What do the coloured Tour de France jerseys mean?

From polka-dots to the iconic yellow jersey, those eye-catching tops have nothing to do with fashion or cyclists' team colours...

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A pack of 198 riders have descended on the Dutch city of Utrecht for this year’s Tour de France. It’s the 102nd edition of the prestigious three-week racing event and on 26th July the holder of the iconic yellow jersey will be crowned champion.

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The jerseys often move between riders as each team battles to get their riders the most points or the fastest times in each of the 21 stages. Here’s how the cyclists, including defending champion Vincenzo Nibali, can get their hands on one (or more) of those instantly recognisable jerseys:


Yellow

Traditionally known as the maillot jaune, this iconic jersey is given to the rider with the lowest cumulative time going into each new stage. At the end of the entire tour, it’s the holder of the yellow jersey who’s crowned the overall winner.

Throughout the tour, if a rider is leading in more than one classification, he’ll wear the yellow jersey as it’s the most important in the race. The other jersey will be given to the rider placed second in that classification.

The Tour de France has finished on the Champs-Élysées every year since 1975 when French cyclist Bernard Thévenet won. To mark the 40th anniversary of this famous finish, the 2015 yellow jersey is inspired by Thévenet’s jaune maillot (same collar and zipper), and features an Arc de Triomphe motif (click the thumbnail for a larger image). 


Polka-dot

The rider wearing the white jersey with red polka-dots is known as the ‘King of the Mountains’, as it’s awarded to the best climber in the race. During stages that involve climbs, points are awarded to the first rider to reach the top, as well as a number of riders who follow closely behind.

Ascents are graded – based on length, gradient and their position in the stage – from 4 (the easiest) to hors catégorie (the hardest).

The category of the climb denotes how many points are awarded and how many riders are eligible. For example, ten riders can pick up points on a climb that falls into the hardest category, while only the first over the top of the climb of a fourth category ascent will be awarded a point. Points are doubled on summit finish days, which this year is stages 10, 12, 17, 19 and 20.

The King of the Mountains classification was created in 1933. Spain’s Vicente Trueba was the first winner, although the polka-dot jersey only appeared in 1975. France’s Richard Virenque holds the record of most KOM jerseys, winning it seven times between 1994 and 2004.


Green

This is the sprinter’s jersey and so points are based on position across the line rather than time.

Flatter stages offer greater points rewards and extra points can be obtained via intermediate sprints called ‘primes’ or ‘hot spots’ along the route.

For race finishes, points are awarded on a sliding scale to the first 15 riders across the line. There’s been an increase in the points for the six flat stages this year, where the winner will pick up fifty (instead of 45) points and then continuing as follows: 30, 20, 18, 16, 14, 12, 10, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2. For seven stages the highest number of points on offer is 25 while for the mountain stages and opening time trial the winner will receive 20 points. The team trial during stage 9 won’t result in any points being awarded. 

The first week of the race will also see the reintroduction of time bonuses, last seen in the tour in 2007. These will be awarded at the finishes from the second to eighth stages. Ten, six and four seconds will be awarded to the first three riders of each of these stages, giving the sprinters a chance of also wearing the yellow jersey.

The first green jersey in history was held by Swiss Fritz Schär in 1953.


White

The white jersey is awarded in the same way as the yellow, but only riders aged 25 and younger are eligible.

It was created in 1975. In 1988, the jersey was abandoned, but not the best young rider classification.

The white jersey was reintroduced in the peloton in 2000 and has been worn by some of the best talents in the sport including Alberto Contador in 2007 and Pierre Rolland in 2012.

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Tour de France will be shown live from Saturday 4th July from 1pm on ITV4 and British Eurosport