DecryptionsWe have collected data from the Tour de France routes since its creation in 1903: some star departments, and forgotten ones.
Tuesday July 5, the Tour returns to its lands, those of France, with a northern stage. “The Tour de France is also the tour of France”can be heard every year or so on the airwaves since the race is televised, either since 1948. But it’s been a long time since cyclists no longer trace a perimeter around France. In 2022, the Tour departed from Denmark on the 1er July, but here he is back on French soil on Tuesday July 5.
We have taken all the routes of the Tour since its creation to understand this evolution. Until the 1950s and 1960s, the peloton gladly engaged in circumambulation on the roads of France and then, the exercise had to be repeated. From the 1970s, we see the arrival of half-stages cut over the day, and exotic routes that cut through France, or that pass (finally) through Corsica. The two departments of the Island of Beauty are the big losers of the route: they were crossed only once during the big start of 2013. That is one hundred and ten years after the first edition.
The least crossed department on the continent is Indre (36) which saw the Tour pass for the first time in 1992, and only nine times in 109 editions – including the ninth in 2021.
And then there are the “winners”, those who win every time, in the forefront of which we logically find Paris, always the city of arrival, and even for a long time the city of departure, until the 1950s. : the Hautes-Pyrénées (65) crossed 105 times out of 109 editions; Pyrénées-Atlantiques (64), 103 times; Haute-Garonne (31), 102 times.
The Alpine departments are obviously in the breakaway, but obtain less good results: Savoie (73) was crossed “only” 96 times; its neighbor Haute-Savoie (74), 87 times; and 84 times for Isère, a department that is nevertheless home to Alpe d’Huez, the Cols de la Madeleine and Porte.
From the tour of France to the tour of the Alps and the Pyrenees
These readings show the changes in the route of the Tour, which goes from a circular race around the coasts and borders in a dozen stages to an international Tour de France which starts as well from our Belgian, Dutch or German neighbors. , than across the Channel.
From 1903 to 1939, the Tour effectively made a large loop around France. It thus crosses the Haute-Garonne, the Gironde, the Charente-Inférieure (which will become the Charente-Maritime in 1941) or the Bouches-du-Rhône thirty-three times… in thirty-three editions.
Then, in the recovery following the Second World War and until the mid-1950s, the Tour resumed its circular habits around France.
From the 1960s, the route became more “exotic”. This is also the time when transfers between stages begin to exceed 200 kilometers (the 2018 Tour started at more than 2,000 km), and when the center of France begins to see the peloton pass more regularly.
And then, from the 1980s, and even more from 2000, the Tour gradually turned away from the northwest of the country, despite repeated passages in Brittany or Vendée, fertile lands for French cycling. From this period, it is the mountain ranges that are favored by the organizers of the Tour: for the 22 editions of 2000 and 2021, the Pyrénées-Atlantiques are crossed 20 times (out of 23 editions); Savoy 22 times; and the Hautes-Pyrénées… 23 times out of 23.