10 fun facts about Tour de France

posted by Chris Valentine

The Tour de France is a sporting event packed with non-stop excitement ... photo by CC user Josh Hallett on Flickr

The Tour de France 2016 looms on the horizon and it’s an exciting time for anyone who’s interested in the cycling world. It is a gripping race that you know is going to be filled with gruelling tests and torture for the participants, and hair-raising excitement for the viewers. Over the history of the Tour de France, the cycling world – and indeed the world at large – have been in turn delighted and dismayed at the scandals, the rivalries, the tactics and the incredible drama that follows the tour. As a cycling buff, I wanted to take some time to outline some of the most incredible things about the Tour de France that have delighted me over the years, and who knows, perhaps you’ll learn something new!

How did it start?

A man named Henri Desgrange, in 1903, launched the Tour de France as a means to boost the sales of the newspaper that Henri happened to be editing at the time: L’Auto. He was locked into a very heated competitive sales war with the sports paper Le Velo at the time and needed more interest in order to boost his readership. Fortunately, the six-day race was a huge success and the sales of his newspaper were vastly boosted as a result.

Calories burned

The average rider on the Tour de France will end up burning a super-human 123,900 calories over the course of the 21-day race. That is the human equivalent of scoffing down 252 double cheeseburgers from Maccas, or polishing off a respectable 619 glazed donuts. It’s certainly something that these riders need to train hard for!

Pammy gets a look in

The riders are dedicated, we know that much, but the lengths that one Italian sprinter, Mario Cipollini, went to in order to try and succeed have yet to be rivaled. He thought that seeing the Baywatch babe while pedalling away would give him a testosterone boost which might give him an advantage. So he taped her picture to his handlebars and hoped for the best.

35 pellets

The first American to win the Tour de France was in 1986, and his name was Greg LeMond. Three years later he won it again – but what makes the win in 1989 incredible is the fact that in the time that passed, he was actually shot and wounded rather badly in a hunting accident and had to have surgery. Years later, he still had the 35 pellets from the accident lodged in his body. Yikes!


We all know that the Tour doesn’t have the best of reputations as far as cheaters go (cough, Lance, cough) but one of the most imaginative solutions was in 1953 when the French saddle mate, jean Robic swapped his water filled bottle for a bottle filled with lead. As you can imagine, it made going downhill an incredible treat. Don’t know about the uphills, though.

Poor tyres

The Tour de France cyclists tend to wear out somewhere in the vicinity of 792 tyres in the three-week race!

Sweaty work

If you cycled the entire distance of the Tour de France (around 3,500 km) you’d make enough sweat to flush a toilet 39 times… Whew, those guys must stink.


So one of the finest sportsman’s challenges in the world used to be ridden by a bunch of drunks. Well, not really – but until the 1960s, the Tour riders did partake of a tipple of an evening and it was only stopped when the law to stop use of stimulants was passed.

Cycling bods

Most of the competitors in the Tour are svelte beings, but the heaviest cyclist who ever competed was Magnus Backstedt who weighed in at a respectable 94kg.


If you cycle the Tour de France, you’re effectively climbing mountains, and you need to be in tip top shape to do so. The distance is also the equivalent of cycling from London to Cairo. You need to be on the top of your game in this sport to succeed.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these Tour facts! I can’t wait for TDF 2016!

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