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The Tour de France Structure Explained

An Introduction to the Tour de France

The Tour de France is the most famous of all of the bicycle races. Alongside other Grand Tours such as the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a Espana, it is a long and hard race that is held in July. The cyclists competing in the Tour de France have to ride through difficult conditions and the long race has many challenges along the way. In France, the Tour is one of the most popular sporting events of the year, and as the cyclists travel through the French countryside many townspeople come out to watch and cheer them on. The Tour de France is organised by the Amaury Sport Organisation, or the ASO. The ASO is part of a French media group called Editions Philippe Amaury that is known for organising other cycling events as well as golf, running, sailing and motorsport events.

The Tour is an event in the Union Cycliste International World Tour, or UCI World Tour. Teams that compete in the Tour de France are mostly from the UCI World Teams, except for the teams that are invited by the organisers.

Tour de France Route

The route of the Tour de France is determined by the UCI in the autumn of the year before the Tour de France race. There are 21 stages, each lasting a day and there are 2 days for cyclists to rest, and though the routes are different each year, since 1975 they have always ended in Paris, with the cyclists racing the final stretch down the Champs-Elysees.

There are four different types of stages in the Tour de France, and each day features one stage. The types of stages are the flat stages, hill stages, mountain stages and the time trials. The flat stages are where the faster riders can try to get ahead in sprints. These stages are the quickest and usually finish with a group sprint. The hill stages have climbs and are more suitable for powerful riders. The mountain stages are the most difficult, with riders having to cycle paths that scale the French mountains, some of which have altitudes of 2,000 metres above sea level. These stages require teams to work together to avoid drafts, and to be careful on the roads as some of them bend around the mountain. These stages are usually the most decisive when it comes to which cyclist will win the Tour, and therefore they are the most exciting to watch.

The other stages are the time trials, where cyclists use aerodynamic bikes and gear to compete across distances ranging from 5 to 50 kilometres. Time trials are very different from the other races, and may feel strange to those who have not watched the Tour de France, as the cyclists take turns to ride a circuit alone. The time trials however are hugely important and cyclists have to use the chance to finish in good time.


Although only one rider can win the Tour de France, they always compete in teams. There are usually 20-22 teams in each edition of the Tour de France, with 8 riders in each team.

In most team sports, the teams represent countries, cities, towns or districts, but in the Tour de France, the teams are formed by major companies. This dates back to the first Tour de France races, when cyclists were sponsored by bicycle manufacturers, and as the popularity of the sport increased over the years, more companies joined in and formed their own teams. As of 2022, the following teams are competing in the UCI WorldTeams:

AG2R Citroen Team, or ACT, is a French team that is sponsored by AG2R, a French insurance firm, and by Citroen, a French automobile manufacturer.

Astana-Premier Tech, or APT, is a Kazakhstani team that is sponsored by a coalition of state owned companies.

Bora-Hansgrohe, or BOH, is a German team that is sponsored by BORA and Hansgrohe, companies that create kitchen utility and bathroom fittings.

Cofidis, or COF is also a predominantly French team that is sponsored by Cofidis, which is a money lending company in France.

EF Education-EasyPost, or EFE, is an American cycling team sponsored by EF Education, an international education company.

Groupama-FDJ, or GFC, is a mostly French team and is managed by former French cyclist Marc Madiot. They have been sponsored by Francaise des Jeux lottery since the teams foundation in 1997, and in 2018 Groupama, the French insurance group, became co-sponsors.

Ineos Grenadiers, or IGD, was formerly known as Team Sky and Team Ineos., It is a British team that is currently sponsored by Ineos, a multinational chemicals company.

Israel-Premier Tech, or IPT, which is a team based in Israel and is sponsored by the Canadian tech company Premier Tech.

Intermarche-Wanty-Gorbert Materiaux, or IWG, is a Belgian company that is sponsored by the French supermarket chain Intermarche, Belgian engineering firm Wanty and the Belgian construction materials provider Groupe Gobert Materiaux.

Lotto-Soudal, or LTS, is also a Belgian cycling team that are sponsored by the Belgian national lottery and Soudal, a company that manufactures sealants and adhesives.

Movistar Team, or MOV, is a Spanish team that is sponsored by the telephone company Telefonica, and is named after the company's brand Movistar.

Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team, or QST, is a Belgian team sponsored by Quick-Step Flooring, a division of Mohawk Industries who create floor coverings for residential and commercial applications.

Team Bahrain Victorious, or TBV, is a Bahrain based team whose main sponsor is the government of Bahrain.

Team BikeExchange-Jayco, or BEX, is an Australian cycling team, this team's title sponsor is Australian businessman Gerry Ryan who owns Jayco Australia, who manufacture recreation vehicles such as trailers, haulers and motorhomes.

Team DSM, or DSM, is a Dutch team that is sponsored by DSM, a Dutch company that work in the fields of health, nutrition and materials.

Team Jumbo-Visma, or TJV, is another Dutch team that is sponsored by Dutch supermarket chain Jumbo and business software provider Visma.

Trek-Segafredo, or TFS, is an American team who is sponsored by Trek Bicycle Corporation and Italian coffee brand Segafredo.

UAE Team Emirates, or UAD, is an Emirati team that is sponsored by the First Abu Dhabi Bank.

Team TotalEnergies, or TEN, is a cycling team that was sponsored by French rental company Europcar until 2015 when the primary sponsor became Direct Energie, a French electric utility company.

Team Strategies, General Classification and Jerseys

Although the riders compete in teams, the scoring is all individual. This means that in teams there is always one cyclist who contends for the Tour de France title, whilst the others help the main rider with a number of different strategic moves. These teammates are called domestiques, and their roles include regulating the pace of the leaders, occasionally picking up drinks for the team and being there in case anything goes wrong.

The key strategies that domestiques can use are against drafts, support when climbing tough mountains and creating formations to prevent the other cyclists from overtaking the team leader. Formations can be created to shelter the team leader from any draft, which can save energy and stamina. Climbing tough mountains, the domestiques are useful to keep the pace and make sure the leader is keeping up with time. At the final sprints in flats, the team can make a train sprint, where the leader takes the pole position and all the others line up behind, to make it tougher for other teams to overtake the leader.

The leaders of each group look to win the general classification, where all of the times of each of the stages are added together and the rider with the lowest aggregate time wins. At the end of each stage, the cyclist that is leading the general classification will wear a yellow jersey in the next stage. The yellow jersey, or maillot jaune, indicates which rider is first in the table, and at the end the overall winner will win a Tour de France winner's yellow jersey. The reason why the jersey is yellow is because L'Auto, the French newspaper that originally publicised about the race was printed on yellow paper, and the jersey was used to promote the newspaper.

The green jersey, or maillot vert, is awarded to the rider with the best stage finishes over the competition and the best sprint times. The sprint times are taken from the final 300 metres of each stage.

The polka dot jersey is awarded to the cyclist who has the best times in the climbing segments. The riders who wear the polka dot jerseys over the different stages in the Tour de France are usually incredibly powerful riders.

The white jersey is awarded to the highest ranked rider in the general classification who is 25 years old or younger.


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