Here’s the 2019 Tour de France guide. There’s a profile of every stage with a quick comment on the route. You’ll also find reference material on the race rules like time bonuses, the points scale for the green and polka-dot jersey, time cuts and plenty more.
Note: this is a blog post but there’s a permanent page, just look for the “Tour de France” link on the menu at the top of the page, or on the drop-down menu for mobile users.
Vertical in one word. While the yellow jersey and Eddy Merckx are the retrospective themes to this year’s race, the route offers a lot to look forward too. There’s plenty of climbing across the three weeks with an opening week that includes a hard summit finish at the Planche des Belles Filles and before that there are plenty of climbs to spice up the finish and thwart the sprinters. This is the anti-siesta Tour course, there will surely be some majestic slow moments but there are never more than two consecutive “sprint” stages. There’s only one time trial and it’s mid-race meaning no rider can count on taking back time in the final phase of the race, instead they’ll worry about losing if they crack in the succession of high altitude mountain passes that are the hallmark of the final Alpine stages.
Stage 1 – Saturday 6 July
A celebration of Eddy Merckx including a trip through the suburbs where he grew up and then a passage across both the Flemish and French speaking parts of the country including the Muur in Geraardsbergen and the Bosberg, here counting for the mountains competition rather than shaping the race. Apparently the Tour was interested in a more Flandrien route but police advice on traffic closures meant things have to loop closer to Brussels. A sprint royale awaits among the best sprinters finally reunited in one race with the hallowed yellow jersey waiting for the winner
Stage 2 – Sunday 7 July
A team time trial that’s part tourist trail, part Merckxian pilgrimage. At 27.6km it’s a substantial distance to shape the general classification with a finish beside the iconic Atomium.
Stage 3 – Monday 8 July
215km from Binche to Epernay, from a town known for its brewery to another billed as the capital of champagne wine. The fizz comes in the finish with a succession of sharp climbs in the vineyards before an uphill finish.
Stage 4 – Tuesday 9 July
A sprint stage but with a three kilometre climb thrown in with 15km to go, it’s a long drag up out the Moselle valley and for powerful riders rather than mountain goats but just the place for some teams to put the hurt on the heavyset sprinters.
Stage 5 – Wednesday 10 July
A succession of climbs in the final half of the stage including the Trois-Epis, famous in motorsport and then the Cinq Chateaux, a sharp climb last tackled in the 2014 Tour.
Stage 6 – Thursday 11 July
The first mountain stage and if the race doesn’t reach high altitude, it compensates with steep climbs in the finish, the Col de Chevrères is very hard towards the top and will shrink teams down before the Planche des Belles Filles, a tough summit finish made harder still by an extension to the road that makes the final part even steeper.
Stage 7 – Friday 12 July
The sprinters get their day with a finish in Chalon-sur-Saône, a regular haunt of Paris-Nice and the Dauphiné.
Stage 8 – Saturday 13 July
200km and rugged roads across the massif central. The start of the route reads like a wine menu before a succession of climbs that vary, some roll by in the big ring while others are awkward, all leading to the finish in the post-industrial city of Saint Etienne.
Stage 9 – Sunday 14 July
Bastille Day means a festive atmosphere and a hard stage awaits with the Mur d’Aurec ready to make the peloton taste breakfast again before a ride to Brioude, the town where Romain Bardet grew up and a surprisingly difficult climb in the finale before a quick descent to the finish.
Stage 10 – Monday 15 July
A scenic stage and a probable bunch sprint but with lumpy roads to blunt the legs before arriving in the red-brick city of Albi.
Stage 11 – Wednesday 17 July
The stage for photos of the peloton passing fields of sunflowers, this is a ride across the Pays de Cocagne, a land of plenty, full of postcard scenes of French rural life before we find out which sprinter wins in Toulouse, as long as they can cope with the unannounced climb with 3km to go.
Stage 12 – Thursday 18 July
A start in Toulouse but from Le Mirail, a housing project built with utopian ideals only to end up as an urban ghetto, it’s a move by the Tour de France to show it can visit all of France. There’s a long procession south to the Pyrenees, and the Peyresourde comes first, a long highway of a climb, before a fast descent and then the sharp Hourquette d’Ancizan. There’s 40km to the finish which sounds a long way to go but it won’t take long.
Stage 13 – Friday 19 July
The only individual time trial of the race, a 27.2km course across lumpy roads with several short climbs.
Stage 14 – Saturday 20 July
A Tour de France classic, the Soulor and Tourmalet but this time served up as a reduction with just 117.5km.
Stage 15 – Sunday 21 July
A scenic ride through quiet countryside and the final two hours are packed with hard climbs including the Mur de Péguère before a “new” summit finish, the Prat d’Albis sits above Foix and includes some double-digit gradients. In case you’re wondering a prat is a large field or a plateau high up.
Stage 16 – Tuesday 23 July
A reward for the sprinters with a loop around the Roman city of Nîmes but tricky if the mistral wind is blowing.
Stage 17 – Wednesday 24 July
The race rides into the Alps and tackles the Col de la Sentinelle which is 5km at 5% but with a 10% section to scale before a fast descent into Gap (but not “that” fast descent, this isn’t the road from La Rochette). It’s a big day for a breakaway and half the peloton will have their eyes on getting in the move here.
Stage 18 – Thursday 25 July
A mountain marathon, 208km with the Vars-Izoard and Galibier with such a fast descent that the Galibier is a virtual summit finish.
Stage 19 – Friday 26 July
A short stage with the giant Col de l’Iseran, Europe’s highest mountain pass but tackled from its shorter side before a more gentle climb into the ski resort of Tignes.
Stage 20 – Saturday 27 July
The final mountain stage and a hard day with 4,500m of vertical gain in just 130km.
Stage 21 – Sunday 28 July
A 60km parade that mutates into a 60km criterium and the evening finish on the Champs Elysées.
Yellow: the most famous one, the maillot jaune, it is awarded to the rider with the shortest overall time for all the stages added together, the rider who has covered the course faster than anyone else. First awarded in 1919, it is yellow because the race was organised by the newspaper L’Auto which was printed on yellow paper. Today it is sponsored by LCL, a bank. There are time bonuses of 10-6-4 seconds for the finish of each stage except the time trials.
There are also 8-5-2 seconds at the bonus sprints marked “B” on the profiles above on Stages 3,6,8,9,12,15,18 and 19s, typically atop various mountain passes.
Green: the points jersey, which tends to reward the sprinters. Points are awarded at the finish line and at one intermediate point in the stage and the rider with the most points wears the jersey. It is sponsored by Skoda, a car manufacturer
- Flat stages (Stages 1,4,7,11, 16, 17, 21) 50-30-20-18-16-14-12-10-8-7-6-5-4-3 and 2 points for the first 15 riders
- Hilly finish / Medium mountain stages (Stages 3,5,8,9,10,12): 30-25-22-19-17-15-13-11-9-7-6- 5-4-3-2 points
- Mountain Stages + individual TT (Stages 6,13,14,15,18,19,20) : 20-17-15-13-11- 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 points
- Intermediate sprints: 20-17-15-13-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 points
Polka dot: also known as the “King of the Mountains” jersey, points are awarded at the top of categorised climbs and mountain passes, with these graded from the easier 4th category to the hors catégorie climbs which are so hard they are off the scale. In reality these gradings are subjective. Again the rider with the most points wears the jersey. It is sponsored by Leclerc, a supermarket.
- Hors Catégorie above 2,000m passes (5 in total, namely the Tourmalet, Izoard, Galibier, Iseran and Val Thorens): 40-30-24-20-16-12-8-4 points respectively for first eight riders
- Category 1 climbs (13 in total): 10-8-6-4-2-1 points
- Category 2 (12): 5-3-2-1 points
- Category 3 (21): 2-1 points
- Category 4 (14): 1 point
Normally it’s 20-15-12-10-8-6-4-2 points for HC climbs but this year all HC climbs above 2,000m, ie all of them in the race, get double points.
White: for the best young rider, this is awarded on the same basis as the yellow jersey, except the rider must be born after 1 January 1994, ie aged 25 or under. It is sponsored by Krys, a retail chain of opticians.
Obviously a rider can’t wear two jerseys at once, they’d get too hot. So if a rider leads several classifications, they take the most prestigious jersey for themselves and the number two ranked rider in the other competition gets to wear the other jersey. For example if a rider has both the yellow jersey and the mountains jersey they’ll wear yellow while whoever is second in the mountains jersey will sport the polka dot jersey. If a rider has all the jerseys the priority yellow, green, polka dot then white.
There’s also a daily “most combative” prize awarded every day to the rider who has attacked the most or tried the hardest. It is a subjective prize and awarded by a jury. The rider gets to stand on the podium after the stage and wear a red race number the next day. There will be a final Supercombatif prize with involvement from the jury and social media. It is sponsored by Antargaz, a bottled gas company.
The time cut depends on the stage in question and the scale is the same as last year, sprinters beware. Look up the stage and its coefficient on the table above and then match it to the listings below.
Normally a one second gap on the finish line is needed to separate groups in a finish but for Stages 1,4,7,10,11,16 and 21, expected sprint stages, three seconds is needed for a split in the field. The three kilometre rule doesn’t apply on Stages 2,6,13,14,15,19 and 20.
The unmissable stages
This is the Tour de France and there’s always something to watch but there are some stages that matter more than others. If you need to plan ahead, here are some suggestions for the stages to watch.
- Stage 1: the sprint finish is the interest, a sprint royale among the top names
- Stage 3: the hilly finish
- Stage 5: the even more hilly finish
- Stage 6: the Col de Chevrères and Planche des Belles Filles, the first summit finish
- Stage 12: the first day in the Pyrenees
- Stage 14: 117km ending atop the the Tourmalet
- Stage 16: the Prat d’Albis summit finish
- Stages 18, 19 and 20: three consecutive days of high mountains
Every stage will be shown live from start to finish. Think of it like the radio, something to have in the background or in a more modern way you can tune in from time to time via your phone in case there’s early action. The daily finish time varies between 5.00pm-5.55pm CEST each day.
The race will be broadcast on a variety of channels around the world. There is no free stream on the internet but you will find a feast of legitimate feeds from local broadcasters and international sources like Eurosport.
- Each day on a normal stage there’s €11,000 for the winner, €5,500 for second place and a decreasing scale down to a modest €300 for 20th place
- For the final overall classification in Paris, first place brings in €500,000 and the Sèvres porcelain “omnisports trophy”, awarded “in the name of the Presidency of the French Republic”. The full breakdown is €500,000 for first place, €200,000 for second place, €100,000 for third place and then €70,000, €50,000, €23,000, €11,500, €7,600, €4,500, €3,800, €3,000, €2,700, €2,500, €2,100, €2,000 €1,500, €1,300, €1,200 and €1,100 for 19th place. €1000 for 20th-160th overall
There are other pots of money available in the race:
- €500 a day to whoever wears the yellow jersey, €300 for the other jersey holders
- €25,000 for the final winner of the green and polka dot jerseys
- €20,000 for the final winner of the white jersey
- There’s also money for the first three in the intermediate sprint each day: €1,500, €1000 and €500
- The climbs have cash too with the first three over an HC climb earning €800, €450 and €300 and lesser sums for lesser climbs
- The highest point in the race sees a prize when on Stage 19 the Henri Desgrange prize is awarded at the top of the Col d’Iseran and is worth €5,000
- The Souvenir Jacques Goddet is awarded to the first across the Tourmalet and is worth €5,000
- The “most combative” prize is awarded and worth €2,000 each day, the “Super combative” prize is awarded in Paris and the winner collects €20,000.
- There’s also a team prize with €2,800 awarded each day to the leading team on the overall, calculated based on each team’s best three riders per day, €50,000 for the final winners in Paris. Note the team prize is calculated by adding the time of the best three riders each day rather than the best three on GC. For example if a team has riders A, B and C make the winning break one day then their times for the stage are taken and added together. If riders X, Y and Z on the same team go up the road the next day, their times are taken. So it’s the times of a team’s best three riders each day as opposed to the best three riders overall.
The total prize pot is €2,291,700, meagre for an event of this scale but remember that unlike, say tennis or golf, pro cyclists are salaried and prize money instead is incidental and the money is shared around the team (as well as levied and taxed) rather than pocketed by the winner, it’s quite possible the actual prize winner actually collects 5-10% of the headline sum. In addition, every team that starts gets paid €51,243 to cover expenses. And should a squad make it to Paris with six or more riders they stand to collect an additional €1,600 bonus for each rider.