The Tour de France is one of the most spectacular races in the world. The cyclists all wear their colorful jerseys making a rainbow on the mountainside. The sharp turns and rough terrains have you holding your breath and the physical strain is just plain old daunting. With the 2017 Tour come and gone, here are some interesting facts you may not have known about the race and its riders.
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The Youngest Winner was 19 Years Old
With most of the professional cyclists being in their late 20’s to early 30’s, bicycling is the type of sport that depends on experience as much as it depends on skill. In 1904, in the Tour’s second year of existing, Henri Cornet won when he was only 19 years, 11 months, and 20 days old and the story of how he won is an unusual one.
In the early years of the race, cheating was in abundance. Fans threw nails in front of other cyclists, riders rode trains and cars while competing, and were sometimes even towed by drivers whenever officials had their backs turned. That year, Henri originally came in fifth place, but after four months of deliberation and 12 disqualifications, Henri came out on top.
More spectators have died during the Tour de France than competitors
Biking, sweating, and sometimes collapsing, the Tour de France pushes its riders to the limits. With 3,540 km (2,200 miles) that the riders have to push through under intense conditions, three competitors have sadly lost their lives while competing, and one, Adolphe Heliere, drowned in Nice during one of the two resting days in 1910.
Francisco Cepeda lost control of his bike and plunged to his death down a ravine during the descent of the Col du Galibier in 1935.
Tom Simpson of Great Britain, died of heart failure on his ascent up Mount Ventoux in 1967. A post mortem autopsy was later shown that he mixed alcohol and amphetamines before he went to compete in the 13th stage, which, combined with the intense heat and exertion needed to complete this stage, made for a fatal combination.
Fabio Casartelli died in 1995 after crashing with several riders and hitting his head. He was declared dead on the way to the hospital.
Despite the strenuous trek, the cyclists endure every year, there have been more spectators who have died than riders.
One of the incidents involved the demise of 20 people when a police supply van crashed into a bridge in 1964. It is the biggest accident in the history of the Tour de France.
A 12-year-old boy was killed in 2000 and a 7-year-old was killed in 2002, both by media caravans.
Alex Virot, a journalist, and his passenger died when their motorbike went off a mountain road in 1957.
There were two fatal motorcycle accidents in the race’s history. In 1934, a motorcyclist crashed at high speeds before the prior to the race while entertaining the crowd, and a 60-year-old woman was a hit by a police motorcycle in 2009.
Tour de France contesters have Crazy Physical Attributes
With their stick figure arms and bulging quads, Tour de France competitors have a unique physique to help them get through the race. Riders have double the lung capacity than normal folks, and according to reports, their average body fat is around 8%, the same as a football player’s. The average joe’s body fat is typically around 25%.
They have double the lung capacity than average, in fact, they have an unusually high VO2, even among athletes from other sports! The VO2 is the maximum lung capacity, the higher the number the bigger the breath. Your normal, non-athlete kind of person would typically have a VO2 of around 35, while NBA players have one around 55. Tour players have VO2’s of around 75.
The Yellow Jerseys
Each year, over a hundred racers dressed in colorful jerseys make rainbows on the mountainside. But the one to look out for, the one that everyone is keeping their eyes on, is the yellow jersey.
Wearing the yellow jersey means you’re leading in the general classification and are the most likely to win the Tour de France. The jersey first came into effect in 1919, when Henri Desgrange requested that Eugene Christophe should wear it for the 11th stage of the Tour de France.
There has been speculation about why the yellow jersey was chosen to be yellow in the first place, but the most widely accepted, and most probable, reason was for it to mimic the color of the newspaper sponsoring the race at the time, L’Auto.
Since the yellow jerseys were introduced, over 2,100 were made for only 300 riders. The record holder goes to Eddy Merckx, who wore it for 96 days from 1969 to 1975.
How much money are we talking about?
Cycling is all fun and swell but you have to ask, how much are they getting paid? According to Sky Sports News HQ, one agent reportedly starts of his young riders at 35,000, while the minimum wage for a professional would be around 25,000. Your basic domestique (a rider that assist the leader in a race), typically get between 140,000 and 430,000. Cyclists who are among the best in the world make around 1m to 3m a year, depending on their status (if they’re a Tour winner, a National winner, etc.)
This year, €2,280,950 will be awarded to the winner, an 8% increase from last year.
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