Tour de France Jerseys; Look for Riders Wearing Green, Yellow, White and Polka Dots

Tour de France Jerseys

Figuring out what all the Tour de France jerseys mean is pretty straight forward. If this is the first time you are watching the prestigious cycling race, you should look for riders wearing the green, yellow, white, and polka dot jerseys. Each is associated with a status or prize. The current holder of the position has to wear that jersey while racing until someone else takes their spot for the next stage or the race is over. 

Tour de France Jerseys 

We’ll get into more details on the Tour de France jerseys below, but here is a table to give you the short explanation first. We also include the French description for those who prefer to converse in the native language of the race. 

Jersey ColorMeaningFrench
YellowGeneral classification, overall leadermaillot jaune
GreenMost Sprint Pointsmaillot vert
Polka dotsKing of the Mountain (most mountain points)maillot à pois rouges
WhiteBest Young Rider (Under 25)maillot blanc

When do the Jersey Winners Get Announced? 

Immediately following each stage of the Tour de France, there is a ceremony to award the applicable jerseys. If a single rider earns multiple jerseys, then he wears the one that is considered the most prestigious. So, the Yellow would be more important than the Polka dot jersey as an example. In these cases, the second-placed rider for the category or classification wears that jersey. And of course, each jersey color has its own sponsor in case you were wondering why the riders are required to wear them when earned. 

What Does the Yellow Jersey Mean? 

The yellow jersey is worn by the overall race leader in the Tour de France. It’s the most prestigious one. The combined race time through that stage is added up for each rider. The original organizer of the race was L’Auto. Since it was a newspaper printed on yellow paper, they made the jersey yellow (1919). It has stayed that way since the practice was first adopted. To encourage riders to compete more equally throughout the race, there is bonus time awarded to the first three riders done with each stage that subtracts from their overall time. 

How Important is the Green Jersey? 

Jasper Philipsen wearing the green jersey at the 2023 Tour de France
Jasper Philipsen wearing the green jersey at the 2023 Tour de France

Of the Tour de France jerseys, the green comes after the yellow in importance. Riders get points for this by finishing high at the end of each stage for sprints. The number of points varies based on the stage, how flat it is (ie encouraging a spring), and so on. The race also has intermediate sprint contests that award points to riders based on their performance. 

Flat stages award the most points and the mountain stages the least for this jersey. It is possible for a rider to complete the Tour de France winning both the Yellow and green jerseys. The jersey gets its color from the original sponsor who was a lawn mower manufacturer. You will see the shade of green change year-to-year based on the sponsor. 

Polka Dot Jersey

The Polka dot jersey is for the rider with the most mountain points. Or, the “King of the Mountain.” The jersey is white with red dots. It was introduced to the Tour de France in 1975 and the colors were originally selected by the sponsor to match a product at the time (The sponsor was Poulain Chocolate). 

During each climb in the race, there are points awarded to the riders based on when they get over the top. The number of points awarded depends on the climb, etc and is published ahead of the race for the teams and riders to plan out their approach. 

How Important is the White Jersey? 

The white jersey is similar to the yellow except it is for the younger competitors. You have to be less than 25 years of age on January 1st of the year that the race is being run to be eligible. Then, if you are the overall leader, you get awarded the jersey to wear for the next stage. The white has been around since 1975 and is used to help recognize up-and-coming riders in the sport. 

What Other Jerseys WIll You See During the Tour de France? 

So, you will see some other jerseys (besides team ones) during the race. If the rider who is the current world champion is not wearing one of the other associated jerseys, they can wear the rainbow jersey. Similarly, the current national road race champion can wear the respective national jersey in the normal stages of the race. National time-trial winners can wear their national jerseys during time-trial stages. 

When Does the Tour de France Schedule Start? 

The Tour de France always starts at the end of June/start of July and runs for about three weeks. In 2024, the race begins on June 29th, 2024 and concludes on July 21st in Nice, France. This will be the first time in a long time it has not finished in Paris due to the 2024 Summer Olympics. 2024 is the 111th Tour de France, and there will be 21 stages to the race. 

Tour de France Jerseys – Explained

If you prefer video format, this is a good summary of the meanings behind the jersey colors. 

Will Lewis

Have been covering sports of all types for more than 18 years. March Madness is my favorite time of year before we hit the NBA and NHL playoffs. Will is a lifelong Kentucky Wildcats fan and rooted for the Bengals way back when Joe Montana dashed our hopes and dreams. Now a Padres fan as well. He covers all sports here at Sports Brackets.

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