Tour de France Winners

Tour de France winners over its long history have been almost exclusively from Europe, with the largest number of winners coming from the host country of France. There are 20 to 22 teams consisting of nine riders each. Throughout the history of the Tour de France, only a handful of individual riders have come from countries outside of Europe. These include Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, South America, and Japan. Tour de France results did not see a winner from outside continental Europe until 1984, and this was not even the overall winner. In that year, Robert Millar of the U.K. won the Mountains jersey and Greg LeMond of the U.S.A won the Youth jersey.

Tour de France Winners
Tour de France Winners

This most prestigious of cycling events is held in France. French riders have won the Overall jersey in 36 tours between 1903 and 2010. The first six overall winners were from France. A rider from Luxembourg snuck a win in 1909, with two more French wins to follow. Then it was Belgium's turn for a streak of seven wins. The Tour de France rules changed in 1933, when a winning jersey for the best climber (King of the Mountain) was awarded. Today, that distinctive jersey is white with red polka dots—called "maillot a pois rouge" in French. The green jersey was inaugurated in 1953; this is awarded to the winner of individual sprint portions of the race and is often call the Points winner. The only rider to win all three was Eddy Merckx of Belgium in 1969. In 1975, youth got its own jersey; the Youth jersey is white and is awarded to the leading cyclist under age 26.

Because of this system of rewarding a number of riders in different categories, there are a number of Tour de France results posted every day throughout the competition's three weeks and 2,200 miles, before it arrives at the Champs Elysees in Paris. But it is the coveted yellow overall jersey that captures the most attention. The yellow jersey is worn by the overall stage leader each day, meaning a rider can wear the jersey during one or more days of the competition and still not be the Overall winner. Similarly, a rider can wear the yellow jersey more times than he has won the Overall race. Lance Armstrong of the United States wore the yellow jersey 22 times during his Tour de France career but won only seven Overall titles. Eddy Merckx wore it 34 times—the most of all riders—but won the Overall title only five times. As of 2011, Armstrong holds the record for most consecutive Overall wins.

Top image: A.S.O / B. Bade

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