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Tour de France: the quest for the yellow jersey

The Tour de France is officially underway, so we look at what it takes to pick up the ultimate prize, the yellow jersey.

With multiple fan favourites set to miss out on the Tour de France this year, the quest for the yellow jersey is sure to be an interesting one. Last week Team Dimension Data announced that Mark Cavendish, who currently holds 30 stage wins, would not be taking on the race, whilst the aftermath of Chris Froome’s terrible crash has also left him out of the running and unable to compete for his fifth title. 

Amongst the remaining favourites is last year’s winner, Geraint Thomas, his Ineos co-leader and Tour de Suisse winner, Egan Bernal and Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang, who won this year’s Criterium de Dauphine. 

What’s so special about the yellow jersey?
Arguably the most coveted award in cycling, the yellow jersey (or maillot jaune if you want to get all French and fancy) is steeped in history. It first emerged in 1913 after complaints from journalists and riders that the original green armband made it difficult to identify the race leader. The yellow jersey itself didn’t appear until 1919, worn by Eugene Christophe prior to the 11th stage where a 2am start meant visibility was key. The theory behind the yellow colourway was that the race newspaper, L’ Auto, was printed on yellow paper at the time.

The yellow jersey is worn by the cyclist at the top of the general classification. This would be the rider who has completed the most stages in the least amount of time overall. Often these riders don’t set out to win individual stages but will keep an eye on the riders around them and overall standings. 

What other jerseys are up for grabs?
Yellow isn’t the only colour to aim for during the tour. With stages split into sprints and climbs, riders have the opportunity to compete for jerseys that best suit their strengths.
The green jersey (maillot vert) is awarded to the rider with the highest number of sprint points. On the flatter sprints, winners will receive 35 points, declining until the rider in 25th, who receives one point. On mountain stage sprints, winners will be awarded 25 points, with the rider in 15th place will take one point. Points are also awarded during time trial stages, where winners will take 15 points.
The red spotty jersey (maillot à pois) is reserved for the King of the Mountain, or winner of the climb stages. Climbs are divided into categories based on their difficulty, and points are awarded respectively.
The white jersey (maillot blanc) is awarded to the rider aged under 25 with the most points, based on the same system as the yellow jersey, as a way to pinpoint young talent within the elite group. Finally, the current world champion wears the rainbow stripes, and yellow race numbers are worn by the leading team at each stage. The most attacking rider wears a red race number. 

Want to keep up with all the Tour De France action? We’ve partnered with The Cycling Podcast for 16 of the episodes over the duration of the tour to bring listeners an exclusive Wattbike offer. Listen now here.