The Tour de France is probably the worlds most famous cycle race. It’s fast, it’s furious and it’s a brilliant great way to get your child into bikes, cycling and competitive racing. To get in the mood and give you a taste of the excitement we’ve put together a family friendly Tour de France kids guide to help you and your family get the most out of this years race.
Tour de France kids guide – the basics
The Tour de France is a men’s only cycling road race that takes place over 23 days and covers over 2,000 miles. Each year the race takes a different route, but ever since 1975 the Tour de France finish has always been in Paris with a magnificent sprint down the Champs-Élysées.
The start of the race is a major event and cities compete to host it. This event is known as the Grand Départ.
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! The lead rider gets to wear the yellow jersey, which we will explain a bit more in a moment.
The 2021 Tour de France
After a delayed start to the 2020 Tour, this year we’re back on schedule! The 108th Tour de France will start on Saturday 26th July 2021 with the Grand Depart taking place from Brest in Brittany (north west France) and the race will remain mainly in France – with a quick dart into the Principality of Andorra in the south.
Expect to see mask wearing and social distancing from the pro teams and their support crews, but if last years crowds were anything to go by the usual celebrations road side will be going on undeterred.
This year the Tour de France riders will cycle 3,383 kilometres (2,102 miles) over 21 Stages. They will compete in:
- 8 flat stages
- 5 hilly stages
- 6 mountain stages with 3 finishes at altitude
- 2 individual time-trial stages
- 2 rest days
During Stage 8 the riders will cycle 248 kms (154 miles) which is the longest stage of the Tour de France since 2000.
On the second to last day of the Tour the riders and their bikes have to fly across France to get from the mountains to Paris for the final day and the winners presentation.
This year the Tour de France final stage is on Sunday 18th July, in Paris.
How to watch the 2021 Tour de France on TV
You can watch every second of the race live on TV (if you have time!) on ITV 4 and Eurosport 1. It’s also live streamed on the ITV Hub, the Eurosport website and GCN+ if you’re watching on demand.
The main excitement tends to happen towards the end of the race, so tuning in about 3.30pm is a good idea if you want to catch the race to the finish line, which usually happens around 4pm UK time. At Chez Cycle Sprog there’s often a mad dash home from school and a scramble to get the TV on. This is followed by either groans of disappointment or (more happily) yelps of excitement if the riders are just approaching the finish line!
There’s also catch up programmes every evening on ITV4, EuroSport 1 and GCN+. These Tour de France highlights shows condense things down to just the exciting bits (warning – there can be LOTS of very boring bits in the Tour de France, although the commentary is usually quite entertaining!) The highlight show may be a bit late for younger Cycle Sprogs, but you can always watch a day in arrears on the ITV Hub if they’re really keen! We sometimes buy the ITV Hub Ad-Free upgrade for this purpose and cancel after a month to avoid having to sit through loads of adverts at the start. GCN+ also allows ad free viewing although it’s a bit more expensive.
A few interesting Tour de France facts
- The first Tour de France race was held in 1903.
- The youngest rider ever to win the Tour de France was Henri Comet – he was only 19 years, 352 days when he won the second ever Tour in 1904.
- The youngest winner in the modern era was Tadej Pogačar who won the 2020 Tour aged 21 years, 364 days
- The oldest person to win the Tour de France was Firmin Lambot, who was 36 years old when he won in 1922.
- The yellow jersey, worn by the overall ride leader each day, was first introduced on 19 July 1919. The first rider to wear one was Eugène Christophe, who led the general classification until the day before the finish – he must have been annoyed to loose it at the last minute!
In 2018 the Tour de France was won by British rider Geraint Thomas from Team Sky. This was the first time he had won the race and only the sixth time a Briton had ever won the Tour de France (Bradley Wiggins was the first in 2012 and Chris Froome won four times in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017).
For 2019 Sky have stopped sponsoring bike racing, so Geraint Thomas and his team mates now ride for Team Ineos, who are sponsored by a chemical company called Ineos.
The 2020 winner was 21 year old Tadej Pogačar who is from Slovenia and rides for team UAE. He beat his fellow countryman Jumbo-Visma’s Primož Roglič in an incredible time trial performance in the final day of racing, taking the yellow jersey that Roglič had worn for 11 days.
We’ve got lots more interesting Tour de France facts for kids if you click on the link – find out why the 100th Tour de France didn’t take place 100 years after the 1st race, what the last rider in the race is called, and whether women can race in the Tour de France.
Tour de France Kids Guide – the Jersey’s
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 cycling top known as a ‘Jersey‘. The Jersey is made of a special material that keeps the rider cool, so it’s not made of thick wool like a jersey you may wear in winter. Every year there is a slightly different pattern on the jersey – you can read more about this years yellow jersey designs here.
|Cycle Sprog is an family run, reader supported, website. We belong to several affiliate schemes so may receive a small commission from sales made from links on our site. We do our best to be impartial and recommend products on their quality not whether they are in a scheme.|
Who gets to wear the TdF yellow jersey?
Each day, the cyclist with the quickest overall time from the very start of the first day of the race gets to wear the prestigious Yellow Jersey, or the ‘Maillot Jaune‘ in French.
So how do they work out who gets to wear the yellow jersey? When a cyclist crosses the finish line their time is recorded, and this is their time for that day (stage). At the end of each day, the cyclists have all of their stage times from the start of the race added up. The cyclist with the quickest overall time from the start is awarded the yellow jersey to wear on the next stage.
Usually, each rider gets the same design yellow jersey, but for 2019 there are 20 different design jerseys, each with a different photograph celebrating a different aspect of the race, including landscapes, buildings and famous race winners.
Would you like to wear a yellow jersey? You can buy a kids yellow jersey here.
How do they work out who is the Tour de France race winner?
The overall winner of the Tour de France is the rider with the quickest time for all the stages put together. 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 of the competition. This has only happened twice so far – in 1947 and 1968. There are also other competitions within the Tour de France. At the end of each stage the leaders of each competition are also given a special jersey to wear – it is good fun trying to spot all the jerseys every day.
In French this is known as the ‘maillot vert‘, and is worn by the best sprinter and time trialist. At the end of each stage points are given out to the riders. More points are given out for flat stages than mountain stages, and lots of extra points can be won for winning smaller sprint races within a stage. The Green Jersey is sometimes known as the Sprinters Jersey. Points can be taken off a rider if they do something wrong.
TdF polka dot jersey
The best climber, or the ‘King of the Mountains‘ wears the polka dot jersey. It is white with red dots, and is known as ‘malliot a pois rouges’ in French. The King of the Mountains is the rider who has the most points from the mountain stages, and the steeper the mountain, the more points a rider can get.
If you’re a good at climbing hills on your bike you can buy a kids size King of the Mountains jersey here.
Tour de France white jersey
This is given to the best young rider (under 26 years old) overall, and in French is known as ‘le maillot blanc‘.
If you want to know more about the different TdF jersey’s and where you can buy kids sized Tour de France replica jersey’s, check out our Kids Guide to Tour de France Jersey colours.
Other pages you may find useful:
- The best kids road bikes
- Kids Tour de France yellow jersey review (and KoM!)
- Tour de France facts for kids – become an expert on the worlds greatest cycle race!
- Kids guide to Tour de France jersey colours
- What’s it like going on a Tour de France family holiday?
- Tour de France kids activities
- Family cycling in the Alps – a fun downhill ride from Col du Lautaret to Briançon
- The best road racing bikes for kids (with 20″ wheels)
- The best road racing bikes for kids – 24″ wheels
This Tour de France Kids Guide was first published in 2012 and has been updated for the 2021 Tour de France.
Support Cycle Sprog!
If you've found this article useful you can buy us a virtual coffee (or two!) to say thanks and help us keep the Cycle Sprog website going.