5 Things You Might Not Know About The Tour De France

Tour de France
5 things you might not know about the Tour de France

Published: July 2023

The Tour de France is the world’s biggest annual sporting event and the one race in cycling that commands the attention of most of the world for a few weeks each July. Taking place over 21 stages, covering over 3,000 kilometres and countless mountains to boot, it’s the hardest sporting event in the world.

Given its 100-plus year history, there are a few things that may surprise you. Let's take a look.

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It was originally a publicity stunt

L'Auto tour de france
L'Auto is the predecessor to today's L'Equipe newspaper devoted to sport

Back in 1903, the Tour de France was started to boost the circulation of the newspaper “L’Auto”. The sports paper hoped that an epic race would capture attention and increase its declining sales figures. They were right. The yellow jersey that the leader of the race wears was introduced in 1919 and is also a nod to the newspaper’s yellow coloured pages.

It doesn’t always start in France

Tour de France Yorkshire
The 2014 Tour de France started in Yorkshire in the UK (Photo © Ian Taylor (cc-by-sa/2.0)

With a name like “Tour de France”, you’d think the race would quite literally be a tour around France. You would be wrong. The 2023 race started in the Basque Country, just over the French-Spanish border and that marked the 25th time in the race’s history that it had started overseas. First happening in 1954, a foreign “Grand Depart” has become a regular feature.

How Many People?!

Tour de France
It's like a travelling circus! (Credit: Rob Wingate)

Across riders, team staff, journalists, race officials, police and general support staff, there are around 4,500 people who work on the Tour de France. Often referred to as a travelling circus as it goes from town to town each day the logistics that come with that many people are endless. We don’t envy the person who has to book all the hotel rooms!


Tour de france water bottles
A rider with a jersey full of bottles and food for his teammates at the 2022 Tour de France

That’s the amount of calories that a rider will burn across the twenty one day race. Each day riders will burn between 5-7000 calories and it is a constant battle to keep the energy levels topped up. 125,000 calories is the equivalent of 231 Big Macs!

There has always been drama

Maurice Garin
Maurice Garin was stripped of the 1904 Tour de France title for cheating (Public Domain

The Tour de France has gained an unfortunate reputation as one of the sporting events with the most cheating thanks to the drug scandals of Lance Armstrong and co in the late 90s and early 2000s. However, cheating goes all the way back to 1904, and the race’s second ever edition. Maurice Garin, the winner of the first ever edition also won in 1904 but was later disqualified. He was accused of riding in cars - and even using trains - to get an advantage and was disqualified along with eight others.

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