Tour de France: The legend of the yellow jersey

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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.

READ: ‘A man with no platform is a lost man,’ says Lance Armstrong

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?

History of the Tour de France

Tour de France: La Bouteille Collante

There have been four cyclists who have won the tour five times:

- Jacques Anquetil of France (1957 and 1961-1964)
- Eddy Merckx of Belgium (1969-1972 and 1974)
- Bernard Hinault of France (1978-1979, 1981-1982, and 1985)
- Miguel Indurain of Spain (1991-1995), the first competitor to win five consecutive races.

Lance Armstrong held the record for most Tour de France wins (seven) but he was stripped of those wins in 2012.

France has won more times than any other country. (36)

Three Americans have won: Greg LeMond (1986, 1989, 1990), Lance Armstrong (1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005) and Floyd Landis (2006). Both Armstrong and Landis have had their titles stripped due to allegations of doping.

Tour de France: La Grand Boucle

Tour de France: Maillot à Pois Rouge


1903 - Henri Desgrange, a reporter and cyclist, creates the Tour de France.

1903 - Maurice Garin of France is the first cyclist to win the race.

1910 - First time the race goes through the Pyrenees.

1989 - Greg Lemond defeats Laurent Fignon by 8 seconds, the smallest margin of victory so far.

1999-2005 - Lance Armstrong wins seven times in a row.

2003 - The 100th Anniversary, but not the 100th race (the race was canceled 11 times during WWI and WWII).

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September 20, 2007 - Floyd Landis, winner of the 2006 Tour de France, is stripped of his title when an arbitration panel rules in favor of the USADA (US Anti-Doping Agency). Landis, the first Tour de France winner stripped of the title, initially maintained his innocence but later admitted to doping and accused others, including Armstrong, of doing the same.

October 22, 2012 - The International Cycling Union announces that Armstrong is being stripped of his Tour de France titles and is being banned from professional cycling for life.

October 26, 2012 - The International Cycling Union announces that no one will be declared the winner of the Tour de France from 1999-2005, after Armstrong is stripped of his titles.