Tour de France – Quotes, facts and stats


“It was a magnificently imaginative invention, a form of odyssey in which the lonely heroism of unpaced riders was pitted against relentless competition and elemantal nature. The Tour encompassed the territory of France, and Desgrange later claimed that it encouraged a sense of national identity, establishing La Patrie in clear geographic terms.”

– Jim McGurn on the Tour de France

The Tour de France is one of the biggest sporting spectacles in the world. In terms of spectators getting to see the event live, it has no parallel – with millions lining the roads of France and Europe throughout the month of July.

Stats of the Tour de France

In 2013 – a caravan of 4,500 people including  organisers – teams – media – partners – publicity caravan – providers made up the tour. This excludes many volunteers and local council workers who help to get the tour ready.


  • 198 riders at the start (22 teams of 9 riders) 2014)
  • 300 support staff

Route for 2014

  • 3,664 km (21 stages)
  • 4 countries visited (the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Spain)
  • 33 French departments visited
  • 36 stage towns/cities

Internet popularity

  • 30 million unique visitors / 110 million pages viewed on in 2013
  • Most popular languages for viewing French, German, Spanish and English (the most visited version)

Spectators by the side of the road

  • An estimated 12 million spectators (2013)
  • 63% of men and 37% of women
  • Average time by road side – 6 and a half hours of presence on average on the road-side.

Media coverage

  • Broadcast in 190 countries (2013)
  • Almost 100 channels including 60 live broadcasters
  • 90 hours of live programmes (broadcast internationally)
  • 5,500 hours of broadcasting throughout the world
  • 3.5 billion viewers worldwide (in 2013)

Le Tour de France in Yorkshire 2014

An estimated 2.5 – 4 million fans lined the roads to see the Tour de France cover two stages in Yorkshire.


“I can see the Tour in their hearts, and in their eyes. For that, I say thank you to everyone in Yorkshire who has made this Grand Depart so very, very special.”

Christian Prudhomme

How Long is the Tour?

The early editions of the Tour de France helped French gain a better sense of national unity and geographical identity.
The early editions of the Tour de France helped French gain a better sense of national unity and geographical identity.

Modern versions are roughly about 3,600 kilometres (2,200 miles) spread out over three weeks. Early Tours were longer. In 1926, riders had to cover 5,745 km over 17 stages.

The longest ever stage in the Tour de France was on 7th July 1919 – 482 km (300 miles) won by Jean Alavoine from Les Sables-d’Olonne to Bayonne.

Average speed in the Tour de France?


In 1926, the tour winner averaged 24 km/h over the whole 5,745 km. By comparison in 2010, the average speed was just under 40 km/h for the 3,642 km.

The slowest average speed was in 1919, when French roads were in a bad state after the First World War. The winner Firmin Lambot (Bel) completed the course at an average speed of 24.056 km/h

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Some thoughts on Giro d’Italia 2015

The Giro d’Italia has been great to watch – beautiful Italian scenery, exciting, unpredictable racing – and as stage races go a lot of drama and excitement. If the Tour de France could replicate that intensity, we could be in for a treat. Hopefully, if the main contenders stay safe in the crazy first week, there will be many more people to seriously challenge for the lead.

Contador / Nibali / Froome / Quintana – sounds an absorbing competition.
Photo Engie


One of the abiding images of the Giro was watching Alberto Contador dance up the Mortirolo climb picking off the straggling peleton like he was a pro coming across a Sunday afternoon club run. It was a really great stage. Similarly, it was just as good to see Contador suffer on the last stage. – Expect the unexpected with this Giro.

I’m a great fan of the Corinthian endeavour – amateur ideals of sport and all that. But, the thing with professional cycling is that it is often the badly timed crash / puncture that really lights up the race. If the main protagonists stopped racing every-time someone came a cropper, it would become more like a charity ride, than a race. I guess you have to take the rough with the smooth. The sportsmanship in pro-cycling that really matters is riding 100% clean.

Still, the ever-unpopular UCI rule makers should revisit those rules about fining riders who swap equipment from different teams. I think it’s good if rival team mates want to offer a spare wheel out of friendship or sportsmanship. It’s always good to have rules that outsiders to the sport understand. Unless you have spent many late nights reading the UCI rulebook you will probably struggle to understand the two minute penalty give Porte and Simon Clarke (BBC link) for nothing more than a wheel swap.

The one shadow over the Giro is why they have to always commemorate Marco Pantani as the great hero of cycling. To me, he never will be. The abiding memory of Pantani is (apart from his ridiculous Heamocrit levels) was leading the peleton protests (photo) against ‘proper drug enforcement at the 1998 Tour de France (the Tour of the Festina scandal)’. Pantani was a tragic life, a cautionary tale, a man who perhaps deserves sympathy, but, I struggle to feign admiration for any drug users – be they Pantani, Armstrong or Ullrich.

Finishing on a more positive note – another highlight of the Giro was seeing a new generation come through, like David Formolo’s successful win from a break. That was really good. Hope to see him keep progressing for next few years.

Tour of Flanders 2015 and Team Sky Tactics

With an enforced lay off from cycling, I was looking forward to the 2015 edition of the Tour of Flanders quite a lot. It’s a great classic Belgian cobbled race – made even more interesting by the superb form of Geraint Thomas this year. His victory in the E3 Herelbecke was a really great race to watch. It’s great to see a loyal team-worker come of age in the big races. With confidence high – perhaps it was time for Team Sky to finally claim a ‘monument’.

In the end it didn’t work out – emphasising how tough it is to win a monument. Thomas lacked the last 5% he needed to stay with the late breaks and there was a predictability in the tactics of Team Sky.

The good thing about watching cycling on TV is that it is very easy to become an armchair critic – offering advice without even getting your heart rate over 60bpm.

The 2011 World Championship victory where 9 GB riders dominated the peleton for the entire race to set up Mark Cavendish was completely unprecedented and one of the most remarkable team victories of the modern era. But, that kind of tactics is going to work very rarely – especially in hilly cobbled races.

On the plus side, riding at the front keeps you out of trouble – you are less likely to have an accident (though Wiggins still managed to came a cropper, giving something to talk about in the long build up). But, when the weather is very good like yesterday, there seems to be a lot less accidents than usual. In the main peleton (as long as you were protected from service vehicles at the back) the Tour of Flanders seemed remarkably crash free by recent standards.

Everyone else was very happy for Team Sky to burn up their matches before the really crucial last 40-30km. Alex Rowe did an outstanding ride and managed to hang on up to the last part. But, I would have liked to see Team Sky try something different, like let other teams ride on the front – try to send the odd riders up ahead (if Andre Greipel can attack at the base of a Belgian cobbled Hellingen, I’m sure Team Sky have a rider who could too. One of the crucial things about classics seems to be having riders left at the really critical part of the race. You can guarantee a team like Etiix will have 2-3 in the mix, giving more options. The problem is that by Sky always riding on the front, Thomas became the most marked man – and everyone was looking to Thomas and Sky to close down the gaps. True Thomas is in good form, but he was never an outstanding favourite like a Cancellara.

Photo Brendan2010 - Tour of Flanders 2013

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The Belgian classics

A tribute to the Belgian, and other early season classics.

There was a time when I used to think watching pro cycling was pretty boring. I watched the Tour de France for many years because I was interested in cycling, but if I’m honest it was all pretty tedious and not very much really happened. The action was mainly enlivened by Carlton Kirby or the legendary David Duffield getting randomly excited about a local wine vineyard that the peleton had just passed (and if that was the highlight of a stage,  imagine the tedium…) For several years, the Tour de France was just three weeks of watching the US Postal team ride on the front, and at the end of the month, the same bloke always seemed to win.

Photo Brendan2010 - Tour of Flanders 2013
Photo Brendan2010 – Tour of Flanders 2013

These days, the Tour seems slightly more unpredictable and in 2013 there were some great stages, despite the fears it would be all about the Sky train. But, whatever the Tour de France can serve up –  the great spring classics are on another level for sheer excitement, interest, unpredictability and sporting endeavour. Even the place names in the classics seem to conjure up the best of cycling and northern Europe. Just hearing the names of the great cobbled climbs like Oude Kwaremont, the Paterberg, the Kopenberg, the Muur seems to evoke epic battles on the bike.

The Muur by Louise Ireland

The classics have everything – iconic locations, great pictures, evocative place names, a testament of endurance and fitness, but also luck and the ever changing tactical calculations. When should you ride? when should you attack?  You never really know what is going to happen, and it’s hard to pick a winner. They often provide tension and excitement right up to the last. If nothing else, they are wonderful spectacles; it’s just great to watch the top cyclists power or struggle up the cobbled climbs. When you see a Boonen or Sagan in full flight, you know that is real power (and if you’re interested Paris-Roubaix winner Magnus Backstedt used to do 30 seconds intervals of 1,000 watts + in his preparations for Paris Roubaix.)

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