The Tour de France is the world’s most famous and important road cycling competition that attracts 180 competitors and thousands of supporters each year.
The race takes place every year in July and lasts for about 3 weeks, and although everyone has heard about it, there are still many curiosities to reveal about this event. Check our list of 27 interesting facts about Tour de France you might not know and see if you knew all of them!
1. Le Tour De France Is The World’s Oldest Cycling Competition
Many of today’s sports competitions have rather recent traditions, but this is not the case of the Tour de France. This road biking competition has been organized every year since 1903 to today, and it was only interrupted during the first and the second World Wars.
2. Dreyfus Affair Is Linked To Le Tour De France Origins
Probably many know that Tour de France was born from a competition between two newspapers, but only a few people are aware that the tour has its origins in the famous Dreyfus Affair.
For those who never heard of it, the scandal began in 1894 when officer Alfred Dreyfus was wrongfully accused of selling military secrets to Germany. France was split into two opposite groups, one of them convinced about the officer’s guilt and the other sustaining his innocence.
Among those convinced of the guilt of officer Dreyfus was Marquis Albert de Dion, the owner of the homonymous automobile company and sponsor of Le Vélo, an important sports magazine. When the journal chose the line of impartiality on the case by publishing both positive and negative opinions, de Dion decides to found a new magazine, the Auto-Vélo, in 1900.
To attract a loyal audience, Georges Lefèvre, cycling editor at the new Auto magazine, proposed the organization of the longest cycling race in the history, and this is how the first Tour de France was born. The first tour counted 78 professional and amateur competitors and the organizers offered 12.000 francs as the first price.
It is useless to say that the competition enjoyed a huge success, raising the reputation of Auto and bringing Le Vélo to bankruptcy.
3. In The 80s Women Were Allowed To Join The Tour
Tour de France is an exclusive men’s event but really a few people know that in the 80’s women were also allowed to enter the competition.
In fact, in 1984, after 81 years from the first competition, was introduced the Grand Boucle Féminine Internationale, a Tour de France dedicated to women. The main difference between the races was the length of the tour, that was slightly shorter for women.
The feminine tour was interrupted shortly after its introduction and today women are only allowed to compete in the last stage of the Tour de France and in a competition called La Course.
4. Over 3,5 Billion People Watch The Tour On TV Every Year
Tour de France competition is beloved all over the world and the proof is the huge number of people who turn on the TVs each year to watch the various stages of the tour or to support their favorite cyclists.
According to the Tour de France organizers, the competition is followed in as many as 190 countries and the number of people who turn on their TVs is over 3,5 billion.
5. The Youngest Winner Of The Tour Was 19 Years Old
Frenchman Henri Cornet was the youngest man to ever win Tour de France at only 19 years old. There is to say he won the race in 1904 only a few days before his 20th birthday, nevertheless he still holds the title of the youngest winner of the Tour.
Funnily enough, the oldest cyclist to ever attend Tour de France, Henri Paret, also competed in 1904. However, the oldest winner of the Tour was the Belgian Firmin Lambot who conquered the yellow jersey in 1922 at 36 years old.
6. Lance Armstrong Won 7 Consecutive Titles
In the Tour de France winners history, there is a man who conquered the yellow jersey for 7 consecutive times. His name is Lance Armstrong and the American cyclist won all the Tour de France competitions between 1999 and 2005.
Unfortunately, the anti-doping controls revealed that the cyclist consumed doping substances during all races, therefore his awards were withdrawn. Later on, Armstrong admitted the use of the substances during a television broadcast.
7. Early Competitors Used To Cheat
Doping is a rather recent issue, in the past, many cyclists tried to cheat to win the Tour de France. The most absurd way of cheating was taking the train instead of pedaling, but fortunately, the cheaters were discovered and disqualified.
8. Eddy Merckx Won The Most Stages
The cyclist who won the most stages in Tour de France is Eddy Merckx, a Belgian cyclist who won 32 stages while competing in the Tour de France.
This isn’t the only record of Merckx. In fact, he also holds the record of wearing the leader’s yellow jersey for 96 days in total.
9. Le Tour De France Is The World’s Third Most Important Competition
After the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics, Tour de France is the third most important sports competition in the world. The numbers speak for themselves and, as we already mentioned, only on the TV more than 3 billion people are watching the race every year.
To that number adds up a number of supporters who actually attend the competition.
10. The 1926 Edition Was The Longest
Tour de France’s route changes every year, and together with the route also changes the length of the race. Throughout the history of the event, the longest race was held in 1926 and it totaled 3.570 miles. That’s 1370 miles longer than the 2017 edition.
11. Cyclists Burn About 5000 Calories Per Stage
An average person burns about 2500 calories a day, yet competitors in Tour de France burn on average as many as 6000 calories per stage.
That sums up to more than 120.000 calories for the entire race which is the equivalent of eating about 250 double cheeseburgers.
12. On Rest Days, Most Cyclists Don’t Rest
During the tour, cyclists are given a few rest days, but the truth is that in these days almost all competitors choose to cycle.
The reason why they do this is because in this way they are able to keep the levels of the lactic acid under control and to stay focused on the race.
13. The Winner Gets Over $600.000
Competing in Tour de France is a dream for many, but actually winning the tour is more than rewarding. In fact, the winner gets over $600.000 that he has to share with the other members of the team.
14. La Grand Boucle Is The Nickname Of The Tour
As one could expect for an event of such importance, the Tour de France has a nickname, which is La Grand Boucle.
La Grand Boucle literally means the great loop and the nickname is given by the fact that the tour goes in a loop along the borders of France.
15. Greg LeMond Was The First American To Win The Tour
Greg LeMond is one of the greatest American cyclists and the first to win the Tour de France competition in 1986 after only two years before he was awarded the white jersey for the youngest rider.
Nevertheless, what makes his victory special is not the fact that he is American, but the fact that he managed to win the competition with 35 gun pellets embedded in his chest, as he was accidentally shot while hunting a couple of years before the competition.
16. The Yellow Jersey Lead Must Be Protected At All Costs
If you compete in the Tour de France and a member of your team is the bearer of the yellow jersey, you must do whatever it takes to protect the lead. This means that you are not allowed to surpass him even if you know that you can cycle faster.
Disobeying this rule might cost you your cycling career.
17. Le Tour De France Sometimes Crosses The Borders Of France
Although named Tour de France, the competition sometimes crosses the geographical borders of the country. In fact, during the history of the competition, the event started outside France for 21 times.
The event crossed the borders for the first time in 1954.
18. French Cyclists Hold The Most Victories
France is by far the country that gathered the most victories, 36 to be more precise. France is followed by Belgium, with 18 victories while Spain claims the third place registering 13 victories.
Moreover, two of the five multiple Tour de France winners are also French, registering five victories each.
19. Four Cyclists Died During The Tour
Less fortunate events also happened during the history of the Tour de France, including four deaths. The first to give his last breath during the competition was Adolphe Helière in 1910, apparently during one of the rest days.
In 1935 Francisco Cepeda followed Adolphe because of a crash into a ravine. Fabio Casartelli also died because of a crash in 1995, while descending with a speed of 56 mph. Lastly, Tom Simpson suffered a heart attack and died in 1967.
Apart from the competitors, 27 spectators and one official also lost their lives during the competition.
20. Joop Zoetemelk Completed The Most Tours As A Rider
Tour de France is a challenging competition and not all those who start manage to finish it as well. Nevertheless, Joop Zoetemelk managed to complete the tour not once, not twice, but for as many as 16 times, an absolute record in the history of the event.
21. Pamela Anderson Have Been Used As Inspiration During The Tour
As mentioned above, the Tour de France is a challenging competition, and cyclists use whatever they can to keep themselves concentrated. However, no one would have thought that a photo of Pamela Anderson could be used as inspiration by one of the competitors.
The cyclist that had the bright idea to tape a photo of Pamela Anderson on the handlebars of his bicycle was the Italian Mario Cipollini.
22. Magnus Backstedt Was The Heaviest Competitor In The History Of The Tour
Competitors in the Tour de France are usually skinny, and there is a good reason why they are keeping their body weights low. However, there still is a record of the heaviest Tour de France competitor and it is held by Magnus Backstedt. The cyclist weight was about 215 lbs.
23. The First Tour De France Only Counted 6 Stages
Tour de France has 21 stages nowadays, but it originally had only 6.
The first tour was also very different from what it is today, as the original plans required cyclists to ride during the night and rest during day time.
24. In The 20s, Riders Used To Share Cigarettes
Back in the 1920s, participants in Tour de France considered that smoking cigarettes was a good way to “open their lungs”, and sharing a cigarette with the other fellow riders was a usual thing.
25. Drinking Alcohol To Boost Energy
Apart from opening their lungs with cigarettes, early riders also believed that consuming alcohol helped to boost the energy and increase performances. Fortunately, alcohol was banned during the race and it is no longer considered an energy booster.
26. Lead Was Used To Descend Faster
Returning to cheating techniques, in the early editions of the competition, some cyclists used to carry bottles full of lead uphill believing that the weight of the lead will increase their performances when cycling downhill.
27. Competitors Take En-Masse Toilet Stops
Lastly, one of the most frequent question curious people ask about Tour de France, is how do cyclists go to the toilet? After all, nature calls for all of us.
Well, things are more organized that one might think and most of the times and the peloton usually takes en-masse stops to resolve their physiological needs.