Tour de France: The legend of the yellow jersey

Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT) July 21, 2017

Story highlights

  • History of Tour de France yellow jersey is of much contention
  • First official record is in 1919

(CNN)The Tour de France yellow jersey is cycling's most coveted prize.

Each year, around 200 riders take to France's streets and mountains as a select few battle it out for the "maillot jaune."
With just two stages to go in the 2017 race, three-time winner Chris Froome is favorite to wear yellow when Le Tour finishes in Paris on Sunday. He leads by 23 seconds from Frenchman Romain Bardet, with Colombian Rigoberto Uran a further six seconds adrift.
The origin of the yellow jersey is a subject of much conjecture. The winner of the first Tour in 1903, Maurice Garin, wore a green armband but as the race's popularity increased, riders and journalists complained they couldn't pick out the leader.
The first mention of a yellow jersey being worn came from Belgian Philippe Thys who, when leading Le Tour in 1913, said he was asked to wear a colored top by race organizer Henri Desgrange.
Thys initially declined, arguing he would be too easily visible to chasing riders, only to change his mind when asked by the team manager at his sponsor Peugeot.
According to official Tour de France records, the first yellow jersey was worn by race leader Eugène Christophe prior to the 11th stage of the 1919 edition.
With the stage getting underway at 2am, Desgrange decided Christophe needed to be easily identifiable in the dark.
In doing so, Desgrange inadvertently went on to create cycling's most iconic piece of clothing and since then, only a select few riders have got to frequently pull on the maillot jaune.
Frenchman Jacques Anquetil, a five-time Tour de France winner, wore the jersey for 50 days between 1957 and 1964, before compatriot Bernard Hinault went on to wear it for 75 days between 1978 and 1986.
Then came the turn of Eddy Merckx, widely regarded as the best rider of all time, who dominated for 96 days from 1969 to 1975.
Finally, Spaniard and five-time Tour winner Miguel Indurain wore yellow for 60 days between 1991 and 1995.
In total, over 2,100 yellow jerseys have been awarded to nearly 300 riders.
Will Froome hang onto it?