The Tour de France is one of the most famous cycling races in the world, attracting some of the top cyclists from around the globe. Over the course of its 100-plus year history, the race has undergone many changes, but one constant has been the impressive average speeds that cyclists achieve. In this article, we will explore the average speed of the Tour de France, how it has evolved over the years, and what factors contribute to it.

What is the Tour de France?

The Tour de France is a multi-stage bicycle race that takes place primarily in France. The race typically lasts for three weeks, covering a distance of around 3,500 kilometers (or 2,200 miles). The course changes each year, with the race starting in different cities throughout France and sometimes even in other countries. The race is broken up into stages, with each stage covering a different distance and terrain. The cyclist with the lowest cumulative time over all the stages is declared the winner.

What is the average speed of the Tour de France?

The average speed of the Tour de France varies from year to year and from stage to stage. The average speed depends on several factors, including the distance and terrain of each stage, the weather conditions, and the skill and fitness level of the cyclists.

In general, the average speed of the Tour de France has been increasing over the years. In the early years of the race, cyclists averaged around 25 kilometers per hour (or 15.5 miles per hour). However, as technology improved and cyclists became more skilled and trained, the average speed has increased. In recent years, the average speed has been around 40 kilometers per hour (or 25 miles per hour) for individual time trials and around 35 kilometers per hour (or 22 miles per hour) for mountain stages.

Factors that contribute to the average speed

Several factors contribute to the average speed of the Tour de France. These include:

  1. Distance and terrain: The length and terrain of each stage can have a significant impact on the average speed. Flat stages tend to have higher average speeds than mountain stages, for example, as cyclists can maintain higher speeds on flat terrain. Longer stages can also lead to lower average speeds, as cyclists need to conserve their energy over a longer distance.
  2. Weather conditions: Weather conditions can also affect the average speed of the Tour de France. Wind, rain, and heat can all impact cyclists’ ability to maintain high speeds. In some cases, severe weather conditions may even lead to the cancellation or modification of a stage.
  3. Skill and fitness level of cyclists: The skill and fitness level of individual cyclists also contribute to the average speed of the race. Cyclists who are stronger and more skilled are able to maintain higher speeds over longer distances.
  4. Equipment and technology: Advances in equipment and technology have also had an impact on the average speed of the Tour de France. Improvements in bike design and materials, as well as advances in aerodynamics, have allowed cyclists to achieve higher speeds.

Evolution of the average speed of the Tour de France

As mentioned earlier, the average speed of the Tour de France has increased significantly over the years. In the early years of the race, cyclists averaged around 25 kilometers per hour (or 15.5 miles per hour). This was partly due to the fact that the bicycles of that era were much heavier and less advanced than modern bicycles. Cyclists also had to ride over dirt roads and cobblestones, which made it more difficult to maintain high speeds.

In the 1920s and 1930s, the average speed of the race began to increase as bicycles became lighter and more advanced. The introduction of derailleurs and multiple gears allowed cyclists to maintain higher speeds over different types of terrain. By the 1960s, the average speed had increased to around 35 kilometers per hour (or 22 miles per hour) for flat stages.

In the 1990s and 2000s, the average speed continued to increase, with cyclists averaging around 40 kilometers per hour (or 25 miles per hour) in individual time trials. This was partly due to advances in technology, such as the use of aerodynamic helmets and bicycles, as well as improvements in training and nutrition.

In recent years, the average speed has remained relatively stable, with cyclists averaging around 40 kilometers per hour (or 25 miles per hour) in individual time trials and around 35 kilometers per hour (or 22 miles per hour) for mountain stages. However, there are still variations in the average speed from year to year and from stage to stage, depending on the factors mentioned earlier.

Notable achievements in Tour de France average speed

Over the years, there have been several notable achievements in Tour de France average speed. In 1994, Italian cyclist Tony Rominger set a record for the fastest average speed over a complete Tour de France race, averaging 40.28 kilometers per hour (or 25 miles per hour) over 3,978 kilometers (or 2,471 miles). This record stood for over a decade, until American cyclist Lance Armstrong broke it in 2005 with an average speed of 41.654 kilometers per hour (or 25.9 miles per hour) over 3,593 kilometers (or 2,232 miles).

In 2015, British cyclist Chris Froome achieved the fastest average speed over a mountain stage, averaging 40.9 kilometers per hour (or 25.4 miles per hour) during the 20th stage of the race. Froome’s achievement was particularly impressive as the stage included several difficult mountain climbs.

Conclusion

The average speed of the Tour de France is a key indicator of the performance of cyclists in the race. Over the years, the average speed has increased significantly due to advances in technology, improvements in training and nutrition, and changes to the race course. The average speed varies depending on factors such as distance and terrain, weather conditions, and the skill and fitness level of individual cyclists. Despite variations from year to year and from stage to stage, the Tour de France remains one of the most impressive displays of cycling performance in the world.