The Tour de France is the worlds longest cycle race that takes place over 23 days and covers over 2,200 miles. Each year the race takes a different route, but the finish is always in Paris with a magnificent sprint down the Champs-Élysées. There are lots of interesting facts about the Tour de France, as it has been going for over 100 years! We hope you enjoy our Tour de France Facts for Kids.
Tour de France facts for kids – fun facts about the world’s greatest cycle race
The first ever Tour de France took place in 1903.
The year 2002 would have been the 100th race, but the Tour de France was cancelled during World War 1 and World War 2, so the 100th Tour de France did not take place until 2013.
In the early years of the Tour, riders rode individually and were sometimes forbidden to ride together! Nowadays, riders are bunched together like a short train, and this is known as the Peloton.
The Tour de France is also known as “Le Tour” for short, and the first day of the race is called “Le Grand Depart” which means “the big start”.
The Tour de France doesn’t just take place in France – most years it has some stages in other countries, and in recent years Le Grand Depart has taken place in Belgium, Corsica, the UK and the Netherlands.
For 2021 the Grand Depart is in Brest in Brittany in the North West of France, and enters the Principality of Andorra, a micro-state on the French / Spanish border, during the 15th and 16th Stages.
The 2020 Tour de France was postponed from July to a start on Saturday 29th August, due to Coronavirus, but is back to its usual start date again this year.
Tour de France facts for kids: – Tour de France stages
Each day of the race is known as a ‘Stage’, and Stages can last up to six hours. At the end of each day the rider who crosses the finish line first is the ‘Stage Winner’ and gets to go up onto the podium.
In total, there are 21 stages over the 23 days, so the riders only get two rest days over the whole race!
Some stages are flat and fast, and others are very mountainous. There are several stages which are called time trials.
In a time trial the cyclists don’t all start the race at the same time. Instead, each set of with a gap of one minute between each rider. Each rider is timed, and the fastest person to complete the course is the stage winner. Sometimes a rider will cycle so fast that they catch up the person in front.
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Tour de France facts for kids – winners and loosers
The Stage Winner is not the only rider who gets to go on the podium each day. There are other winners too, with each getting to wear a special coloured cycling top known as a ‘Jersey’. The overall race leader gets to wear the yellow jersey – (it’s possible to buy kids size yellow jersey’s so you don’t need to be a professional cyclist to own one!).
The 2019 Tour de France celebrated the 100th year anniversary of the lead rider wearing a yellow jersey. In recent years the design of the yellow jersey has changed each year.
There is also a green jersey, a white jersey and a red and white spotted jersey for other riders who are leading individual parts of the race. For more information about the Tour de France jerseys, and what each of the jersey colours mean, click here.
The overall winner of the Tour de France is the rider with the quickest time for all the stages put together.
There is an agreement amongst the riders that the yellow jersey competition ends on the final Saturday, with the winner parading into Paris wearing their yellow jersey and celebrating with their team. Once the peleton reaches the centre of Paris there is a final sprint race which helps to decide who wins the green sprinters jersey.
The rider with the greatest number of race wins is actually shared by four riders, who have each won the Tour de France 5 times:
- Jacques Anquetil
- Bernard Hinault
- Miguel Indurain
- Eddie Merckx
It is possible for a rider who has not been in the lead, and never worn the yellow jersey, to win the overall Tour de France by cycling very fast on the last day. This has only happened twice so far – in 1947 and 1968.
The youngest rider ever to win the Tour de France was Henri Comet – he was only 19 years and 352 days when he won in 1904.
The 2019 winner Egan Bernal was just 22 years old making him the youngest Tour de France winner in the modern era, but he only held that record for just over a year, as the 2020 winner Tadej Pogačar was aged 21 years and 364 days when he won. What a great birthday he must have had!
The oldest person to win the Tour de France was Firmin Lambot, who was 36 years and 4 months old when he won in 1922.
The rider who has taken the most time to complete the race is known as the ‘lanterne rouge’ or red lantern, named after the red lights on the back of a car so it can be seen at night.
French riders have won the most Tour de France races (21 cyclists have won 36 tours between them). Belgian riders are in 2nd place, with 18 wins, and then the Spanish are in 3rd place with 12 wins.
Only three Briton’s have even won the Tour de France, and we had to wait until Bradley Wiggins in 2012. Chris Froome followed up in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017 and Geraint Thomas won in 2018. Phew – a lot of celebrating in less than a decade!
Women’s Tour de France
Women are currently not allowed to compete in the Tour de France, although since 2014 there has been a women’s race on the final day, called “Le Course”. The first winner was the Dutch cyclist Marianne Vos.
British Rider Lizzie Deignan (of the Trek-Segafredo team) won the 2020 Le Course and the 2021 race takes place on the same day as the Grande Depart of the mens race – Saturday 26th June.
Every year there are calls for a women’s Tour de France and since 2015, a group of French riders, Donnons des elles au Velo (Give the girls a bike), have ridden each stage of the entire Tour a day before the men’s race.
There is good news for 2022 though…… a new 8 day women’s Tour de France race is launching. It’s called Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift and will be shown on TV. All of the details regarding the route and its rules will be revealed on Thursday 14th October 2021.
Tour de France facts for kids – Watching the Tour de France
Millions of people around the world watch the Tour de France on their tv screens and tablets, with viewing numbers peaking for the final stage as it heads into Paris.
Pefore Covid hundreds of thousands of people lined the route of the race each day, and some people camped for up to a week to ensure they got a good view. Because of the crowds and the excitement, there is often a party or carnival atmosphere.
Due to Covid there are less people travelling to watch the race, but in 2020 there were certainly a lot of specators lining parts of the route, adding to the atmosphere for those watching at home.
Before the cyclists ride past the crowd, there a lots of cars and vans advertising the race sponsors. They can take almost an hour to pass by, and are known as “the caravan”. Often they throw out souvenirs at the crowd, and everyone tries to catch something. Once the caravan has passed by, the police clear the road and then the cyclists ride past, often in a peleton.
People who live on the Tour de France route decorate their houses, paint the roads and display yellow bikes on the side of the road. This is a photo of a primary school in Yorkshire, when the Tour de France came to Britain in 2014.
Some farmers even paint their sheep yellow, or plough bicycle shapes into their crops!
How is the 2021 Tour de France different?
Due to Covid-19 the 2021 race will feel slightly different, with only limited spectators allowed at the stage start and finish and the crowds along the route being advised to socially distance. During the 2020 race there were huge crowds on some of the hill stages, and that is likely to happen again this year. However the number of international visitors to the Tour is also likely to be much lower than pre-pandemic.
The riders and their support teams will be tested for the virus every day, and masks will probably be a common sight amongst the support teams.
However, the race itself remains unchanged – it takes in some of the most challenging cycling terrain over a guelling 21 stages, and the riders will be as competitive as ever in their aim to win the yellow jersey.
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Tour de France facts for kids – other posts you may like:
- Frog Bikes launch new Tour de France kids bikes
- Kids sized Tour de France yellow jerseys now available
- It’s here….the 2021 Tour de France kids guide
- Best kids road bikes for summer 2021
- The best kids cycle race replica jerseys
- Kids guide to Tour de France jersey colours
- Kids Tour de France yellow jersey review (and KoM!)
These Tour de France facts for kids were first published in 2012, and have been updated for the 2021 Tour de France.