Who would have thought watching cycling could be so thrilling? The Tour De France is the biggest cycle race on the planet. It’s a truly gruelling endeavour for even the fittest of pedal pushers, meaning that to win – or even to place – is a phenomenal feat. It’s grown and grown over the years and has been a part of the global sporting scene since 1903. In fact, many British viewers will know that the Tour De Yorkshire has spun off successfully from the main race in the years gone by! Take a look below for 27 incredible and fun facts about the Tour de France.
1. Cycling in the Tour De France is an incredible effort. It’s thought that each cyclist is likely to burn up to 5,000 calories in each race stage!
2. This means that a cyclist likely to be pushing themselves to the maximum could stand to burn more than 123,000 calories by the time the race finishes, total!
3. Up until the 1960s, it was common for cyclists in the race to drink alcohol. This is because it was often used to help with limb aches. As you can imagine, there’s always likely to be a lot of this!
4. It was also fairly common for cyclists in the race to smoke. This has less science behind it – as riders at the time generally thought that smoking opened up the lungs – and helped them breathe along the way!
5. Believe it or not, only ten riders finished the race in 1919, making it the smallest finishing grid in the event’s history.
6. France, unsurprisingly, is the most decorated nation in the race.
7. Eddy Merckx holds the record for most stage wins, with 34 in total.
8. The Tour De France is likely to be the most-watched sporting event on the planet. In total, it is said to be watched by around 12 million people each year! This is largely thanks to the fact that so many spectators watch the cyclists go by, through streets and avenues.
9. The Tour De France nutrition supplies cabinet is full of all kinds of energy-boosting food. What’s weird about this statistic is that, on average, there are around 20 different jars of jam brought to the race each year!
10. However, most cyclists in the race will get their energy from nutrition bars and boosters. It’s thought that between 3,900 and 4,000 nutrition bars are consumed on route at each race.
11. It’s thought that the total sweat from all cyclists taking part in a Tour De France race will have enough to flush the toilet at least 39 times. Who checks these things?
12. Many winners of the Tour De France dedicate their wins to various things. The 1947 winner, Jean Robic, stated he owed his win to drinking water from lead-based bottles. He felt this allowed him to get down descents quicker!
13. Cyclists at the Tour De France tend not to rest, at least for not too long. There are Rest Days, but riders will still cycle for two hours, approximately, to help free their bodies of lactic acid.
14. The Tour De France is also often called La Grand Boucle. This translates as ‘The Big Loop’ – pretty accurate, given how it loops around France!
15. Pedal, pedal, pedal! It’s thought that cyclists will push an average of 486,000 pedal rotations across the whole of a Tour De France race.
16. There have been some pretty close races over the years. None closer, it seems, than 1989’s tour. It was here where Laurent Fignon and Greg Lemond were within eight seconds of each other on the finishing line!
17. Winners tend to be in their 20s and 30s. However, the youngest-ever Tour De France winner was Henri Cornet, who won the race at the age of 19, back in 1904.
18. In 1922, Firmin Lambot set the record for oldest winner, at the age of 36.
19. The longest Tour De France of all time took place in 1926. This race traversed more than 3,500 miles!
20. Bernard Hinault won the race five times and had some philosophical thoughts about it. He once said, “An amateur should think long and hard before attempting one of these stages. Two would probably necessitate a visit to a doctor, and three would require a psychiatrist – any more, and you should be checking if that person has written a will!”
21. Maurice Garin won the first-ever Tour De France in 1903. However, he was disqualified in 1904, on the grounds that he was accused of using a train along the way!
22. It wasn’t just Garin who was disqualified, either – as the whole front four had their accolades removed.
23. Tour De France is watched hugely at home, too. It’s thought that more than 3.5 billion people tune into the cycling action each year!
24. During the course of a given race, more than 1,200 different hotel rooms are booked along the way. This not only covers riders, but also tour staff, press representatives and team members.
25. The 2013 race was particularly gruelling. It’s thought the riders traversed the equivalent of several of the world’s biggest mountains and peaks. In fact, the equivalent of Scafell Pike, Mount Everest, Mont Blanc, Mount Snowdon, Ben Nevis, and Kilimanjaro were covered on bike that year!
26. Prize money has differed from year to year, but it’s now said to be worth more than $4 million in total across all riders. The winner gets a serious pay packet if they are tough enough to stay the distance!
27. Riders who have won the road race previously can be spotted by them wearing a white jersey.