What every jersey color means at the 2018 Tour de France

(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

At the Tour de France, different colored jerseys indicate the leaders of each classification. Each color represents a different competition within the race.

In professional cycling, teams are outfitted in matching uniforms. Jerseys and bibs are emblazoned with the logos of team sponsors. This allows both riders and fans along the road to identify the various teams. But like uniforms in other sports, they also make it harder to distinguish superstars from the lieutenants working on their behalf. The Tour de France pioneered the use of colored jerseys to distinguish race leaders.

Since 1919, the Tour de France has used special jerseys to distinguish the leader of the race. At first it was limited to just the yellow jersey. The Tour de France has since introduced three other jerseys to identify other leaders in the various classifications on offer. Here is a quick breakdown of what each special jersey signifies.

Maillot jaune: The yellow jersey of the general classification

The yellow jersey is one of the most coveted prizes in all sports. First introduced in 1919, the jersey signifies the rider that finished the route to date in the fastest total time. Yellow was first chosen to match the color of the newsprint of L’Equipe, the newspaper that first sponsored the race. The maillot jaune is the prize from the primary competition at the Tour de France.

Lance Armstrong previously held the record of seven yellow jersey wins. But after doping revelations caused Amaury Sport Organization to rescind the victories, the record reverted back to its previous mark. Four riders — Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, and Miguel Indurain — have won five yellow jerseys each at the Tour de France. This year Chris Froome will try to join that quartet as he goes for his fifth general classification victory.

Maillot vert: The green jersey of the points classification

First introduced to the Tour de France in 1953, the points classification is a secondary competition. The competition awards points based on where each rider finishes in individual stages. The green jersey is given to the rider with the most accumulated points. Usually sprinters who duel in bunch sprints at the end of each stage are the primary recipients.

This year, Peter Sagan is back at the Tour de France with the chance to win his sixth maillot vert at the race. If Sagan manages to regain the green jersey this year, it would put him in a tie with Erik Zabel. The German legend holds the record after winning six straight green jerseys between 1996 and 2001. Sagan missed his chance to join Zabel last year after he was disqualified from the race after tangling with rival Mark Cavendish.

Maillot à pois rouges: The polka dot jersey of the mountains classification

The mountains classification was first introduced in 1933. This  classification awards points to the first few riders to cross each classified mountain pass along the route. Points are determined based on the difficulty of each climb. The rider with the most accumulated points is the King of the Mountains.

More than four decades after it became the secondary competition within the Tour de France, the King of the Mountains received his first jersey. The red polka dots emblazoned on a white jersey first appeared at the Tour de France in 1975. Richard Virenque won a record seven polka dot jerseys. His victories spanned both sides of a career defined by his involvement in the 1998 Festina doping scandal.

Maillot blanc: The white jersey of the best young rider

The best young rider award is the newest of the individual classifications at the Tour de France. The white jersey first appeared in 1968 as a combination jersey. It first became a young rider award in 1975 at the same time the polka dot jersey made its first appearance in the race. Over time it has evolved to define “young rider” in various ways.

At first, the competition awarded a white jersey to the top rider in the general classification in his first three years as a professional. In 1983, the race organizers changed the young rider classification to award the maillot blanc to the best rider in the general classification participating in the Tour de France for the first time.

Next: How to watch the 2018 Tour de France

That methodology lasted only four years. Since 1987, the white jersey is awarded to the best young rider jersey under the age of 26 on January 1 of the year after the Tour. The white jersey was not awarded for more than a decade between 1989 and 1999. Since 2000, though, it has been a staple of the podium ceremony.