took its colour because the initial sponsor was a lawn mower manufacturer - though the colour was changed once in 1968 to accommodate 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 10 winners of the Tour de France points classification:

Tadej Pogačar wins the polka-dot jersey at the Tour de France 2020

(Image credit: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/Getty Images)

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 first eight over the summit, whilst a fourth category climb results in points for just the first rider over the top.

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 10 winners of the Tour de France mountains classification:

Tadej Pogačar riding to overall victory on stage 20 of the Tour de France 2020

Egan Bernal on stage 18 of the 2019 Tour de France (Sunada)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

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 10 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.

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. They wear a red race number during the following day's stage. A 'Super Combativity' award is handed out on the final stage for the most aggressive rider during the whole race.

The Team Classification is based on the collective time of the three highest-placed riders from each squad. Leaders of the team classification get to wear race numbers that are yellow with black digits, and the right to wear yellow helmets. The latter is not compulsory.

Tim Bonville-Ginn
Tim Bonville-Ginn

Hi, I'm one of Cycling Weekly's content writers for the web team responsible for writing stories on racing, tech, updating evergreen pages as well as the weekly email newsletter. Proud Yorkshireman from the UK's answer to Flanders, Calderdale, go check out the cobbled climbs!

I started watching cycling back in 2010, before all the hype around London 2012 and Bradley Wiggins at the Tour de France. In fact, it was Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck's battle in the fog up the Tourmalet on stage 17 of the Tour de France.

It took me a few more years to get into the journalism side of things, but I had a good idea I wanted to get into cycling journalism by the end of year nine at school and started doing voluntary work soon after. This got me a chance to go to the London Six Days, Tour de Yorkshire and the Tour of Britain to name a few before eventually joining Eurosport's online team while I was at uni, where I studied journalism. Eurosport gave me the opportunity to work at the world championships in Harrogate back in the awful weather.

After various bar jobs, I managed to get my way into Cycling Weekly in late February of 2020 where I mostly write about racing and everything around that as it's what I specialise in but don't be surprised to see my name on other news stories.

When not writing stories for the site, I don't really switch off my cycling side as I watch every race that is televised as well as being a rider myself and a regular user of the game Pro Cycling Manager. Maybe too regular.

My bike is a well used Specialized Tarmac SL4 when out on my local roads back in West Yorkshire as well as in northern Hampshire with the hills and mountains being my preferred terrain.