The Tour de France is one of the most exciting sporting events of the year, spanning 21 stages and 2,200 miles of road with only 2 rest days. The Tour de France definitely isn’t the easiest of races to follow and has been evolving ever since it first began back in 1903.
To give you a brief overview of the Tour de France and how it works, here’s a really useful guide that illustrates all the ins and out of the race from 1903 to 2020.
What about the jerseys and points?
The race leader original was distinguished by a green armband. In 1919 the inauguration of the Yellow Jersey was introduced as journalists and riders complained of not being able to correctly identify who the race leader was.
At the time, the official race newspaper was printed on yellow paper, the colour of L’auto-Velo who was the sponsor of the newspaper, hence the name ‘yellow jersey’.
The Jerseys at the time were baggy and made of wool which made them heavy and not all that comfy!
Back in the 1930’s the Yellow Jersey wasn’t greatly received however the Jersey remained unchanged until 1940 when Henri Desgrange, one of the first Tour de France organisers, passed away. His initials were then placed on the rear right-hand side waistline.
1952 – the year it all changed
1952 saw the Italian rider Fausto Coppi beat everyone by such a huge gap that everyone quit! The organisers needed to stop this happening again, so in 1953, the 50th anniversary, they initiated the Green Jersey sponsored by the popular lawn-mower producer at the time, La Belle Jardinière. The green jersey is awarded to the rider leading the points classification at the start of the day’s stage.
To race competitively
The idea of introducing other winning jerseys was to try and entice the teams to race competitively even if they weren’t leading the race. This became an ideal opportunity for teams to grow sponsorship deals – the team might not have overall lead, however, they have taken all the mountain stage points.
The polka-dot jersey
The Maillot à Pois rouges – Polka Dot Jersey – has had a rather more complex progression through time.
In 1905 L’Auto-Vélo chose a Meilleur Grimpeur – the best climber. It began with René Pottier, who was the first to summit the Tour’s first major climb, Ballon d’Alsace. It was only in 1975 that the first Polka Dot Jersey was awarded to Belgian rider, Lucien Van Impe. The Polka Dot Jersey was sponsored by Chocolat Poulain who’s wrapper was Polka Dotted.
The white jersey
The white jersey was introduced originally by the combiné classification – the rider who was ranked highest across the board in the other classifications.
It was only in 1975 that the meaning of the white jersey was changed to represent the best young rider .The jersey rules took some tweaking throughout the initial years so that only neopros or first time Tour riders could win it.
1987 saw the competition change its current format of being awarded to the best-placed rider under 26 years of age. The organiser Jean Marie Leblanc in 1989 decided to cut back on the number of classifications as he felt there were a number of riders encouraged to dope. The more jerseys, the more opportunity of winning which meant those racing had to race hard continuously.
Into the modern-day, 2012 saw the production of the main jerseys return to pioneering sponsor Le Coq Sportif, admirably liking the current jerseys to those in the past.
The current jerseys – yellow, polka dot, green and white – are saturated in history and are ones which all the riders respect and applaud. It’s one of the most beautiful aspects of the race, the history, and that every rider respects each other and those who have toiled on the same roads wearing the same colour jerseys.
Header Photo: TOPSHOTS The four jerseys, Yellow jersey of overall leader, Spain’s Alberto Contador (2ndR), Green jersey of Best Sprinter, Italy’s Alessandro Petacchi (R), Polka dot jersey of Best Climber, France’s Anthony Charteau (L) and White jersey of Best Young, Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck pose for a family picture at the start of the 102,5 km and last stage of the 2010 Tour de France cycling race run between Longjumeau and Paris Champs-Elysees. AFP PHOTO / LIONEL BONAVENTURE (Photo credit should read LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)(Photo Credit should Read /AFP/Getty Images)