The Tour de France consists of many races within a race. There is a Yellow, Green, Polka Dot, and White jersey wearer every day, except for Stage 1.
It can look complicated and confusing to those new to professional cycling. This article will break down what each jersey means and who wears it.
The yellow jersey or maillot jaune is worn by the leader of the General Classification (GC). It’s the most high profile and coveted prize in the Tour de France.
Each day, the total time of every rider is tallied up, and the rider who has the lowest cumulative time in the race will wear the yellow jersey the next day. After 21 stages, the rider with the lowest total time will be the Yellow jersey winner, commonly known as the Tour de France winner.
The Yellow jersey is won by a rider who is an excellent climber and a good time trialist. The high mountain stages are where the yellow jersey contenders gain or lose time.
Tadej Pogačar is the latest yellow jersey winner in 2021 and 2020.
Before his disqualification in 2012, Lance Armstrong held the record for the most yellow jerseys with seven wins, followed by Miguel Indurain, Bernard Hinault, Eddy Merckx, and Jacques Anquetil with five wins.
The Points Classification leader wears the Green jersey or maillot vert. It’s often referred to as the sprinter’s classification and is the second highest-profile prize in the Tour de France after the Yellow jersey.
Each day, points are given to the first 15 riders who cross the designated sprint points. Depending on the stage profile (flat, hilly, or mountain), the points can range from 50 (1st) to 1 (15th).
The rider with the highest cumulative points will wear the Green jersey the following day. The rider who finishes with the highest points after 21 stages will be the Points Classification winner.
Mark Cavendish was the latest Green jersey winner in 2021. He also won it in 2011.
Peter Sagan holds the record for the most Green jerseys with seven wins, Erik Zabel with six wins, and Sean Kelly with four wins.
Polka Dot jersey
The Polka Dot jersey or maillot à pois rouges is worn by the leader of the Climbers Classification. It’s often referred to as the King of Mountains classification.
Each day, points are awarded for up to the first eight riders who crest a designated categorized climb. The steeper the climb, the more points on offer and vice versa. The climbs at the Tour de France are categorized as Category 4 (least steep) to Category 3, Category 2, Category 1, and Hors Catégorie (steepest).
The rider with the highest cumulative points will wear the Polka Dot jersey the following day. The Polka Dot jersey winner is the rider who finishes with the highest total points after 21 stages.
Tadej Pogačar is the latest Polka Dot jersey winner in 2021 and 2020.
Richard Virenque won the Polka Dot jersey seven times, and Federico Bahamontes and Lucien Van Impe won six.
The white jersey or maillot blanc is worn by the leader of the Young Rider Classification. Any rider aged below 26 on 1 January will automatically be entered into the Young Rider Classification.
Similar to the Yellow jersey, the total time of every rider under 26 years old is tallied up every day. The rider who has the lowest cumulative time in the race will wear the White jersey the next day.
It’s not uncommon that the rider who leads the Young Rider Classification also leads the General Classification. Such is the case for very talented riders such as Tadej Pogačar (2020, 2021), Egan Bernal (2019), Andy Schleck (2010), Alberto Contador (2007), Jan Ulrich (2007) and Laurent Fignon (1983).
If the same rider leads both the Young Rider and General Classification, he will wear the Yellow jersey, and the second-placed rider in the Young Rider Classification will wear the White jersey the next day.