It’s that time of year again when the best pro cyclists get ready for the Grand Départ of the Tour de France. Here’s our guide to some of the history, winners, stages, teams and more.
What is the Tour de France?
The Tour de France is an annual multiple-stage race held primarily in France every summer, occasionally venturing into surrounding countries (the 2019 edition starts in Belgium).
It comprises 21 stages that take place over 23 days, with a mix of flat, hilly and mountainous terrain, as well as individual and team time-trials.
Starting in 1903, the Tour de France was born out of a rivalry between two French sports newspapers: Le Vélo and L’Auto. The multi-stage race was proposed by a L’Auto journalist as a way to sell more copies.
It began as a six-stage event over 18 days, starting and ending in Paris, and stopping at Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux and Nantes en route. It was won by Frenchman Maurice Garin and today is still the biggest race on the cycling calendar.
Who has the most Tour de France wins?
Eddy Merckx won the combination classification, combativity award, points competition, King of the Mountains jersey and overall title in 1969 — the first time he competed Agence France Presse/Getty Images
The Tour de France, now in its 106th edition, has seen some incredible feats over the years, with many of cycling’s greatest names on the honours board.
The following riders have won the Tour de France five times:
- Jacques Anquetil (1957, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964)
- Eddy Merckx (1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1974)
- Bernard Hinault (1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1985)
- Miguel Indurain (1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995)
In his first appearance in the race, Merckx, considered the greatest cyclist of all time, won the 1969 combination classification, combativity award, points competition and the Tour overall, as well as the King of the Mountains jersey.
Jean Robic won the Tour in 1947 despite never wearing the yellow jersey, having attacked on the final stage.
Maurice Garin won the first ever race, topping the general classification (GC) on the first stage and holding the lead all the way to Paris. Garin also secured victory the following year (though the results were later nullified due to widespread cheating).
The start-to-finish GC sweep was also achieved by Ottavio Bottechia in 1924, Nicolas Frantz in 1928 and Romain Maes in 1935.
In terms of individual stage wins, the five highest ranking riders are:
- Eddy Merckx (34 stage wins)
- Mark Cavendish (30 stage wins)
- Bernard Hinault (28 stage wins)
- André Leducq (25 stage wins)
- André Darrigade (22 stage wins)
When does the 2019 Tour de France start?
The 2019 Tour de France kicks off on Saturday 6 July, with the Grand Départ taking place in Brussels for the first time since 1958. The race will culminate on the Champs-Élysées in Paris — as it has every year since 1975 — on Sunday 28 July.
What is the Tour de France route for 2019?
Tour de France 2019 route
The Tour de France takes place over 21 gruelling stages, complete with flat sprints, mountainous climbs and individual and team time-trials.
Here’s a breakdown of each stage, but if you’re hungry for more details, check out our in-depth route and stage analysis.
- Stage 1: Bruxelles – Brussel (194.5km)
- Stage 2: Bruxelles Palais Royal – Brussel Atomium (27.6km)
- Stage 3: Binche – Épernay (215km)
- Stage 4: Reims – Nancy (213.5km)
- Stage 5: Saint-Dié-des-Vosges – Colmar (175.5km)
- Stage 6: Mulhouse – La planche des Belles Filles (160.5km)
- Stage 7: Belfort – Chalon-sur-Saône (230km)
- Stage 8: Màcon – Saint-Étienne (200km)
- Stage 9: Saint-Étienne – Brioude (170.5km)
- Stage 10: Saint-Flour – Albi (217.5km)
- Rest day – Albi
- Stage 11: Albi – Toulouse (167km)
- Stage 12: Toulouse – Bagnères-de-Bigorre (209.5km)
- Stage 13: Pau – Pau (27.2km)
- Stage 14: Tarbes – Tourmalet Barèges (117.5km)
- Stage 15: Limoux – Foix Prat d’Albis (185km)
- Rest day — Nîmes
- Stage 16: Nîmes – Nîmes (177km)
- Stage 17: Pont du Gard – Gap (200km)
- Stage 18: Embrun – Valloire (208km)
- Stage 19: Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne – Tignes (126.5km)
- Stage 20: Albertville – Val Thorens (130km)
- Stage 21: Rambouillet – Champs-Élysées, Paris (128km)
Geraint Thomas wearing the yellow jersey at the 2018 Tour de France Chris Graythen/Getty Images
How do you win the Tour de France?
Winning the Tour de France isn’t as simple as being the first rider to cross the finish line on the final stage in Paris. Instead, there are several classifications based on a range of criteria.
The most prestigious is the general classification (GC), which ranks riders according to their overall time. The leader of the general classification wears the yellow jersey and the rider with the fastest overall time at the end of the race is the winner of the Tour de France.
Meanwhile, the mountains classification is based on points accumulated on the Tour’s classified ascents. Points are awarded to the first riders over each summit and the leader of the classification wears the polka-dot jersey.
The points classification is for sprinters and is based on points awarded for the top finishers on each stage.
Finally, the young rider classification follows the same format as the general classification (best overall time) but is for riders born on or after January 1, 1994.
Tour de France 2018 recap
Last year’s Tour de France winners, L-R: Pierre Latour (AG2R La Mondiale), Geraint Thomas (Team Sky, now Team Ineos), Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck–Quick-Step) and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) Chris Graythen/Getty Images
The 105th edition of the Tour de France covered 3,351 km, beginning in Noirmoutier-en-l’Île in the west and concluding on the Champs-Élysées in Paris.
Geraint Thomas (Team Sky, now known as Team Ineos) won the overall general classification, with Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) and Chris Froome (Team Sky) coming in second and third place respectively.
Peter Sagan (Bora–Hansgrohe) took the points classification for the sixth time, while Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck–Quick-Step) won the King of the Mountains classification.
The young rider classification was awarded to Pierre Latour (AG2R La Mondiale), while Movistar won the team classification.
Tour de France 2019 start list and favourites
Jakob Fuglsang’s having a hell of a year, most recently taking victories at the Criterium du Dauphine, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Ruta del Sol. Tim de Waele/Getty Images
For a full breakdown, check out our guide to the teams, the startlist and the favourites.
The teams taking part in the Tour this year are:
- AG2R La Mondiale
- Astana Pro Team
- CCC Team
- Cofidis, Solutions Credits
- EF Education First
- Lotto Soudal
- Movistar Team
- Team Arkéa–Samsic
- Team Dimension Data
- Team Ineos
- Team Jumbo-Visma
- Team Katusha Alpecin
- Team Sunweb
- Total Direct Energie
- UAE Team Emirates
- Wanty-Groupe Gobert
Tour de France 2019 TV coverage
The 2018 Tour de France peloton on the home straight towards the Arc de Triomphe in Paris Tim de Waele/Getty Images
If you’re here it’s most likely because, like us, you love seeing the latest machines being raced by the pros.
That’s why every year we bring you all the latest bikes, kit and tech from the front line of the race.
For tech galleries, close up looks of the bikes being raced, and more, keep an eye on our Tour de France coverage.
If you’re following the racing action, here’s a full guide of how to watch the Tour de France live on TV and via streaming services.