Tour de France 101

The Tour de France is a demanding race. This year's edition covers a distance of 3,404km (2,115 miles) divided into 21 stages, with only two rest days. The race presents immense challenges to the riders.
In the 2022 Tour, Dane Jonas Vingegaard emerged as the winner, completing the race in under 80 hours. He achieved an average speed of over 40km/h, the fastest ever recorded in the Tour de France. On the other hand, the slowest finisher, Caleb Ewan, crossed the finish line more than five hours later. Out of the 176 riders who started the race, 41 dropped out before reaching the final destination in Paris.
This year's Tour de France has undergone significant changes in the route. It begins in Bilbao, Spain's Basque Country, and includes four challenging hilly stages before heading into the Pyrenees early on in the race. One notable stage is the Puy de Dôme, a famous climb that hasn't been used in the Tour for 35 years due to its closure to vehicle traffic. The race also features flat and undulating stages, a summit finish on the Grand Colombier, and a series of climbing days in the Alps.
One surprising aspect of this year's Tour is the reduced number of time trial kilometers, where riders race against the clock individually. There is only a one-time trial stage of 22.4km during the race's final week. The time trial includes a challenging 10% climb at a high altitude.
The Tour de France consists of 22 teams, each composed of eight riders, totaling 176 cyclists. This includes the 18 first division WorldTour teams and four second-tier pro cycling teams invited by the race organizer, the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO). Each unit has a leader, although not all aim for overall victory. The team may also include specialists such as time trial experts or sprinters, but the main focus is supporting the leader, with other riders serving as domestics.
Teams have varying budgets, with well-funded groups like Ineos Grenadiers and Jumbo-Visma often dominating the competition by attracting top riders. Less dominant teams aim for stage victories or to feature in breakaways to gain media coverage.
The Tour de France features several sub-competitions within the primary race. The most prestigious prize is the yellow jersey, worn by the overall race leader. The contenders for the yellow jersey, known as General Classification (GC) riders, showcase their skills during the challenging stages in the Pyrenees and the Alps. GC riders must excel in climbing and time trials to achieve a high overall position.
Sprinters compete for stage wins on flat stages with broad, level finishes. They rely on their explosive power and often have a team lead-out train to position them for the final sprint. Sprinters also vie for the green jersey, awarded to the leader of the Points Classification. However, sprinters need help on mountain stages and may retire early if they have already won stages. These riders form the Autobus group, riding together at the back of the race.
Puncheurs are riders who excel in less mountainous stages with shorter uphill finishes. They possess the power to break away from the peloton and often outperform sprinters on trickier finishes. The King of the Mountains competition is reserved for climbers, with designated climbs offering points to those who reach the summit first. Domestiques play a crucial role in supporting their team leaders throughout the race, providing assistance, protection, and setting the pace when needed.
The Tour de France is complex, with riders competing for different objectives. From the battle for the yellow jersey to sprint victories and climbing accolades, the race provides a captivating spectacle for cycling enthusiasts and fans worldwide.