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Tour De France

Le Tour De France International Bike Cycling

Le Tour De France is an annual international bike race and is one of three famous Grand Tours along with the Giro D'Italia and la Vuelta A España.

How long is the Tour De France?

Le Tour takes place over three weeks in July of each year. The first Tour de France took place in 1903 and has run annually ever since. The initial idea was for a five-stage race running for 5 weeks from the 31st of May to the 5th of July, starting in Paris and stopping in Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux and Nantes before returning to Paris. Toulouse was added later to break up the long ride across southern France from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. Riders would cycle through the night and finish the following afternoon, taking a rest day before setting off again.

Tour de France peloton cycle racing

Unfortunately, this route and schedule proved too difficult and expensive for most athletes at the time and only 15 competitors entered the first Tour. The original organisers almost gave up on the idea, but before giving up they tried cutting the duration to 19 days, changed the dates to 1st to 19th July, and offered a daily allowance to those who averaged at least 20 km/h on all the stages, equivalent to what a rider would have expected to earn each day had he worked in a factory. The entry fee was also halved from 20 Francs to 10 francs (£29 today) and first prize was set at 12,000 francs  and the prize for each day's winner was 3,000 francs. This hugely generous prize fund attracted many more participants and thus the first Tour De France was born.

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What channel is the Tour De France on?

In the UK, the Tour De France is broadcast on ITV with highlights on ITV Sport and catch up services. The footage and images are provided by French channels France 2 and France 3 which are public broadcast channels (like the BBC). They purposefully combined forces to offer more coverage than the private rival TF1 so that there would be no advertising breaks. 

jersey mountains cycling road racing

How many stages are there in the Tour De France?

There are 21 stages in Le Tour De France, one for each day of the race (with 2 days of rest taking it up to 23 days in total). 

  • 8 flat stages
  • 5 hilly stages
  • 6 mountain stages and 3 altitude finishes (La Rosière, Alpe d’Huez, Saint-Lary-Soulan col du Portet)
  • 1 individual time-trial
  • 1 team time-trial
  • 2 rest days

tour de france uphill stage

How does the Tour De France work?

There are 5 races within the entire Tour De France: the general classification (GC), points classification, mountains classification, best young rider, and team classification. The rider that completes all 21 stages in the shortest time overall – after time bonuses have been accounted for – over three weeks comes top of the general classification and wins the Tour. The rider who is in the lead of the GC at the end of each day wears the esteemed yellow jersey, which is a real highlight in the career of any cyclist.

The mountains classification takes place in the aforementioned mountainous stages and is won on points which are awarded at the top of each categorised climb. The winner of this classification is crowned 'King of the Mountains' and wears the polka dot jersey.

The Time Trial stages count towards the points classification and there are more of these points up for grabs than in the mountains classification. The cyclist with the most points (leader of the points classification) wears the green jersey.

The general, young rider and team classifications are won by those who finish in the quickest time. 

What does "GC" mean in cycling?

GC stands for General Classification and is a ranking classification used in multi-stage bike races like the Tour De France. Each stage will have a stage winner, but the overall winner in the GC is the rider who has the fastest time when all the stage results are added together and compounded. 

For the Tour De France, the leader of the GC has the honour of wearing the coveted 'yellow jersey'.

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