Tour de France Q&A

  • © B.Bade

    © B.Bade

Tour de France Q&A

Not sure what the peloton is or why the guy in the Yellow Jersey is nowhere near the front? Lynette Eyb, editor of, has the answers to all the questions you’ve been too afraid to ask. 

So why should I bother checking out the Tour de France?


 Well it’s the most famous bike race in the world. There are three prestigious Grand Tours in bike racing and the Tour de France is the most prestigious of them all. (The others, in case you were wondering, are the Vuelta a España and the Giro d'Italia). But it’s not just for cycling fans – the Tour de France is the world’s largest annual spectator event. In fact, millions of people turn out on roadsides across France each year to watch the peloton whizz by. 

No idea what you’re on about – what’s a ‘peloton’?

It means ‘pack’ or ‘group’, and it’s used to describe the main bunch of cyclists, as opposed to breakaway riders (see below) or those who have fallen off the back of the main group. 

Here are some more good things to know:

le parcours: the route

une étape: a stage. The Tour is what’s known as a ‘stage race’; it’s a three-week race, with the route broken down into stages. There is one stage every day except on the two rest days

la course: the race 

la tête de course: the stage leader. This is the person (or group of riders) who’s leading the day’s stage, as opposed to the person leading the overall Tour (that’s whoever’s wearing the Yellow Jersey) 

un échappé: a breakaway rider. A rider who has ridden clear of the peloton, usually in an attempt to win the stage

une équipe: a team. There are 9 cyclists in every Tour de France team

un domestique: a cyclist who rides in support of his team leader and in line with team tactics 

contre la montre: time trial. These are stages that see riders race against the clock rather than against other teams. There are 2 individual time trials and one team time trial in the 2013 Tour de France. Times clocked are added to each cyclist’s overall time for the race


Tell me more about thebloke in the Yellow Jersey.

He’s the rider who’s leading the Tour de France overall – in other words, he’s leading the ‘General Classification’ and has completed all the stages to date in the fastest overall time. In 2012, Bradley Wiggins, of Team Sky, won the General Classification and the Yellow Jersey.

The Tour has a few other rider classifications, all of them with their own distinctive jersey.

The cyclist wearing the Green Jersey is the leader of the ‘General Points Classification’. Points are awarded throughout the race for sprint sections of the course (‘intermediate sprints’ during the race, as well as at the end of stages with sprint finishes).The person with the most overall points at the end of each stage is awarded the Green Jersey. 

The Polka Dot Jersey is white with red dots, and it’s awarded to the best climber. Points are awarded throughout the race for mountain climbs, and the cyclist with the most mountain points overall at the end of each stage wears the Polka Dot Jersey.

The White Jersey is awarded to the highest placed General Classification rider who is 25 years or younger.

What does the winner get (other than a yellow shirt)?

The wearer of the Yellow Jersey in Paris on July 21 will win €450,000 (though he usually shares this with his teammates). The Green and Polka Dot jerseys both win €25,000, while the White Jersey pockets €20,000. There is also prizemoney (though no coloured jersey) for ‘Most Aggressive Rider’ and the team whose first three riders have the best combined times in the General Classification. 

I like the sound of all this – where can I watch it?

The 2013 Tour starts in Corsica on June 29 and ends on July 21 on the Champs-Élysées in Paris. If you’re in France in July, you should be able to see it somewhere without too much bother. Make sure you do some research beforehand so that you can get a good vantage point, and be sure to arrive in plenty of time to catch the publicity caravan. It’s a procession that goes past before the riders, with the sponsors throwing all manner of freebies out into the crowd. It can be a good laugh.  

We have a guide to watching the Tour to help you plan your trip.

More Tour tips 

The Official 2013 Tour de France programme, which profiles all the teams, the main riders and the full route, is out now.

For an insider’s guide to following the Tour, see Graham Watson's Tour De France Travel Guide

For random facts about the Tour and its history, see Tour de France Miscellany by John White.

Lynette Eyb is editor of, an independent website dedicated to all aspects of cycling in France. You can see their Tour de France section here.

Things to see