How is the Tour de France Time Cut Calculated?

By : Mr Mamil
Updated :

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The time cut at Tour de France is the maximum allowable time for the last rider to finish the stage. Any rider who finishes the stage outside of the time cut is automatically disqualified and will not start the next stage.

The time cut is something that the riders pay much attention to, especially for the high mountain stages. The General Classification (GC) contenders will be battling it out at the front of the race for Yellow jersey and stage wins, while the sprinters will struggle to make their way up the high mountains.

The harder and faster race at the front, the more the riders at the back will struggle to make the time cut. The Tour de France has a Withdrawals page with a list of riders who failed to make the time cut. Their names will be marked Outside Time Limit.

How is the time cut calculated?

2022 Tour de France Stages Coefficients
2022 Tour de France Stages Coefficients

The time cut calculation is complex and depends on factors. Before the Tour de France starts, the organizers will assign each stage a Coefficient. The Coefficient, as laid out in Article 22 – Finish Time Limits of the Tour de France regulations, is a way to categorize the stage based on its type, length, and difficulty levels.

At the end of each stage, the organizers will calculate the time cut by taking the pre-determined Coefficient, the winner’s average speed, and the % of the added time according to the average speed.

The time limit is calculated according to the stage winner’s time, plus :

Coefficient 1 – No particular difficulty (easiest)

Added timeWinner’s average speed
4%Below 36km/h
5%36km/h to 38km/h
6%38km/h to 40km/h
7%40km/h to 42km/h
8%42km/h to 44km/h
9%44km/h to 46km/h
10%46km/h to 48km/h
11%48km/h to 50km/h
12%Above 50km/h

Coefficient 2 – Rolling terrain

Added timeWinner’s average speed
6%Below 35km/h
7%35km/h to 36km/h
8%36km/h to 37km/h
9%37km/h to 38km/h
10%38km/h to 39km/h
11%39km/h to 40km/h
12%40km/h to 41km/h
13%41km/h to 42km/h
14%42km/h to 43km/h
15%43km/h to 44km/h
16%44km/h to 45km/h
17%45km/h to 46km/h
18%Above 46km/h

Coefficient 3 – Rolling terrain

Added timeWinner’s average speed
10%Below 35km/h
11%35km/h to 36km/h
12%36km/h to 37km/h
13%37km/h to 38km/h
14%38km/h to 39km/h
15%39km/h to 40km/h
16%40km/h to 41km/h
17%41km/h to 42km/h
18%42km/h to 43km/h
19%43km/h to 44km/h
20%Above 44km/h

Coefficient 4 – Very difficult

Added timeWinner’s average speed
7%Below 30km/h
8%30km/h to 31km/h
9%31km/h to 32km/h
10%32km/h to 33km/h
11%33km/h to 34km/h
12%34km/h to 35km/h
13%35km/h to 36km/h
14%36km/h to 37km/h
15%37km/h to 38km/h
16%38km/h to 39km/h
17%39km/h to 40km/h
18%Above 40km/h

Coefficient 5 – Very difficult, short stages

Added timeWinner’s average speed
10%Below 29km/h
11%29km/h to 30km/h
12%30km/h to 31km/h
13%31km/h to 32km/h
14%32km/h to 33km/h
15%33km/h to 34km/h
16%34km/h to 35km/h
17%35km/h to 36km/h
18%Above 36km/h

Coefficient 6 – Individual time trial

The time cut for Individual Time Trial (ITT) is the winner’s time, plus 25%.

More reading : Fastest Time Trial Average Speed at Tour de France

What do riders do to make the time cut?

Form a grupetto

The grupetto (l’autobus in French) is a group of riders who rides and finish the stage together. It’s like a lift raft, where the injured, ill riders and sprinters cling onto. Besides that, the lanterne rouge is usually part of the grupetto.

On long and hard climbs, the groupetto will ride and pace each other to make the time cut while not expending unnecessary energy. The power meter is very useful in this aspect of pacing.

The bigger the grupetto, the lower the chances of being disqualified for finishing outside the time cut. One of the well-known exceptions is when more than 20% of the riders finished outside the time cut. The organizers certainly don’t want to disqualify more than 20% of the riders on one day.

More reading : How Many Rest Days in the Tour de France?

Take extra risks on the descents

Depending on the route, some high mountain stages also feature long descends. The sprinters will take additional risks by going down the descent faster to make up time lost on the climbs.

We don’t see this often as the TV cameras are at the front of the race where all the actions are.

Ride harder

The riders will just need to ride harder and suffer more if all else fails. If the team leader or a vital team member has a bad day, the entire team will ride around and pace him to the finish.

Retire from the race

Retiring is the last thing on every rider’s mind, even if they’re nursing a serious injury. If they have the slightest chance of making the time cut, they will ride on and hope for a better day tomorrow.

But if they start to get dropped early in the stage, they will likely abandon and retire from the race.

Which riders didn’t make the time cuts?

The time cut can be ruthless. Many high profile riders have failed to make the time cut in recent years.

In 2021, Arnaud Demare (Groupama – FDJ), Luke Rowe (Ineos Grenadiers), and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Total Energies) were among those who failed to make the time cut.

In 2013, Ted King missed the time cut on Stage 4 by just seven seconds.