Tour De France Part III: Understanding All Those Jersey's

And Now to The Tour

Tour De France Jerseys

In our introduction to the Tour series we encouraged you to get organised and book your friends and family a weekend trip to see the wonder of the Tour De France as it comes very, very close to home. We're hearing amazing plans from our friends at Steel stage. We then looked at the origins and early history of the Tour De France followed by a third post outlining its more recent history. 

In today's post we’re turning to a marginally more technical aspect of the race namely what on earth the constant reference to different colour jersey’s might actually mean! Having a moderate understanding of the Jersey's and their signifcance will greatly help any novice to appreciate the day by day developments of the Tour and the incredible achievements of its riders. Firstly two quick things: 


The entire Tour is divided into ‘stages’ in the categories of flat, hills, mountains and an individual time trial. 


Competitive cycling is a team sport. Teams are known mostly by the name of their primary sponsor. Each team contains cyclists devoted to very specialist roles. 

Yellow Jersey

 Chris Froome wins the final yellow jersey in 2013

Chris Froome wins the final yellow jersey in 2013

If you know nothing else about the Tour you will almost certainly have heard reference to the famous Yellow Jersey. The Yellow Jersey (Yellow deriving from the color of the paper on which L’Auto was printed) is given to the rider with the lowest aggregated time after each stage and then wears the aforementioned jersey for the following day. Put more simply the over all quickest rider (although you’ll soon see why such simplification isn’t as helpful as it might first appear). Because the winner of the Tour is decided by the total time raced there have been six occasions in the history of the Tour in which the final winner of the Yellow Jersey was not the winner of any preceding stage. Note also that riders winning stages ‘wear’ the jersey which is only ‘won’ at the end of the race. 

Yelow Jersey Sponsor: LCL

Geek Fact: Eddy Merckx claimed 96 Yellow Jersey’s in his Tour career, more than any other rider including Bernard Hinault who won two more Tours. 

Etiquette: Cycling is a team sport and it’s the responsibility of the team to enable their team leader to gain and then keep the Yellow Jersey meaning that for large amounts of the race the team leader can appear as obscured within the pack but is in fact being protected until the chosen time.  

Green Jersey

The Green Jersey (Maillot Vert) first awarded in 1953 represents the most consistent rider ie: the rider who consistently finishes in a strong position. Because the tour awards more points to riders finishing in a strong position on the flat stages then the Green Jersey naturally favours those with an ability to sprint and sprint hard. Discerning how and when to sprint is as much a tactical decision as an athletic decision. Sprint stages run throughout the tour including a final sprint down the Chemps-Elysees on the race’s last day. 

There are also intermediate sections within each stage devoted to an intermediate classification. 

Green Jersey chasers share one challenge; to survive the mountains.

"It is like someone torturing you, except you're doing it to yourself and the person who can do that longest wins"

                                 Mark Cavendish

Polka-dot Jersey

Put simply the red polka dot jersey (maillot à pois rouges) is awarded to the best climber “King of the Mountains”; but in true Tour style how you are discerned to be the ‘best’ is anything but simple! Points are distributed according to your position reaching the summits of multiple climbs all of which are classified according to their difficulty. If that’s not complicated enough remember that climbing points are doubled of the final days climbs. Got that? Forget and just enjoy wathching the gruelling agony. You'd need to give me a lot more than a spotted jersey! 

White Jersey 

Finally something a little more simple! 

In 1975 Tour organisers introduced the white jersey designed to encourage the achievements of young riders many of whom might take several years just to build sufficient strength to win stages and be awarded any of the three main jerseys. Note that only six of the twenty nine White Jersey winners went on to be awarded the famous Yellow Jersey. 

Geek Fact: Nairo Quintana is the only rider ever to be awarded both the white Jersey and the Red Polka-dot jersey