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20 Thrilling Tales of the Tour De France

The 106th Edition of the Tour de France has set off (6th July 2019), and the competing cyclists are making the 3,480km-long journey from Brussels in Belgium to the concluding Champs-Élysées stage in Paris. Spectators and TV viewers from across the world watch with joy and anticipation over the three weeks of challenging sprints, climbs, sweat, pain and celebration.


However, have you ever wondered of the origins of the race? Have you questioned the eligibility of the first ever winner? Or, could you imagine the athletes smoking and drinking mid-stage? With stories to surprise the most committed of road cycling enthusiasts, take a look at our list of twenty thrilling tales of the Tour De France race.


  1. The 2019 Tour De France route is 2,150 miles long. However, the 1926 edition was the longest route in history at 3,570 miles
  2. Eddy Merckx (Belgium) holds the record for the most stages won by a single rider at the Tour De France with a total of 34.
  3. The Tour De France is also known as La Grande Boucle. The nickname translates to the ‘big loop’ referring to the tours route around France.
  4. Cyclists in the Tour burn around 4,000 to 6,000 calories during an average stage and over 7,000 on the more challenging mountain stages. That’s the equivalent of around 21 slices of Domino’s pizza!
  5. Before the 1960s, cyclists would often drink alcohol during the race to numb any aches and pains. Drinking was banned soon after due to being considered a stimulant.
  6. Cyclists sweat enough to flush a toilet 39 times throughout the Tour De France route.
  7. Tour De France is the world’s largest annual sporting event with nearly 200 cyclists racing over 2,000 miles in 23 days and over 12 million spectators lining the route.
  8. Even on rest days, most cyclists will ride for a minimum of 2 hours. This lighter ride can help the competitors to maintain focus on the race and flush out lactic acid.
  9. Greg LeMond (America) won the race by the smallest margin in 1989 after beating Laurent Fignon by 8 seconds.
  10. The total prize money awarded for the Tour De France 2019 is £2 million.
  11. In 2018, around 3.5 billion people in 190 countries tuned in to watch the race.
  12. When first established, there were 14 rest days in the Tour De France instead of 2 as stages often ran into the night and cyclists needed the next day to recover.
  13. 1947 winner Jean Robic (France) was known for taking lead-filled water bottles to the top of climbs so that they would descend faster!
  14. Eddy Merckx (Belgium) also holds the record for the most days wearing the leader’s yellow jersey with a total of 96.
  15. Maurice Garin (France) was the first ever winner of the Tour De France in 1904. However, he was later disqualified for cheating after being caught taking a train to the Alps to claim the victory!
  16. The fastest average speed of the Tour De France was 25.7mph in 2005. In comparison to 1919, when the average speed was just 14.9mph, this is quite an increase.
  17. The first race was in 1903 and created by the editor of the newspaper L’Auto. Henri Desgrange arranged the competition to advertise his publication around France.
  18. Henri Cornet is the youngest cyclist to win the tour at the age of 19, racing in the second edition of the Tour De France in 1904.
  19. In the 1920s, some competitors shared cigarettes while riding. It was thought at the time that smoking would help to open up and expand the lungs during the climbs.
  20. Throughout the three-week tour, the combined cyclists wear out a total of 792 tires.


For more information on the heritage of the competition, or this year’s route and competitors visit the official website:



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Written By:

Cycle SOS
Cycle SOS only deal with cycle accident claims. We understand cyclists, and believe that cyclists have the right to be safe on the roads. Cycle SOS The Cyclists National Helpline is made up of a highly trained team of specialist personal injury cycling lawyers that have recovered millions of pounds for people making bicycle accident claims.