It’s captured the world’s imagination for over a century and during that time, it has amassed enough interesting facts and figures to keep commentators busy during every broadcast. Most of us become self-confessed armchair experts this time of year, but what didn’t we all know about the Tour de France?
1/ It doesn’t show it’s age.
Although the Tour de France is celebrating its 101st anniversary this year, in actual fact it should be 111, but it didn’t run during the World Wars.
2/ Winning a stage is the stuff of champions – winning several is legendary.
Only three riders – Eddy Merckx, Charles Pelissier and Freddy Maertens – have won eight stages of the Tour.
3/ Once upon a time, yellow wasn’t everything.
Nope – the GC leaders used to wear a green arm band to signify the race leader!
4/ ‘Pause pipi’
(or a pee stop – sounds better in French, doesn’t it?) refers to current day race etiquette, which allows riders to stop briefly without having to catch up to the entire peloton.
5/ Gears were forbidden.
That’s right – during the early stages of the Tour, gearing systems were not permitted, meaning riders had to hit the hills in single speeds. Really…? Really…?!
6/ France loves a protest.
They’ve even been willing to see it stop the Tour. Spectators have twice attempted to halt the tour as a form of protest – once for steelworkers in ’82 and then in ’90 by farmers.
7/ Four cyclists have died during the Tour de France.
Three cyclists died whilst racing; In 1935 Spanish cyclist Francisco Cepeda plunged down a ravine having lost control on a steep decent, Tom Simpson died from heart failure during the 13th stage of the 1967 Tour de France, Fabio Casartelli died from fatal head injuries after crashing and hitting his un-protected head on a concrete barrier during a decent and the fourth Adolphe Heliere drowned whilst swimming in Nice during a rest day.
8/ Life can be a beach.
In 1950 Mother Nature really dialled up the Mercury, so riders paused for a dip in the Mediterranean. Work/life balance?
9/ Before the peloton comes the caravan!
The Tour de France caravan consists of some 250 vehicles comprising entertainers and promoters and it zooms along the route well ahead of the peloton, indicating to crowds that they need to be ready for the cyclists to fly past.
10/ Back in the day, cyclists were multi-taskers.
The Tour de France pioneers were cyclists as well as bike mechanics, and would often race carrying spare parts etc required along the way. That’s doing it rough!
11/ Testosterone makes you ride faster.
Or at least that’s what Italian cyclist Mario Cipollini must have thought – he purportedly raced with a picture of Pamela Anderson on his handlebars to make him ride faster. Er, no comment.