Each year in July, over one hundred serious cyclists gather together in France to compete in an endurance race, the Tour de France. The event takes more than three weeks, as the route covers 2,200 miles (3,500 km). It’s definitely no small feat to be be the first to cross the final finish line, although some countries are more familiar with their cyclists winning the title than others.
View Tour de France Winners in a full screen map
Click around on the map above to see which countries have won the Tour de France so many times it will make your wheels spin, or read on for highlights about the winners and the 2018 route mapped.
Many countries send their most talented cyclists to France each year in the hopes of being Tour de France champions. The following countries have had the most success at the race:
- France, 36 wins
- Belgium, 18 wins
- Spain, 12 wins
The Tour de France is just that, a Tour of France. It should then come as no surprise to learn that the French have won the competition more times than any other country in the world. With 36 wins under its belt, France is clearly pedaling in a different gear than the rest of the world. Perhaps even more amazing is the fact that 21 of those 36 wins were from different cyclists. There is clearly something in the water in France that produces not just one all-star cycler but many. However, the country is in the middle of a slight dry spell. The last time France won the competition was 33 years ago in 1985.
Belgium has won the second-most amount of Tours. While nowhere near as many wins as France, Belgium’s 18 wins are still notable. Impressively, 10 out of those 18 wins were all won by separate cyclists. Belgium last won the Tour in 1976.
Spain has won the Tour de France 12 times with seven different riders. Their last win was in 2009, which is much more recent than France and Belgium. However, if all of these top winning countries haven’t won in the past eight years, who has been winning the Tour de France lately? Well, since 2012, Great Britain has won every Tour de France save for 2014 when Italy snagged first place. So, in the past six years, Great Britain has won five competitions.
As for the individual cyclists who did the grunt work of cycling nearly every day for over three weeks? There are five cyclists who at one point won the Tour de France five or more times.
- Lance Armstrong, 7-time winner (disqualified)
- Bernard Hinault, 5-time winner
- Eddy Merckx, 5-time winner
- Jacques Anquetil, 5-time winner
- Miguel Indurain, 5-time winner
Lance Armstrong is perhaps the most controversial cyclist in history. While his wins have been denounced and reallocated to the runners-up, at one point the whole world believed he won seven consecutive Tour de France tournaments. Armstrong initially won the competition for the U.S. in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005 before he was stripped of all titles due to doping.
Bernard Hinault, unlike Armstrong, is still considered a Tour de France winner, and a pretty talented one at that. With Armstrong’s disqualification, Hinault is one of the four cyclists to officially tie for the most Tour de France wins. Hinault won the Tour for France four consecutive times in 1978, 1979, 1981, and 1982. He lost in ‘83 and ‘84, only to make a staggering final comeback in 1985 with his last win for France.
Eddy Merckx, also with five Tour de France wins, is a Belgian cyclist who won the competition for his country in four consecutive Tours in 1969, 1970, 1971, and 1972. He did not win in ‘73 but came back to win the 1974 competition. Jacques Anquetil, another Frenchman, won the Tour in 1957, and then again consecutively from 1961 to 1964. The Spanish cyclist Miguel Indurain won the competition for five years straight starting in 1991.
Because Lance Armstrong doesn’t really count, we’ll add in the next highest winner to replace him. Chris Froome is a British rider with four wins under his belt. He is the reason for Great Britain’s most recent domination of the Tour de France, winning the competition for them in 2013, 2015, 2016, and is the current title holder having won in 2017. Will he win again this year?
Avid Tour de France fans know all about the cheating scandals that rocked the races. In fact, there are five cheating scandals you should know about that explain why official Tour de France reports vary regarding how many times a country has won. Some countries, once a Tour winner has been implicated in doping and subsequently disqualified, refuse to give their title back.
You already know about Lance Armstrong, but let’s hear about the others with rescinded wins and tarnished reputations due to doping scandals.
Bjarne Riis is one of the first cyclists who won the Tour but who was then disqualified. Riis is Denmark’s only Tour de France champion from way back in 1996. So you’d understand why they’d have a tough time giving up their one and only title just because Riis admitted to cheating in 2007. Over ten years after his big Tour de France win, Riis admitted to having used performance-enhancing drugs during the 1996 Tour. The Tour de France rescinded his win, and Jan Ullrich of Germany was proclaimed the new 1996 winner. However, in 2008, the Tour gave him back the W, likely because of just how much time had passed since his win. However, that reinstated W* was forever followed by an asterisk to ensure everyone would always know it was a tarnished victory.
Because the Tour reinstated Riis’s win, Jan Ullrich is no longer considered to be the winner of the 1996 Tour. Though Ullrich, the German-born cycler, did officially earn Germany its only first-place status the year after the Riis fiasco in 1997. However, Ullrich’s reputation is not as squeaky-clean as you’d expect of someone who kind-of sort-of won the 1996 Tour de France due to the original winner’s drug use. In fact, Ullrich himself has had some trouble with PEDs, although it didn’t have any effect on his 1997 win. In 2006, Ullrich was banned from competing in the Tour de France pending an investigation into whether or not he was familiar with using PEDs in recent years. He was found guilty of PED use in 2012 and admitted it in 2013. Ullrich’s admittance has had no effect on his second-place but kind-of first-place status in 1996 and actual win in 1997.
In addition to Armstrong, Riis, and Ullrich, two more cyclists have has run-ins with the law when it comes to PEDs during the Tour. Both Floyd Landis, an American cycler, and Alberto Contador from Spain had titles rescinded due to doping. Landis doped in 2006, and the runner-up, Óscar Pereiro from Spain is officially considered the winner. However, Pereiro’s win didn’t give Spain much of a leg up in wins because, in 2010, Alberto Contador lost the Tour de France win for Spain due to doping.
The Tour de France lasts a grueling 21 days, with only two days of rest. A mixture of terrain types from nice and flat and hilly to mountainous keeps the cyclists on their toes. More so than just the variety of terrains, the competition throws in a blend of Team Timed-trials and Individual Timed-trials so the Tour is never the same from day to day. It is also not the same from year to year, so we thought we’d map this year’s 2018 Tour de France route.
View 2018 Tour de France Route in a full screen map
Follow along by stage on the map above to get a feel for just how much land these cyclers cover in an attempt to take home the W for their country.
The cyclists are on the move from their very first point signaling the beginning of the yearly Tour on Saturday, July 7 in Noirmoutier-en-l’Île and traveling their way around France’s borders to the Tour’s finish line on Sunday, July 29, in Paris Champs-Élysées. Of the two rest days they get in between, the first occurs ten days after the start of the Tour on Monday, July 16th, in Annecy. Seven days after that comes the second rest day on Monday, July 23rd in Carcassonne, France. Note that the insane amount of kilometers traveled from Stage 9 to Stage 10 is traveled by plane, just as with Stage 20 to the finish line at Stage 21.
And there you have it, folks! The Tour de France’s biggest winners and the route the 2018 competitors will take very soon, all on a map. Who will win in 2018? Watch the Tour de France in July to find out. And, if you’re just slightly under the Tour de France’s level, you can still map your own neighborhood bike path today with BatchGeo in seconds.