How does the Tour De France work?

We thought it’d be helpful to give you an update and a bit of an explainer as to how it all works.
How does the Tour de France work?

We are over halfway through the men’s Tour de France, the most-watched and most prestigious cycling race in the world. We thought it’d be helpful to give you an update and a bit of an explainer to help answer the question: how does the Tour de France work?

Who rides on the tour?

There are 176 riders in this year’s edition of the tour. Every rider is part of an 8-man team, and 22 teams are competing. 

Although cycling may seem like an individual sport (there are no tandem bikes here, as much as we’d all love to see that), winning the Tour requires lots of teamwork. Each team elects at least one leader, and the other riders (known as ‘domestiques’), work together to protect their leader’s position in the race, sometimes letting their leader almost literally ride on their coattails so they can preserve energy.  

Who wins the Tour de France?

The winner of the Tour is the cyclist with the lowest accumulated time after 21 stages (days of racing). The leaderboard for the lowest accumulated time is called the general classification (GC).

The yellow jersey is worn by the GC leader after each stage and kept by the overall leader at the end as the competitors ride into Paris, where the final stage concludes.

What about the other jerseys?

The yellow jersey is the most sought-after prize of the Tour, but it is not the only symbolic jersey on offer. 

The green jersey is worn by the leader of the points classification. Every day of the tour has a certain number of ‘points’ on offer, with flat, long days holding the most points and shorter hill climbs with less. As a result, sprinters usually win this jersey because of how many points are on offer for nailing the stages featuring a decisive sprint. 

The polka-dot jersey is awarded to the leader of the mountains classification. Each mountain climb portion of a stage is allocated a certain number of points, based primarily on their classification from easy to extremely hard. Riders who finish in the first ten positions at the top of a climb score points, and the rider with the most ‘mountain climb points’ wears the polka-dot jersey. 

The white jersey is awarded to the rider under the age of 26 who is highest in the general classification. 

How to watch?

You can watch the Tour de France on SBS On Demand.

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