6/7/21 Canyon.com
6/7/21 Canyon.com

Tour de France Jerseys and Meanings

Ever wondered what the yellow, green, polka dot and white jerseys mean at the Tour de France? Keep reading to find out.

Tour de France Jerseys and Meanings Jerseys of the Tour de France © Kramon Photo

If you’re new to watching the Tour de France, there are some things you need to know so that you can enjoy watching the world’s best cycling race. Unlike one-day races, Grand Tours and other stage races have competitions within the competition. The leader of each of these classifications wears a unique jersey (as well as winning money at the end of the race).

What do the jerseys of the Tour de France mean?

Within the Tour de France are four individual classifications:
  • General Classification
  • Mountains Classification
  • Points Classification
  • Young Rider Classification

In addition to this, there’s a team classification. The leading team in this competition is not awarded a new jersey but instead is awarded permission to wear yellow helmets.

At the end of each stage, the leaders of each classification are awarded their jersey. The winner wears the yellow, polka dot, green or white jersey the next day. Whoever is the winner of each classification by the time the race reaches Paris becomes the overall winner of that jersey.

What does the yellow jersey of the Tour de France mean?

General Classification Jersey

The most famous jersey on the planet is the yellow jersey —or maillot jaune as it is known in French— and it belongs to the leader of the General Classification (GC). The yellow jersey is the oldest jersey and most coveted jersey of the race. The rules are simple: the rider with the fastest cumulative time wears the yellow jersey. Whoever has the fastest time after the finish line in Paris is the overall winner of the Tour de France.

Previous yellow jersey winners

The riders with the most Tour de France victories in history are Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain. They each have five general classifications wins to their name. The only rider in recent history to come close to equalling this record is Chris Froome (Team Sky and Ineos) with four victories. He is slated to return in 2021 with his new team Israel Start-Up Nation. Can he win again?

What does the polka dot jersey of the Tour de France mean?

King of the Mountains Jersey

Introduced in 1933 as a second classification for riders to pursue, the winner of the mountains classification is awarded a polka dot jersey for their valiance on the many climbs of the Tour de France.

Each significant climb throughout the race is categorised from 1 (most difficult) to 4 (least difficult) based on factors such as gradient and length. Tougher climbs attract more points for the riders first across the summit.

Hors categorie climbs were historically ‘uncategorised’ climbs but nowadays they’re considered to be more difficult than even category 1 climbs. As such, these ascents are awarded the most points and summit finishes (stages that end at the peak of a climb) are worth double points.

The rider with the most cumulative points leads the mountains classification and wears the polka dot jersey. After finishing the entire race in Paris, the leader of the mountains classification is the King of the Mountains.

Previous winners of the polka dot jersey

Richard Virenque still holds the record for the number of polka dot jerseys to his name with seven King of the Mountains victories throughout his career. The most recent winner was Tadej Pogačar who also took the yellow and white jerseys in 2020.

Colombian rider Nairo Quintana won the polka dot jersey when he rode for Movistar in 2013. During this edition of the Tour de France, Quintana executed a flawless strategy robbing Pierre Rolland of the jersey despite the Frenchman scoring points on more climbs than any other rider. Quintana chose the climbs with the most points including the Hors Categorie climbs to take the King of the Mountains classification.

Nairo Quintana | Movistar Team Nairo Quintana was the King of the Mountain in 2013 © Kramon Photo

What does the green jersey of the Tour de France mean?

Points Jersey

The Tour de France is often associated with mountains because the race is typically skewed towards hilly and mountain stages. There is however a competition for the sprinters among the peloton.

The first 15 riders across the line in any stage are awarded points. The first rider receives the most points and the following 14 gradually fewer points. To incentivise the sprinters, more points are available on flat stages. Intermediate sprints mid-way through other non-flat stages offer yet more points to add to the riders’ totals.

The maillot vert is awarded to the rider with the most cumulative points at the end of each stage and of course at the end of the Tour de France.

Previous winners of the green jersey

Peter Sagan has become synonymous with the green jersey having won the points classification seven times in the last nine editions of the Tour de France. Sam Bennett took the green jersey in the 2020 Tour de France. He became only the fifth cyclist in the history of Tour de France to win on the Champs-Elysees while wearing the green jersey.

What does the white jersey of the Tour de France mean?

Young Rider Jersey

The young rider classification has been around since 1987 in its current format. The winner of the white jersey is the rider who leads the general classification who is also under 26 years of age. The winner of the white jersey has also been the winner of the yellow jersey on a number of times throughout the race’s history.

Previous winners of the white jersey

Andy Schleck and Jan Ullrich have both won the white jersey three times during the Tour de France. Nairo Quintana won the young rider classification twice for Movistar Team: once in 2013 when he also won the polka dot jersey and again in 2015 when he came second overall.

Tadej Pogačar is the most recent winner of the white jersey in the year he also took yellow and polka dots. He is still eligible to compete for the white jersey for another three years and as a result has the potential to set a new record for the most white jerseys won by a single rider.

Enric Mas | Movistar Team Enric Mas wore the white jersey in 2020 instead of Tadej Pogačar who wore yellow © Kramon Photo

Tour de France Team Classification

There is just one classification that doesn’t attract a special jersey and that’s the teams classification. This prize is awarded to the team with the fastest cumulative time throughout the race. This takes into account every rider’s time, not just those in the highest position.

Teams rarely enter the Tour with the Team Classification as their sole goal and in a lot of cases becomes an opportunity if a team happens to be in a good position further into the race.

Previous winners of the team classification

Canyon-sponsored Movistar Team has taken the prize for the best team no less than five times, most recently in 2020.

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