15 Tour de France facts that will make people think you’re a TdF expert at the pub

The Tour de France is beginning in Leeds on Saturday 5th July, with stage one travelling over 190k of the Yorkshire Dales. After that, the race will move to York, for a 201km loop to Sheffield, before going from Cambridge to London on Monday 7th July.

If you’re around, then there’s a great guide on the Yorkshire.com website about where to see the Tour.

It’s not long until Tour hysteria takes over the country, so we’ve come up with 15 tour facts you can use to amaze and impress (or bore, if they’re not into cycling) your buddies with over the next few weeks:

1) In 2005, the average speed of the Tour was 41.5km per hour, that’s 25.8mph. Comparably, in 1919 the speed was 24.1km, that’s about 15mph (hey, we could do that?!). That year, only 10 of 69 riders finished.

2) The leader’s jersey is yellow, the top sprinter wears green, and the most impressive young rider wears white. The best climber wears a red and white spotted jersey. The unmissable polkadot jersey inherited its spots from the original King of the Mountains sponsor, Chocolat Poulain, who sold candy in polkadot wrappers.

3) Eddy Merckx won the most over Tour stages – taking 1st place in 34. He was nicknamed ‘the cannibal’.

4) Everyone needs something to keep themselves pedalling when the going gets tough. Sprinter Mario Cipollini took an interesting approach when he taped a picture of Pamela Anderson to his handlebars; in the hope her image might boost his testosterone.

5) We all know about the  high profile cheating scandals, but one of the lesser known attempts was when Jean Robic filled his bottle with lead in 1953, in an attempt to get down the hills quicker. These days, the other bottle trick is for a rider to coast along with the team car whilst pretending to take a water bottle from the window – this is called a ‘sticky bottle’.

6) The youngest ever stage winner was Henri Cornet – in 1904 he completed a stage in first position aged 19. Firmin Lambot was the oldest ever, winning in 1922, aged 36.

7) The heaviest ever rider to get up the tour hills was Magnus Backstedt of Sweden – at 97kg. The lightest ever rider was Leonardo Piepoli at 57 kgs.

8) The tallest ever rider was Johan van Summeren at 1.98 meters or 6′ 5.5″, the shortest was  Samuel Dumoulin at 1.58 meters or 5′ 2″.

9) The tour riders to have recorded the lowest resting heart rates were Chris Horner and Laurent Lefevre – who both had a resting bpm of 35.

10) The Tour de France pulls in between 11 and 15 million spectators a year, 217 miles of barricades are used, and 13,000 French policemen are out in force to cover the routes and line the courses every year.

11) The first edition of the Tour de France, in 1903, consisted of just six stages, and attracted 70 riders, who raced during the night.

12) The peleton is expected to use up 790 tyres during the 3 week period, with the average rider consuming 5,900 calories a day, making between 324,000 and 486,000 pedal strokes.

13) Aside from Lance Armstrong, who was stripped of his titles in 2012, the most successful tour riders were Jacques Anquetil of France, Eddy Merckx of Belgium, Bernard Hinault of France and Miguel Indurain of Spain  – all of them won five or more tours, with Indurain winning 5 consecutively, from 1991 – 1995.

14) It’s not all fun and games, and four riders have died during the course of the race.

15) The prize money for the overall winner is 450,000 euros.

Now you know your Tour de France facts. Have we missed any that you’ve got on your list? 

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

13 Responses to 15 Tour de France facts that will make people think you’re a TdF expert at the pub

  1. MJ Ray 20/06/2014 at 9:35 am #

    Bare stats miss the romance and the spirit of the race for me. For example, Magnus Backstedt was from Sweden but lived in Swansea, was affectionately called big Maggie by the commentators here (not a great time for British pros, so they pretty much adopted him as British) and since retiring (only fairly recently) has been involved with running a team for up and coming British riders (and at least one Swedish one). I think it was UK Youth, which was slightly incongruous when big Maggie rode for them one year as a way to better advise the younger riders during the race, plus was also backed by Nigel Mansell. Now that’s boring for you! 😉

    Behind each of the names anddates in that list, there’s probably similar stories. That’s part of what makes the grand tours grand IMO.

  2. John 20/06/2014 at 10:14 am #

    On the money point, you could have added that traditionally the winner doesn’t take any of this but splits it among his team-mates (ignoring the Wiggins – Froome incident of 2012…)

  3. Chris 20/06/2014 at 10:38 am #

    You could also point out that the rider who finishes last is also celebrated, known as the ‘Lanterne rouge’

    • Chris 20/06/2014 at 10:47 am #


      “12) The peleton is expected to use up 790 tyres during the 3 week period”

      Its peloton, not peleton.

  4. Hugh 20/06/2014 at 10:43 am #

    Le Grand Boucle (the ‘big belt’) as it is known in France, was originally conceived as a way of selling more newspapers, specifically the French sports newspaper, L’Equipe. The overall leaders jersey is yellow to reflect the original colour of the paper on which L’Equipe was printed.

    It is said that The Tour has some of the largest spectator numbers of any sporting event in the world, yet it is still free to go and watch roadside. Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite indeed!

    • Chris 20/06/2014 at 10:50 am #

      Its also why the Giro d’Italia leaders jersey (Maglia Rosa) is pink because that was the colour of the newspaper, La Gazzetta dello Sport, that first sponsored the race.

    • Chris 20/06/2014 at 11:22 am #

      Almost right.

      The Tour was actually started by L’Auto.

      L’Equipe didn’t start until 1946. It sort of replaced L’Auto, as the owner of the latter didn’t come out of the war with the best reputation.

    • Nick 23/06/2014 at 12:56 pm #

      Don’t think you can say it has large spectator numbers “yet” it is free to watch. Surely it has large spectator numbers *because* it’s free.

    • spoquey 27/06/2014 at 7:31 pm #

      Is it not La Grande Boucle? Incidentally there is a very sweet French film of that name about a man who loses job, wife and way of life and decides to cycle the Tour route the day before the pros. I saw it in France last year but it has not made it over here. Dommage!

  5. Paul Willis 20/06/2014 at 10:54 am #

    Point 13 you say “all of them won five or more tours”. Nobody has won more than 5. They have all won 5 each.

  6. Pedro 20/06/2014 at 11:42 am #

    Best not to mention that cheating **** Armstrong.

    • JohndJ 23/06/2014 at 11:26 am #

      Pedro, are you sure the other named riders are 100% clear 😉

  7. Floyd 29/06/2014 at 11:18 pm #

    There have been more winners wearing the number 51 than any other jersey number.

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