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23 amazing facts you didn’t know about the Tour de France

PUBLISHED: 12:10 08 May 2017 | UPDATED: 13:22 10 May 2017

Climbing the Col du Tourmalet in the 2012 edition of the Tour de France © Dreamstime / John Kershner

Climbing the Col du Tourmalet in the 2012 edition of the Tour de France © Dreamstime / John Kershner


How much do you really know about the Tour de France? Here are 23 amazing facts you probably didn’t know about the Tour de France

1. The race is nicknamed ‘La Grande Boucle’ which means ‘the big loop’ and refers to the route that takes cyclists around France

2. The average cyclist burns between 4,000 and 5,000 calories during each stage of the race. That’s a whopping 123,900 calories for the entire race

3. In the 1920s, riders used to share cigarettes while riding because they were believed to ‘open up’ the lungs before climbs...

4. ...and until the 1960s, cyclists used to drink alcohol because it numbed the pain of their aching limbs. This practice was then banned because alcohol was considered a stimulant


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5. The Tour de France gathers over 12 million spectators who line the route, making it the largest sporting event in the world…

6. …and 3,5 billion people watch the Tour de France on television each year

7. In 1919, only 10 cyclists finished the race, the least of all time

8. This one is a bit irksome but strangely fascinating: over the course of the race, riders will sweat enough water to flush the toilet 39 times!

9. The entire peloton uses around 790 tires over the three-week long race

10. The first winner of the Tour de France was Maurice Garin. He won again in 1904 but was then disqualified for cheating. He was caught taking a train to the Alps for the last stage!


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11. The French have taken more winning titles than other nations, totalling 36 wins

12. 4 riders have died during the Tour de France

13. The oldest stage winner was Firmin Lambot in 1922, he was 36…

14. ...and the youngest was Henri Cornet in 1904, he was only 19

15. In 2014, the average speed for riders was around 41km/h

16. The shortest winning margin was of 8 seconds between American Greg Lemond and Frenchman Laurent Fignon in 1989

17. In 2013, riders climbed the equivalent of Nevis, Scafell Pike, Snowdon, Mont Blanc, Kilimanjaro and Everest

18. Each team comes to the Tour de France with supplies that include 3,900 nutrition bars, 3,000 water bottles, 80kg of nuts, raisins, apricots and figs and…20 jars of jam!

19. Around 13,000 gendarmes are mobilized for the duration of the race

20. 1,200 hotel rooms are booked for teams, staff, press and Tour personnel.

21. On rest days, most cyclists don’t actually rest but hop onto their bike for a couple of hours to stop lactic acid from building up in their muscles and to stay focused

22. Jean Robic, winner of the 1947 Tour, drank lead-filled water bottles at the top of climbs to descend faster

23. The longest edition of the Tour de France was the 1926 race which totalled 3,570 miles

Do your own Tour de France and find out more about cycling in France

Article by France Magazine France Magazine

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