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 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, though occasionally venturing into surrounding countries – the 2019 edition, for example, started in Belgium.
It comprises 21 stages that take place over 23 days (two are rest days), with a mix of flat, hilly and mountainous terrain, as well as individual and sometimes 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 at the Tour.Agence France Presse/Getty Images
The Tour de France, now in its 107th 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 2020 Tour de France start?
The 2020 Tour de France, originally scheduled for a slightly earlier start in June, will now roll out in Nice on Saturday 29 August.
The change of dates, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, has not led to any 2020 route changes, though.
The race will still culminate on the Champs-Élysées, Paris – as it has every year since 1975 – on Sunday 20 September.
What is the Tour de France route for 2020?
The route for the 2020 Tour de France, which starts in Nice, includes all six of France’s mountain ranges.
The Tour de France takes place over 21 gruelling stages, complete with flat sprints, mountainous climbs and, in 2020, a mountain time trial on the penultimate stage.
Saturday 29 August – stage one: Nice to Nice (156km)
Sunday 30 August – stage two: Nice to Nice (187km)
Monday 31 August – stage three: Nice to Sisteron (198km)
Tuesday 1 September – stage four: Sisteron to Orcières-Merlette 1,850 (157km, summit finish)
Wednesday 2 September – stage five: Gap to Privas (183km)
Thursday 3 September – stage six: Le Teil to Mont Aigoual (191km, summit finish)
Friday 4 September – stage seven: Millau to Lavaur (168km)
Saturday 5 September – stage eight: Cazeres to Loudenvielle (140km)
Sunday 6 September – stage nine: Pau to Laruns (154km)
Monday 7 September – rest day one
Tuesday 8 September – stage ten: Île d’Oléron to Île de Ré (170km)
Wednesday 9 September – stage 11: Chatelaillon-Plage to Poitiers (167km)
Thursday 10 September – stage 12: Chavigny to Sarran (218km)
Friday 11 September – stage 13: Chatel-Guyon to Puy Mary (191km, summit finish)
Saturday 12 September – stage 14: Clermont-Ferrand to Lyon (197km)
Sunday 13 September – stage 15: Lyon to Grand Colombier (175km, summit finish)
Monday 14 September – rest day two
Tuesday 15 September – stage 16: Tour du Pin to Villard-de-Lans (164km, summit finish)
Wednesday 16 September – stage 17: Grenoble to Méribel (168km, summit finish)
Thursday 17 September – stage 18: Méribel to La Roche-sur-Foron (168km)
Friday 18 September – stage 19: Bourg-en-Bresse to Champagnole (160km)
Saturday 19 September – stage 20: Lure to La Planche des Belles Filles (individual time trial, 36km)
Sunday 20 September – stage 21: Mantes-la-Jolie to Paris (122km)
Geraint Thomas, wearing the yellow jersey at the 2018 Tour de France, won’t be taking part in the 2020 edition.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, as well as at intermediate sprints along the way.
Finally, the young rider classification follows the same format as the general classification (best overall time) but is for riders born on or after 1 January 1995.
Tour de France 2019 1st and 2nd placed GC finishers, Egan Bernal (right) and Geraint Thomas (left).Alex Broadway/ASO
The 106th edition of the Tour de France rolled out from Brussels in Belgium on 6 July 2019 and covered 3,365.8km in total, concluding three weeks later on the Champs-Élysées.
Team Ineos’s Colombian star Egan Bernal won the yellow jersey for the first time, becoming the youngest Tour de France champion in 110 years and the first Latin American winner.
Team-mate and defending champion Geraint Thomas finished second overall, while Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk (Team Jumbo-Visma) was third. Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe had led the Tour for much of the race, but lost time on a rain-battered, and eventually shortened, 19th stage.
Bernal also topped the young rider classification – becoming only the fifth rider to top both classifications since the young rider classification was introduced in 1975.
Peter Sagan topped the points classification, meanwhile, for a record-breaking seventh time, and Frenchman Romain Bardet was crowned King of the Mountains.
Movistar topped the team classification for the fourth time in five years, while Alaphilippe’s efforts did not go totally unrewarded, as he was handed the combativity award.
Tour de France 2020 start list and favourites
Egan Bernal tops the billing for the 2020 Tour de France, having been named as Team Ineos Grenadier’s leader for the race. Former winners Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome will not be among his team-mates.Alex Broadway/ASO
The teams taking part in the Tour this year are:
AG2R La Mondiale
Astana Pro Team
B&B Hotels-Vital Concept
EF Pro Cycling
Israel Start-Up Nation
NTT Pro Cycling
Team Ineos Grenadier
Total Direct Energie
UAE Team Emirates
Tour de France 2020 coverage
The 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 Tour de France bikes, kit and tech from the front line of the race.
Colin is a freelance sports journalist who first started reporting on cycling during the 2013 Tour de France on a month-long internship with RoadCyclingUK. The cycling bug bit so hard he was still there when Geraint Thomas rode to victory five years later. Much more comfortable writing about other people riding bikes than doing so himself, he remains unconvinced of the merits of shaving his legs and his Cube Peloton Race still bears the scars of his first battles with clipless pedals. While he counts the (lower slopes of the) Alps and Pyrenees among the places he has ridden, family life means his body is best suited to dragging a children’s trailer along a coastal path than conquering mountains…
Mildred’s a utilitarian cyclist at heart, determined to do everything on two wheels, whether it’s shopping, commuting or moving house. She’s spent the past three years volunteering as a mechanic and workshop coordinator at the Bristol Bike Project, and now sits on its board of directors. Her expertise in bikes — and what people want out of them — comes from working in real-world bike shops and learning the ins and outs of the industry. At home on slicks and knobblies alike, Mildred’s ideal ride covers long distances through remote countryside, on mixed terrain that offers a bit of crunch. She’s easily won over by steel frames coupled with a 650B/plus-tyre combo, and is currently riding a Surly Bridge Club.