For AJLabs

Tour de France

A century of the yellow jersey

produced by Sonia Chemaa



The Tour de France is the world premiere cycling race created in 1903 but the yellow jersey only appeared in 1919. The Tour is a men-only competition where cyclists have to go through 21 day-long stages over the course of 23 days. This competition has no equivalent for women.

AP Archives

The jersey number


Frenchman Eugène Christophe was the first man to wear the "maillot jaune" (yellow jersey). The rule is for the cyclist with the fastest time, after adding the result of each previous stage, to wear the iconic jersey.

Bibliotheque nationale de France/Wikipedia



...people gather each summer on the route of the tour hoping to catch a glimpse of the world famous yellow jersey.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Why is the jersey yellow?

In 1919, grey jerseys were worn by all cyclists. To differentiate the leader, the newspaper L'Auto, creator of the tour, came up with the idea of awarding the winner with the yellow jersey, to represent the colour of the newspaper's pages.

Andreas Rentz/Bongarts/Getty Images


yellow jerseys for...

…Eddy Merckx. No one has worn the yellow jersey more than the "Cannibal". The Belgian was given this nickname due to his hunger for victory. In 1975, 100 metres from the finishing line, a furious spectator punched him. Merckx managed to end the stage with his yellow jersey but never won the Tour again.

AP Television/AP Archive


jerseys, one for every stage...

…of the tour. In 1961, French cyclist Jacques Anquetil, known as "Mr Chrono" led throughout the 21 stages of the competition.

Don Morley/Getty Images


for 1 stage

In 1929, Frantz, Leducq and Fontan shared the same time. Nowadays, this is unlikely because of precise times.

Bibliotheque nationale de France/Wikipedia

The jersey that did not fit...

In 1954, Louis Bobet was leading the tour. Proud, he gave his yellow jersey to his sister. He wasn't to get a new one until the next morning. He asked his team manager to find his jersey from last year, which had shrunk in the washing machine. The solution? He found a boxer with wide shoulders to stretch the fabric.

AP Images



… (25mph) is the actual average speed of cyclists on the Tour de France. In 1919, the average speed was about 24km/h (15mph).

British Movietone/AP Archive


euros for wearing a yellow jersey...

Each day a leader wears a jersey during the competition, he wins 500 euros ($564). Since 2016 the winner of the Tour wins 500,000 euros ($564,212) and a brand new yellow jersey.

AFP Videos


victories for the "Eternal Second"

Raymond Poulidor, known as the "Eternal Second", never wore the yellow jersey, despite finishing in second place three times and in third place five times since 1962. His unfortunate record made “Poupou" the most adored cyclist in France.

Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images



The tour's route initially travelled clockwise from Paris along the margins of France until 1952. At the time, cyclists could pedal up to 5,500km (3,418 miles), making it five times the distance between the north and south of France.

AFP Archives

This year, cyclists will cover 3,480km (2,162 miles). The competition will start on July 6 in Brussels and finish as always on the Champs-Élysées, Paris.