Tour de France logo

The Tour de France is now a world-famous sporting event televised every year, rivalling Wimbledon, The French Open and other established international events.  One of the defining symbols has been the yellow jersey alongside the tortuous, long routes the cyclists take.

But, who had this extraordinary idea?  When did it first start, and what is the story behind the yellow jersey?

Find out more below and then test your new knowledge with an interactive quiz!


The Beginning...

Géo Lefèvre
Géo Lefèvre
(, 2010)

The official website of the Tour de France gives a glossed and polished account of the beginning of the Tour de France – but here’s the more revealing account from

The world's greatest bicycle race originated in 1903 because of a feud between two French sports newspapers.  Le Velo was the original publication. Its competitor, L'Auto-velo, was founded by a former advertiser who had become unhappy with some of Le Velo's editorial policies.

In January of 1903, Le Velo won a trademark suit against its competitor, and L'Auto-velo was forced to become simply L'Auto.

Fearful that the name change would kill the newspaper, L'Auto editor Henri desgrange decided that a major race would create publicity and circulation. His cycling reporter, Georges Lefevre suggested a six-day race over roads and through towns rather than on a track.

Henri Desgrange
Henri desgrange
(, 2010)

On Jan. 19, 1903, L'Auto announced "the greatest cycling trial in the entire world. A race more than a month long: Paris to Lyon to Marseille to Toulouse to Bordeaux to Nantes to Paris." With a 20-franc entrance fee, response was poor.

Within a short time, 60 cyclists had signed. It was an enormous success. When winner Maurice Garin entered Paris, a crowd of 20,000 paying spectators greeted him. And a special edition of L'Auto sold 130,000 copies, 100,000 more than the newspaper's circulation had been six months earlier.

The basic idea of a race through the country, broken into stages and based on cumulative time, has remained intact throughout the history of the Tour de France.” (, 2010)

If you wish you can read the official version of the Tour de France beginnings from


Popularity and Growth

Since the initial tour, apart from breaks due to war, the race has run every year.  There have been changes over the years to the rules and the type of people entering.

Most notable are:


(Wikipedia a, 2010)

The Route:

(, 2010)


(, 2010)

Since the start there has always been prize money.  Today there are prizes for the overall winner, daily placings and the winner of each stage. (Wikipedia b, 2010)

In 2010

Today entry to the race is by invitation only. Race organizers invite about 20 teams, each with nine cyclists, to compete.


The yellow jersey... and friends

yellow, polkadot, green and white jerseys (2010)

The yellow jersey’s official French name is malliot jaune .  Jaune is the colour yellow, but malliot actually means a one-piece swimsuit! (Merriam-Webster , 2010)   However, it also refers to the stretchy material that these are made from.

The yellow jersey was created due to the perceived need to indentify who was winning.  The colour yellow was picked because the magazine L’Auto was printed on yellow paper. (, 2010)

There is also the green jersey which is given to the leader of the points classification, the polka dot jersey which is given to the best hill-climbing cyclist and the white jersey for the rider who does best in the younger age-range:  25 years old or under on 1st January of the current year. (Belbin, G, 2008)

Now test yourself on your Tour de France knowledge, below:

Tour de France Quiz

  1. What year did the Tour de France first start?






  2. What is the route of the Tour de France?

    Paris to Lyon

    Marseille to Toulouse

    North to South of Frances

    Variable year-on-year

  3. What event has stopped the Tour de France from running?


    Lack of bicycles


    Lack of funding

  4. If you are allowed to wear the yellow jersey what does this mean?

    You have completed the hill-climbing section the quickest

    You have the quickest overall time and have won

    You are the quickest person under 25 years old

    You have the largest sponsorship deal

Another Quiz by QuizMaker


Belbin, G (2008) The Jerseys of the Tour de France: A Guide to the Different Jerseys of the Tour de France
Date accessed 26/08/2010. (2010) History of the Tour de France
Date accessed 26/08/2010. (2010) Background image
Date accessed 26/08/2010.

Merriam-Webster (2010) definition of word from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
Date accessed 26/08/2010. (2010) Les origines du Tour de France,
Date accessed 26/08/2010.

Tour de France (2010) Great moments in the history of the Tour
Date accessed 26/08/2010. (2010) Tour de France Jersey Pins
Date accessed: 26/08/2010

Wikipedia a(2010) File:Tour de France logo.svg,
Date accessed 26/08/2010.

Wikipeadia b (2010) Tour de France
Date accessed: 26/08/2010