Keep your eyes peeled for the famous yellow jersey that marks the day’s leader!

As you invariably know, the Tour de France is an annual multiple stage bicycle race that is primarily held in France. This year it passes through three other countries as well: England, Belgium and Spain. This year the race runs from July 5th through July 27th and it marks the beginning of the 101st Tour de France. It’s made up of 21 stages and the cyclists will cover a total distance of 3,664 km. If you are looking to brush up on the Tour’s history and fun facts, look no further. We’ve put together a list of info about the Tour de France that is sure to impress your mates at the pub.

1. While 2014 marks the 101st running of the Tour, the race is actually 111 years old. The race wasn’t run during the two World Wars.

2. Despite covering 3,200 kilometers over 21 days of riding, the time between first and second place has been measured by less than a minute on eight different occasions. The closest was the 1989 Tour, when American Greg LeMond beat Frenchman Laurent Fignon by just 8 seconds.

3. The race today is significantly more organized and supervised. Back in the early days riders were so desperate to win the prestigious race that some competitors put itching powder down others’ shorts, or scattered broken glass in others’ paths and some even spiked the others’ water bottles! Talk about bad sportsmanship.

4. The most stages that have been won by the same rider are eight. There are only three riders who have accomplished this feat: Eddy Merckx from Belgium, Charles Pelissier from France and Freddy Maertens from Belgium.  

5. The 2005 Tour de France had the fastest average speed at 41.5 km per hour, which is nearly double the slowest year, which was 24.1 km per hour in 1919.

6. 22 teams participate in the race, and each team is made up of nine cyclists, meaning there are 198 riders (unless any pull out prior to the start). These teams and each of their team members must be dressed identically from the team shorts and jersey down to the socks, shoes, gloves and helmet.

7. Exceptions to the matching attire include the leader jerseys. As you may know, the overall leader – the rider with the lowest cumulative time—wears the yellow jersey. The leader in points wears a green jersey while the “King of the Mountain” wears a white jersey with red polka dots. Finally, the rider under age 26 who has the lowest cumulative time wears a white jersey.

8. There are two other “minor” competitive classifications that don’t get you a jersey, but a different coloured number to pin to your jersey. First is the most combative rider of the day; the following day, he wears a number printed white on red, instead of the usual black on white. And the team classification goes to the team with the lowest cumulative time among their three best riders. The next day, that team would wear numbers printed black on yellow.

9. The whole Tour de France race began as a promotion for the French newspaper L’Auto-Velo. The pages of the paper were yellow, and so race organizers designated that the race leader’s jersey should be yellow, too. Initially the race leaders were indicated by green armbands but they proved too difficult to see, and so the “maillot jaune” (French for yellow jersey) has since become a part of cycling lore.

10. Known to teammates, competitors and fans as “The Cannibal,” Eddy Merckx of Belgium has won the most Tour stages at 34 years old. Astonishing!

11. In terms of prize money, over the course of the Tour over 3.2 million Euros is distributed, but the most award money given to an individual is 450,000 Euros to the overall Tour de France winner.

12. Tour de France riders have a gentlemen’s agreement that allows riders to take what’s called “pauses pipi” – or quick potty breaks – without trying to make up time on each other. There’s no question that breaks are needed either; a day’s race often lasts more than five hours.

13. Since the doping scandal surrounding once-infamous American rider Lance Armstrong has been uncovered, all records and times from the years he dominated the race have been removed. Now, the Tour organizers don’t list winners or official finish times from 1999 to 2005.

14. Four cyclists have died during the Tour. Three were killed in on-course crashes, the fourth, French rider Adolphe Helière died swimming on a rest day between stages.

15. Since 1975, the Tour has always finished on the Champs-Élysées in Paris—a spectacle to behold for any and all in the area when the cyclists complete this gruelling physical challenge.

Are you feeling inspired to hop on a bicycle yourself and work your way through the French countryside? Ready to answer any Tour de France question that comes your way? Every year the Tour inspires millions of enthusiasts, fans and tourists to make their way to France and spectate any one of the 21 stages. If that sounds like your kind of holiday, get planning and get going. Whether you choose a bicycle, a rental car or a plane as your mode of transportation through France, be sure you choose the right travel insurance for your holiday from Cover-More UK.

Image courtesy of Flickr user monkeywing