The story behind the hallowed jerseys that have come to define the Tour de France

The story behind the hallowed jerseys that have come to define the Tour de France


In 1919, the Tour de France race founder Henri Desgrange decided the rider in first place needed  to be more clearly distinguished from his competitors. And so, before the 2am stage departure, race leader Eugène Christophe of France put on the first yellow jersey of the Tour de France...The maillot jaune.

Its colour was chosen because it was the colour of the paper that L’Auto-Vélo, the race’s newspaper sponsor of the time, were printing on.

However, cycling historians have established that is not true. The yellow jersey is yellow because Henri Desgrange took a long time to decide whether his solution, of finding a more distinctive colour jersey, was a good one, and by the time he made up his mind, the 1919 Tour was about to start. He needed 36 jerseys to cover all sizes for the the Tour, and the only colour any supplier had in that quantity was yellow. Therefore he had no choice but to purchase them. The initials HD on todays yellow jersey pay tribute to Henri Desgrange.


The 50th anniversary of the TDF in 1953 was celebrated by initiating the green jersey, the colour inspired by its lawn mower-producing sponsor, La Belle Jardinière. The organisers needed an incentive to keep riders from quitting, so stage placings were awarded with points, and thus the green jersey was born...The maillot vert.


It was only in 1975 that the first polka dot jersey was awarded, to the Belgian rider Lucien Van Impe. The original sponsor of the jersey was Chocolat Poulain, and the wrapper of the chocolate bar was polka dotted...The maillot à pois rouges.


The final white jersey was introduced in 1968 to signify the highest ranked rider across the board in the other classifications. However in 1987 the competition attained its current format of being awarded to the best-placed rider under 26 years of age...The maillot blanc.





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