How long is the Tour de France?

There is a question I get many times from friends or family with less cycling knowledge than myself. How long is the Tour de France?

It is a very generic question and it requires some extra information to provide a good answer.

The question can refer to the number of days of each year’s Tour de France edition or how many stages are held.

Another option is that the question is asking about how long is the Tour de France in terms of kilometers (miles). It could be the distance of all the stages together or the longest stage of a specific edition or the longest ever.

The last possible answer I will cover in the post is the amount of hours the winner of the Tour is riding during a specific edition or the time of the last in the general classification. Also how long it takes to complete a stage of the Tour de France.

Number of stages of the Tour de France

Le Tour de France is one of the considered Three Grand Tours, together with Giro d’Italia (Italy) and Vuelta a España (Spain). The three races are also known as the Triple Crown of Cycling.

One of the main characteristics of the Grand Tours is the duration, much longer than average.

Most cycling tours are 1 week long or shorter and there are also many cycling races of only one day, however the Tour de France is a 3 week race.

As mentioned, Le Tour de France is a 3 week race (4 weekends). Starting on Saturday and finishing 23 days later on Sunday in Paris at the Champs Elysees.

There are some exceptions, as an example this year’s edition of the Tour de France will start in Denmark (Copenhagen) and to include a transfer day the race will start on Friday and will be held during 24 days.

More days than stages in the Tour de France due to the rest days

The 23 days duration of the Tour is divided between 21 stages (21 days of competition) and 2 rest days.

Tour de France stages has not always been 21, as an example the first edition of the Tour de France held in 1903 had only 6 stages.

Stages are not all the same type. There are Time Trial stages where cyclists participate in the stage individually. In some editions there is one Team Time Trial stage where the full team participates together. Lastly the most standard type of stage is when all cyclists start together.

Distance of the Tour de France

The 2022 edition of Tour de France will have a distance of 3228 Kms (2006 miles) and the last year edition had 3414 kilometers (2121 miles).

There is not a specific distance for the Tour; however the average of the last 5 years is around 3350 kilometers.

The average distance of the Tour de France has changed during the course of history, as an example the first edition of the Tour de France had 2428 Kms (1509 mi.) divided in six stages.

Distance of each stage of the Tour de France

The longest stage of the 2022 edition will be the 6th stage on July 7th with 220 kilometers (136.7 miles) between Binche and Longwy.

Last year, 2021, the stage with more kilometers was 249.1 kilometers (154.8 miles) , being a rare exception, as it was the longest stage of the last 20 years.

A trend of recent years in professional cycling is to see shorter stages than before. During the 80’s and 90’s the amount of stages well above 220 kms was higher than recent years.

The longest stage ever in the history of Tour de France was held first time in 1919 with 482 kilometers (300 miles) between Les Sables d’Olonne and Bayona. The same stage took place in the following five editions of Le Tour until 1924.

How many hours does the winner take to complete all the distance of the Tour de France?

During last year’s edition, Tadej Pogacar spent 82 hours 56 minutes and 36′ seconds on the bike to complete the 21 stages of the 2021 Tour de France edition. To compare the difference between the first and last cyclist in the general classification, Tim Declercq needed 87 hours 57 minutes and 45′ seconds, a little bit more than 5 hours compared with the winner.

How long it takes to complete each stage depends on two factors; how long is the stage and how fast the cyclists are going. During the 2021 edition most of the stages were completed between 3 hours and 5 hours. The speed of the stage is directly affected by the profile of the stage and stages with a lot of climbing kilometers are usually slower. However, the longest stage took 05 hours 28 minutes and 20′ seconds.

Photo by Rob Wingate on Unsplash