Are you a cycling enthusiast or a curious beginner who wants to learn more about the world’s most prestigious cycling race, but caught yourself wondering:
“How does the Tour de France work?”
Well, look no further than this beginner’s guide to the Tour de France, where we’ll cover everything you need to know about the race’s origins, how it works, and the key terms and jerseys you’ll hear and see while watching.
We’ll be covering:
- The Origins of the Tour de France
- How Does The Tour de France Work?
- Is the Tour de France an Individual or Team Race?
- What Do The Colored Jerseys Mean?
- Who Are The Favorites To Win The Tour de France 2023?
- Tour de France 2023 Route
- Where Can I Watch The Tour de France 2023?
- Tour de France Glossary: 15 Essential Terms
Let’s dive in!
the origins of the Tour de France
The Tour de France is the most prestigious cycling race in the world, attracting over 500 million viewers and more than 12 million passionate fans along the roads each year.
The race was created in 1903 by French sports journalist Henri Desgrange, who sought to promote his newspaper, l’Auto, and revive interest in cycling in France.
The first edition of the race began on July 1, 1903, and drew 60 riders who covered a total of 1,509 miles (2,428 kilometers) in six stages. Maurice Garin, a French cyclist, was the first winner.
Since then, the Tour de France has established itself as one of the most difficult and demanding races in the world, with notorious mountain stages and individual timed events that test riders’ skills in all aspects of road cycling.
Over the years, the Tour de France has evolved to include riders from all corners of the world and has become an iconic sporting event that embodies the spirit of competition, perseverance, and endurance.
How Does The Tour de France Work?
The Tour de France is a multi-day stage race. Each day’s route is referred to as a stage.
The Tour comprises 21 stages over 23 days, providing riders with only two rest days during the three-week period.
Along with an overall champion, each stage also crowns a winner. Winning a single stage in the Tour de France is considered highly prestigious, and it’s a lifelong goal for many riders.
To become the Tour’s overall champion, a rider must have the lowest combined time across all the stages. Although uncommon, it’s feasible to win the Tour de France without winning any stage.
Some details regarding the 2023 Tour de France
- The race will cover a total distance of 2115 miles (3404 km).
- There will be 22 teams, each consisting of 8 riders.
- The overall winner of the race will receive a cash prize of $500,000 (£407,000).
Is the Tour de France an Individual or Team Race?
Cycling is a team sport – although many people fail to recognize it.
Typically, teams have one primary contender who is believed to have the best chance of winning the Tour, and the rest of the team works to put that rider in the best possible position to win.
Riding in the slipstream of another cyclist requires less energy, which is why if the main contender drops off the back of the peloton due to a mechanical problem or a crash, his teammates will wait for him and lead him back to the group.
To ensure the safety of their riders, the teams of the main contenders are frequently observed leading the peloton and dictating the speed. At the back of the peloton, there is a lot of jostling and jockeying for position, and it is important to be in front of any crashes that may occur.
Teams may also have other specialist riders such as rouleurs or puncheurs, who might target individual stage wins that they’re particularly suited to.
- Want to know more? Check out our Guide to Tour de France Teams here!
What do the colored jerseys mean?
The yellow jersey – or “maillot jaune” – is the most prestigious and important jersey in all of cycling.
The rider who has the lowest combined time on all stages of the race wins the yellow jersey. The one who wears the yellow jersey after the final stage of the Tour is declared the winner of the race.
- Want to know more? Check out our Complete Guide to the Yellow Jersey here!
The green jersey, also called the Sprinters Jersey, is awarded to the leader of the points classification.
Riders earn points by finishing stages in high positions. Points are also awarded to the first riders to cross various checkpoints throughout a stage. These intermediate sprints can add excitement to long flat stages.
Polka dot jersey
The Polka dot jersey, also known as the King of the Mountains Jersey, is awarded to the best climber in the race.
During mountain stages, riders earn points for being the first to reach the top of each climb. The number of points awarded and the riders who qualify for them depend on the level of difficulty of the climb, arranged into climb categories.
The finish of a stage on a mountain summit doubles the available points.
The white jersey is awarded to the best young rider under 25 with the best overall time.
Who Are The Favorites To Win The Tour de France 2023?
- Age: 26
- Team: Jumbo-Visma
- Nationality: Danish
Jonas Vingegaard, who won the Tour de France in 2022, is widely regarded as the leading contender for victory in 2023.
The 2023 Tour route is ideal for Vingegaard to once again dominate the competition, with a particular emphasis on climbs. He is an excellent mountain climber and has great skills in time trials.
His confidence from his previous win undoubtedly gives him an edge.
- Check out our full Jonas Vingegaard Profile here!
- Age: 24
- Team: UAE Team Emirates
- Nationality: Slovenian
Jonas Vingegaard’s top rival in the upcoming Tour de France is Tadej Pogačar.
He won the competition in both 2020 and 2021 and has been the most successful racer in the event for the last three years.
The 2023 Tour route is also well-suited Pogačar, with a challenging start in the Basque Country and numerous high mountain stages. He excels in unpredictable situations, and the potential for anything to happen on this route will make him feel right at home as he tries to reclaim his title.
Check out our full Tadej Pogačar Profile here!
- Want a more in-depth look? Check out Tour de France Favorites: Who Will Win the Yellow Jersey in 2023 here!
Tour de France 2023 Route
The 2023 Tour de France will kick off with an explosive start in the Spanish Basque Country. Le Tour typically kicks off in a foreign country, before returning to France for the bulk of the route.
It will feature a 22-kilometer time trial and a challenging course that includes five mountain ranges and a dizzying 30 climbs (compared to 23 last year) of varying difficulty.
This year’s race promises to introduce new iconic locations, such as the Grand Colombier and the Col de la Loze, while also revisiting past sites of historical significance, including the Puy de Dôme, an Auvergne volcano that hasn’t been climbed in 35 years.
The first half of the race will put riders to the test with two tough segments in the Basque region and a demanding start in the Pyrenees.
The second half of the race will feature a grueling Alpine stay that will challenge even the strongest riders, with stages in Morzine, Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc, and Courchevel.
The race will conclude with a final detour in the Vosges before culminating in the traditional finish on the Champs-Élysées.
Get ready for an exhilarating Tour de France in 2023!
- Check out our in-depth Guide to the 2023 Tour de France Route here!
Where Can I Watch The Tour de France 2023?
Check out our guide on How To Watch the Tour de France 2023: Nation-by-Nation for a full breakdown of where you can catch the action!
Tour de France Glossary: 15 Essential Terms
- Check out our full Tour de France Glossary here!
Bonk: Refers to the state where a rider becomes completely exhausted and depleted of energy.
Breakaway: A rider or a group of riders who have separated themselves from the main pack, attempting to stay clear until the end of the stage to compete for the stage win.
Caravan: Refers to the procession of vehicles that follow a road race, including team cars, race officials, media, medical staff, VIP, and neutral support vehicles.
Domestique: A rider who primarily supports and assists the designated team leader by riding in a supporting role.
Drafting: Riding behind another rider to reduce wind resistance and conserve energy. It is estimated that a rider drafting off another can save up to 30% of their energy.
Echelon: A line of riders arranged behind each other to take advantage of the slipstream and minimize wind resistance.
Grand Départ: The start of the Tour de France, which is typically accompanied by a ceremonial send-off.
Granny Gear: The lowest gear ratio on a multi-speed bicycle, often achieved by using the smallest chainring in front and the largest in back.
Hors Catégorie: French for “beyond category“, used to describe the most challenging climbs, such as the infamous Alpe d’Huez.
Lanterne Rouge: French for “Red Lantern“, a term used to describe the last-placed rider in a race.
Musette: A bag filled with food, water, and energy drinks that are handed out to riders at designated feed zones during a race.
Peloton: The main group of riders in a road race, often consisting of dozens or even hundreds of riders.
Sag Wagon: A support vehicle that follows a race and offers assistance to riders who are unable to continue.
Wheel Sucker: A pejorative term used to describe a rider who rides in a pack without taking a turn at the front to share the workload and block the wind.