I’m sure most of you have heard about the Tour de France. The world’s largest, oldest, and most famous cycling event, with millions of viewers tuning in every year. While for some of you, the first thing that pops into your mind might be Kraftverk’s album Tour de France, however, in this article, we look at some of the most exciting Tour de France facts.
Ready, Set, Go!
Tour de France History Facts
1. Henri Desgrange organised the first Tour de France bicycle race in 1903.
Desgrange was a French cyclist, journalist and publisher of the newspaper L’Auto. Desgrange’s newspaper sponsored the Tour as a marketing trick to promote the paper across France and increase sales. Not only did he succeed at boosting the circulation of the newspaper, but he also created one of the most significant racing events.
2. The 1926 route was the longest in history, covering 5,745 km.
The longest-ever Tour had 126 starters, 44 of which were on sponsored teams, and 82 were independent tourist routers. Only 17 stages appeared that year, the longest of them being 433 kilometres from Metz to Dunkerque. Only 41 racers finished this bicycle race.
3. The first-ever winner of the Tour de France was an Italian-born chimney sweeper.
In 1903, Maurice Garin was the first Tour de France winner. His second victory in 1904 and subsequent disqualification is one of the most hilarious Tour de France history facts. At the last stage, they caught him catching a train to the Alps.
4. Three tour riders have died while competing at the Tour de France.
1910 marked the first death at the Tour de France. However, the victim, Adolphe Helière, drowned during one of the rest days, not during the race. Francisco Cepeda, a Spaniard who lost control of his bike while descending the notorious Col du Galibier in the Alps and crashed into a gorge, was the first rider to die while actually competing in the Tour de France in 1935.
5. The race has taken place every year except during World Wars I and II.
During World War II, the Germans attempted to organise the Tour de France to maintain a sense of normality. However, according to Tour de France facts, the organisers refused German requests to hold the race.
6. Until 1937, bicycles did not have a derailleur, so riders got off their bikes to change gears.
One of the most interesting Tour de France history facts is that bicycles in 1903 were made of heavy steel and wood and weighed up to 18 kg. These were substantially heavier than today’s carbon bike frames, which weigh around 7 kg.
Tour de France Trivia and Facts for Kids
7. In 1919, the prestigious yellow jersey made its debut.
The famous yellow jersey goes to the cyclist with the fastest overall time from the start of the cycle race each day. Eugène Christophe, who led the general classification until the day before the finish, was the first to wear one. However, he must have been upset to lose it at the last minute.
8. During each stage of the race, each rider burns between 4,000 and 5,000 calories.
Over three weeks, each rider must consume an average of 123,900 calories. This is the equivalent of 495 croissants or 200 bottles of champagne. If counted in Big Macs, that is 482 of them to eat over three weeks to get to the finish line of this cycle race. Now, this is definitely the most remarkable fact of all Tour de France facts for kids. Right?
9. The youngest cyclist ever to win the Tour de France was only 19 years old.
Henri Cornet is the youngest cyclist to win the race’s second edition in 1904. He was only 19 at the time. On the other hand, the tournament’s oldest winner is Firmin Lambot, who was 36 when he won the competition in 1922.
Fun Facts and Trivia about the Tour de France
10. During the 1920s, the Tour de France riders smoked while racing.
It was common for cyclists to trade cigarettes while cycling in the 1920s. Believe it or not, they regarded smoking as helpful to “open the lungs” before long climbs. This fact definitely doesn’t belong to the Tour de France facts for kids section.
11. Tour de France total prize money stands at around €2.3 million.
The race’s overall winner wins around €500,000 in prize money, which he usually splits with his teammates. However, the total prize money for the entire event, like stages, sprints, and overall classification, is estimated to be around €2.3 million. Well, we must say, these are some motivational le Tour de France facts. Cha-ching!
12. Until the 1960s, it was common practice for Tour de France contestants to drink alcohol during the race.
Until the 1960s, it was normal for Tour de France riders to consume alcoholic beverages throughout the cycle race. They drank alcohol not only to numb the pain but also saw it as a performance stimulant. However, since the prohibition of all stimulants, alcohol was eventually banned.
13. “We run on dynamite,” – Francis Pelissier
Although the problem has existed for a while, doping has damaged the race’s legitimacy in the past quarter-century. In 1924, two brothers Henri and Francis Pelissier told a journalist that they used cocaine, chloroform, and various medicines to gain an edge. The famous quote “We run on dynamite” remains part of Tour de France trivia.
14. The cyclists sweat about 1.5 litres per hour for the entire bicycle race.
Over the roughly 3,500 kilometres of the Tour de France, each rider executes about 405,000 pedal strokes. With all of that pedalling comes perspiration and a lot of sweat. Each rider produces 130 litres of sweat -this is enough to fill two tubs or flush a toilet 39 times. We must admit, this is a bit bizarre Tour de France fact!
15. Every year, about 12 million fans line the route, making it one of the world’s largest sporting events.
The caravan lasts roughly 45 minutes and provides entertainment for spectators who wait for hours to see the riders. Some facts about the Tour de France state that over 3.5 billion people in 190 countries tune in to watch the event during the Tour’s three weeks of coverage, making it the world’s third-largest sporting event.
16. With a few exceptions, bicycle racing in Europe remains a male-dominated sport.
If you’re a woman, you can’t compete in the Tour de France alongside male riders. The event is only open to men. A women’s version took place every year between 1984 and 1989, but it mainly went undetected. Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has confirmed that a women’s edition will take place in 2022.
17. Tour de France riders only get two rest days over three weeks.
There used to be 14 rest days in the early years of the Tour de France. Stages frequently ended late at night, requiring cyclists to rest the next day. Now, the race lasts 23 days, with two days off in between. On the rest days, riders still go for short rides to keep their legs from cramping up.
Tour De France Statistics 2021
18. Slovenia’s cyclist Tadej Pogačar finished the 2021 Tour de France in 82 hours, 56 minutes, and 36 seconds.
According to Tour de France statistics of 2021, Pogačar’s time is the second-fastest in history. He finished the 3,414-kilometer race in less than 83 hours, which raised some suspicions. He claims, however, that multiple negative drug tests should convince the critics he was riding clean.
19. Bahrain Victorious won the Tour de France in 2021 with a time of 14,956.78 minutes.
Statista’s statistics about the Tour de France shows that Bahrain Victorious won the team competition in 2021 by a gap of 19 minutes against EF Education-Nippon. His team achieved the fastest competition time with a little over 249 hours, leaving the others behind.
20. In 2021, Chris Froome was the highest-earning cyclist with a salary of €5.5 million.
Chris Froome received a wage boost of €1 million per year when he moved to Israel Start-Up Nation and is now the highest-paid male rider in the world. Moreover, Tour de France statistics show that Tadej Pogačar, the 2021 champion, and Peter Sagan, the highest-paid rider last year, are right behind Froome with a gross salary of €5 million each.
21. In 2020, Ineos Grenadiers team had a budget of €50.1 million.
Despite the COVID-19 epidemic reducing the budget of the 2020 racing season, the British WorldTour team retained a firm budget of over €50 million. According to previous Tour de France statistics, Ineos’ budget decreased by only €700,000 compared with the year earlier.
22. The Tour de France splits into 21 stages, each lasting one day.
Tour de France facts and figures show that generally, the race lasts 23 days and is split into 21 stages (riding days) with two rest days. Over the 21 days of racing, the overall length covers around 3,500 kilometres, averaging roughly 160 kilometres per day.
23. Each stage has a different length.
The Tour de France has a wide range of stage lengths. Some days riders have 300 kilometres races, and others only 50 kilometres sprints. The racing styles vary as well: some stages are individual time trials, others are team time trials, and the majority are regular road races with a mass start.
24. Tadej Pogačar got a €500,000 bonus for winning the “Big Loop”.
The top riders in the competition receive large sums of money each year for their achievements. Statista’s Tour de France statistics of 2021 show that the winner of the 2021 race has received half a million euros bonus.
25. The Tour de France average speed by year has nearly doubled since the first Tour de France in 1903.
The 2005 Tour was the fastest in history. Tour de France statistics show that Lance Armstrong cycled 3,592.5 kilometres in 86 hours 15 minutes and 02 seconds, with an overall speed of 41.7 kilometres per hour. However, his victory was later overturned due to doping allegations. Firmin Lambot, on the other hand, won the race in 1919 with the slowest ever winning average speed of 24.1km/h.
Tour de France Viewership Statistics
26. GCN+ and ITV4 are the main broadcasters of the Tour in the UK.
Every year, the Tour is broadcasted live in Europe and the rest of the world, covering all stages from beginning to end. The 2021 race was broadcasted live across Europe on Eurosport. In the UK, it was broadcasted live on GCN+ and ITV4, with full live coverage and highlights available. In Wales, it was shown on S4C.
27. In the UK, 19% of the adults intended to watch the 2021 Tour de France.
Overall, people were much more interested in watching the 2021 race compared to the year before. For example, the YouGov survey data on viewership interest shows that around 19% of the Brits opted to watch the race, which is an 8% increase compared to 11% in 2020. Moreover, Tour de France viewership statistics 2021 show that the same trend was detected in two other key markets, Australia with 30% and the US with 19%.
28. In 2019, TV rights made up about 55% of the overall revenue.
The Amaury Sport Organisation has been managing the race for over 50 years. Tour de France facts and figures show that Amaury makes between $60 and $150 million despite not selling any tickets. Reports from 2019 reveal that TV rights accounted for around 55%, ads and sponsors 40% and city fees 5% of overall revenue.
29. The race drew a TV audience of 150 million viewers across Europe in 2021.
(Statista) (Tour De France 2021 Media report)
The latest data on Tour de France viewership by country indicates that only 42.4 million viewed the race in France, which is an increase compared to 40 million in 2020. The iconic cycling event received viewership from around 150 million fans across Europe.
30. The 2021 edition of Tour de France had 41 sponsorship partners.
(Statista) (Econ Life)
The Tour’s huge media attention attracts a lot of sponsors. According to Statista’s data, the race had 41 sponsorship partners in 2021, with 14 serving as official providers and 11 as official sponsors. For example, a financial services firm spent $12 million to have its name imprinted on the Tour de France famous yellow jersey.
31. 54% of people in the UK followed the Tour de France 2021 because they enjoy watching cycling events in general.
According to Tour de France viewership statistics 2021, viewers mainly follow the Tour because they generally like watching bike races. That was the answer of more than half of the respondents from all three participating countries, Australia, the UK, and the US. In addition, 24% of people watched the Tour in the UK because they are eager to encourage riders from their own country.
Tour de France Riders Statistics
32. Eddy Merckx is widely regarded as the best cyclist of all time.
When we take a look at Tour de France rider statistics for the most popular riders, we come down to these ten names:
- Eddy Merckx
- Bernard Hinault
- Miguel Indurain
- Jacques Anquetil
- Chris Froome
- Greg LeMond
- Louison Bobet
- Philippe Thys
- Raymond Poulidor
- Mark Cavendish
33. The polka dot jersey is worn by the leader of the climbers’ classification.
While time trials and wind tactics play their part, most Grand Tours are decided in the high mountains. According to the latest Tour de France rider statistics, Tadej Pogačar, a Slovenian rider, finished first in this rating with 107 points during the 2021 Tour.
34. In 2021, 3.8 % of cyclists violated the Tour’s anti-doping rules.
In order to maintain the race’s integrity and principles and protect the riders at the same time, there is a set of activities aimed at eliminating doping. Statista’s Tour de France doping statistics show that almost 4% of cyclists broke the anti-doping rules at the 2021 Tour. However, this is a considerable drop compared to 52.8 % in 2000.
35. The King of the Tour, Lance Armstrong, has been stripped of his Tour de France titles.
The American cyclist who won the Tour de France seven times in a row has admitted to doping after years of lawyer-defended denials. Due to doping allegations, Lance Armstrong Tour de France wins have been removed from the race’s official victory list. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, he claimed that doping was as routine as “air in our tires or water in our bottles.”
Tour de France Records
36. Up until now, four riders are the greatest Tour de France winners with five victories each.
According to Statista and their latest published data, the riders with the most victories (each with five wins) are Jacques Anquetil – France, Eddy Merckx – Belgium, Bernard Hinault – France and Miguel Indurain – Spain. Tour de France winners stripped of title are not taken into account.
37. Among the British riders, Chris Froome wore the yellow jersey for 59 days during his Tour de France career.
The Tour de France offers four jerseys for the numerous competitions that take place during the race. However, the yellow jersey worn by the GC leader is the most prestigious. Tour de France records show that from the beginning of the Tour until 2020, the rider wearing the yellow jersey the most days is Eddy Merckx with 111 days, including half-stages. Lance Armstrong takes second place with 83 days. However, his achievements have been removed from the official record book.
38. With 34 stage wins, Eddy Merckx, known as the Cannibal, has the most stage victories.
It’s no surprise that one of the greatest Tour de France winners, Eddy Merckx, is at the top of the list for all-time Tour stage wins, winning 34 times in total. Mark Cavendish from the UK is in second place with 30 stage wins.
39. The French rider Sylvain Chavanel holds the record with 18 appearances in the “Big Loop”.
(Statista) (Procycling Stats)
Tour de France all-time records reveal that, between 2001 and 2018, Chavanel competed in 18 Tour de France races. Even though he did not finish two of the races, he still holds the record for the most finishes to this day.
40. Overall, France has the most victories by a nation in the Tour de France.
According to Tour de France records, from 1903 to 2019, France has 36 wins. Belgium is second with 18, while Spain is in third place with 12 wins. In 2011, Australia got the first win in the race. Other countries with one win only are Denmark, Germany, Iceland and Columbia.
Tour de France Trends
41. The interest to follow the Tour de France live grew significantly in 2021.
YouGov analysis shows that the overall TV audience for the race in 2021 across three key markets – the US, the UK and Australia was expected to increase compared to 2020. Tour de France viewership trends show that people have a much greater desire for live TV.
42. Riders compete with just one type of bike throughout the entire Tour.
The Tour de France teams get the first pick of the best bikes from their sponsors’ lineups every year. Tour de France future trends show that riders no longer choose between a climbing bike or an aero bike. Most major bike manufacturers send their riders only one bike model, which was also a trend ten years ago.
As we can see from these Tour de France facts, today’s Tour differs significantly from the one in 1903. It’s an incredible sport that only a handful of people can ever imagine competing in. We reckon you can use some of these facts and stats to impress your friends. You’re welcome.