How does the Tour de France work?

The Tour de France points classification can be hard to wrap your head around. How can a cyclist take out the Tour without winning a single stage? What do the coloured jerseys mean?

While the Tour is predominately held in France, it often passes through other countries. Almost 200 cyclists push through around 3,500km over 21 days of racing, which can run up to 6 hours a day.

2017 Tour de France Route. Credit: Le Tour

2017 Tour de France Route. Credit: Le Tour

The oldest and main competition of the Tour is known as the ‘general classification’, and the winner is awarded the yellow jersey. The bearer of the yellow jersey is considered the overall winner of the race. This is determined by combining the cyclists’ times, and the cyclist with the lowest time is classed as the winner.

There are 4 jerseys in total: yellow, green, polka dot and white.

The Four Jerseys of the Tour de France. Credit: BikeRoar

The Four Jerseys of the Tour de France. Credit: BikeRoar

The points classification was introduced in the 1953 Tour and awards points to the first 15 cyclists to cross the finish line. The winner is given the green jersey. An additional set of points are given to the first 15 cyclists to reach a predetermined point en route. For this reason, the points classification caters cyclists who are skilled sprinters.

All cyclists receive points for crossing the finish line, with the fastest cyclists gaining the most points and the lower placings receiving fewer points. The number of points awarded depends on the type of stage. For example, in the flat stage, more points are available than in the high mountain stages. This increases the chance that a sprinter will take out the stage, rather than a climber.

Marcel Kittel is tipped to win the 2017 Green Jersey. Credit: Getty

Marcel Kittel is tipped to win the 2017 Green Jersey. Credit: Getty

The winner of this classification is the cyclist with the most points at the end of the Tour. In the event of a tie, a number of factors are taken into consideration. The winner is determined based on the number of stage wins, the cyclists standing in the general classification and the number of intermediate sprint victories.

Check out this great explanation of the Green Jersey.

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