Since the end of the 1990s, the current format of the Tour de France has consisted of 21 stages spread over 23 days (there are 2 days of rest). The stages have an average length of around 170 km. However, individual stages can be up to 230 km long, but sections of less than 80 km are also part of the program. Individual and team time trials have a length between 10-70 km. 22 professional teams with 8 drivers each start the three-week tour. The teams bear the names of sponsors who hope that this will have an advertising effect. The “Grand Départ”, the start of a Tour de France, takes place at regular intervals either in France or in other European countries. If in earlier times a stage was started in the same place where the stage ended the day before,
There are four classification jerseys in different colors, one each for the overall leader, the best driver in the points classification, the best climber and the leader in the junior classification.
The current overall leader of a Tour de France is allowed to wear the yellow jersey (“Maillot Jaune”). Over time it has become the most famous symbol of cycling. Every professional driver dreams of being able to pull on this legendary jersey once in his career. The organizers only came up with the idea of honoring the overall leader of a Tour de France with a special jersey a few years after the first edition. Their intention was to make the leader more visible to the audience. The first carrier was the French Eugène Christophe (* 1885, † 1970) on the 10th stage of the Tour de France 1919. For a full 16 years, the leader in the overall standings was able to drive inconspicuously on the streets of France and perhaps even try to break away from his competitors without being recognized. With the introduction of the yellow jersey, this was no longer so easy. The choice of yellow was probably made because the sports newspaper L’Auto was also printed on yellow pages. Another version says that in the short term, after all, the decision to introduce a leadership jersey was made in the middle of a Tour de France, only a yellow jersey was available. In honor of the founder of the Tour de France Henri Desgrange, his initials still adorn the yellow jersey with the letters “HD”.
The green jersey (“Maillot Vert”) is withheld from the best driver in the points classification. Points are awarded during the stage in so-called intermediate sprints and at the finish of each stage. The point yield is greater on flat stages than on difficult mountain stages. That is why a strong sprint driver usually wins this coveted jersey in Paris, but he can also get over the mountains well.
The mountain jersey (“Maillot Blanc à Pois Rouge”) has also become a trademark of the Tour de France. The white jersey with its red dots identifies the rider who has collected the most mountain points during a tour. The longer and steeper the ascent, the more mountain points are awarded on the mountain pass. The highest mountain price category is the “Hors Catégorie” (HC), an ascent that is so difficult and challenging that it lies outside of any categorization criteria. A mountain prize has been awarded since 1933, but the jersey in its current form has only been around since 1975. The jersey owes its special appearance to the first sponsor of the mountain prize: a French chocolate manufacturer who wrapped its chocolate in white paper with red dots.
The competition for the white jersey of the best young professional (“Maillot Blanc”) is for those riders who are 25 years or less at the time of the respective Tour de France. The jersey has been awarded since 1975, with minor interruptions.
In addition, after each stage, the “most combative” driver will be awarded a red number (“Prix de la combativité”) by a jury, and the best team will be given a yellow number. After each stage, the times of the three best-placed drivers of a team are always included in the team standings.
The most successful drivers
If you go after the overall victories at the Tour de France, four riders stand out with five wins each: The French Jacques Anquetil (1957, 1961-1964; * 1934, † 1987), the Belgian Eddy Merckx (1969-1972, 1974), the French Bernard Hinault (1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1985; * 1954) and the Spaniard Miguel Indurain (1991-1995; * 1964). In the recent past, the still active Brit Christopher Froome celebrated four overall victories (2013, 2015-2017).
The active Slovak Peter Sagan (2012-2016, 2018, 2019; * 1990) has won the green jersey a total of seven times. He thus holds the record in this category.
The hardest-working point collector in the mountains is the French Richard Virusque (* 1969). He won the mountain jersey seven times between 1994 and 2004.
Another record is held by the Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel (* 1979), who with his last Tour de France participation in 2018 was at the start of the tour for the 18th time and always arrived in Paris apart from two tasks. So he competed in the Tour de France more often than any other driver before him.
The Slovenian Tadej Pogačar (* 1998) took the overall victory in 2020. He is the first rider since Laurent Fignon in 1983 to win the Tour on his debut.