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Tour de France: What Time Is It? It's Time to Get Paid!


Want to know what the Tour de France is about? I mean really about? I'll start with a quick quiz.

Q: What is the Tour de France about? I mean really about?

1) Cycling

2) a tour of France

3) tradition and culture

4) economics

Answers on the flip!

Let's do this one at a time...

1) Cycling

2) a tour of France

3) tradition and culture

4) economics

The Tour was initially designed to one-up the long-distance races which were generating so much publicity at the time. Bordeaux-Paris? Paris-Brest-Paris? Paris-Roubaix? I see your one or two way races, and I raise you one consolidated tour of the entire damn country!

But those days are long gone. Not only do French people know all about France now, but so do American tourists, as any hotelier in July can tell you. So what's left?

1) Cycling

2) a tour of France

3) tradition and culture

4) economics

The traditions of the Tour are lovely in and of themselves. No disrespect. But the Tour has gone international, decades ago. This isn't the Giro. The Tour belongs to the world, and it's nice of France to host for us. Next?

1) Cycling

2) a tour of France

3) tradition and culture

4) economics

Don't misunderestimate the point I'm making here. This is the biggest prize in cycling, from a purely sporting perspective. Everybody knows that and acknowledges it. But if the Tour disappeared, there would still be plenty of races to stimulate the sport. The Tour is the biggest thing, but it's not everything. So...

Economics FTW!

Yes, economics. Now, I'm not an insider but people who are tend to say things like "teams pay their year's worth of bills at the Tour." What they mean is, they compensate a year's worth of sponsorship through their exploits at the Tour. This is especially true of cycling industry sponsors, who like to run ads in August saying "our wheels just won the yellow jersey!" and distribute posters to that effect to every bike shop in the western world.

Inside the teams themselves, there is another important development going on at the Tour: prize money! This is undoubtedly the biggest direct cash payout available in the sport, and somehow I doubt, looking at the numbers, that this goes unnoticed. Let's take a gander at the Tour de France prize money list for 2012!

[Special thanks to Jen for finding this. Discovering the Tour de France rulebook is a bit like one of those Indiana Jones movies. Jen is now having nightmares about running through a cave being chased by giant spiders. But whatever, she succeeded! And now I can write this post.]

What Prizes Are Available?

Maillot Jaune

For General Classification final standing:

  1. 450,000 Euros (or 450.000 if you're European)
  2. €200,000
  3. €100,000
  4. €70,000
  5. €50,000
  6. €23,000
  7. €11,500
  8. €7,600
  9. €4,500
  10. €3,800

And so on, to the point where everyone who makes it to Paris gets at least 400 Euros, or enough money to stay a couple more days in Paris. The holder of the yellow jersey after each stage gets €7,000. And yes, Andy's dropped chain in 2010 might be the most expensive shifting mishap in cycling history.

Maillots a Pois et Vert

For the Green and KOM jerseys, the final standings go eight places deep:

  1. €25,000
  2. €15,000
  3. €10,000
  4. €4,000
  5. €3,500
  6. €3,000
  7. €2,500
  8. €2,000

For points, there's €1500 for each intermediate sprint win, with €1000 and €500 for second and third. [Stage wins, we'll get to in a moment.] For KOMs, HC and Cat 1 climbs go three deep, with prizes ranging from 800-300 for the former and 650-150 for the latter. Cat 2 are two deep (500-250), cat 3 and 4 only one deep (300 and 200, respectively). For both the green and spotted jerseys, the holder each day gets €300.

Maillot Blanc

For the young rider, the final standings give out €20,000 to the winner, €15,000 for second, 10,000 for third and 5,000 for fourth. Another €500 goes to the best young rider on each stage -- a classification stage win, if you will -- and €300 a day for holding the maillot blanc.

Team Classification

Nice little payout, so you can see why people care about this:

  1. €50000
  2. €30000
  3. €20000
  4. €12000
  5. €8000

Also, each day the top team gets €2800.

Combativity Prize

Each day the most aggressive (coughFrenchcough) rider gets €2000. The Super Combatif prize given out in Paris is worth €20,000. Be! Aggressive! B-E-Aggressive!


For every stage, flat, mountain or ITT, prizes go 20 deep as follows:

  1. €8000
  2. €4000
  3. €2000
  4. €1200
  5. €830

And so on, down to €200. The Team Time Trial is the lone exception, with prizes still 20 deep but slightly more money on the table for the top finishers:

  1. €10000
  2. €5000
  3. €2500
  4. €1000
  5. €800

and so on. Finally, there are two one-time prizes of €5000, the Souvenir Jacques Goddet for first over the Tourmalet and the Souvenir Henri Desgrange for first over the Galibier.

Team Support

To defray the cost of participation, the Tour also hands out the following cash payouts (boy, we really aren't in America now):

  • €51,243 for each team
  • An extra €1600 per rider for all teams that arrive in Paris with 7 or more riders. This "presence bonus" is intended to cover the cost of mechanics and other assistants, though I don't know why they bother saying this. Surely teams pay their mechanics anyway.

A grand total of €3,412,546 will be paid out by ASO when it's all said and done.

Oh, and anyone want a special task? How about keeping a prize money scoreboard running as we go thru the Tour? Whoever volunteers to do this (which will probably just require Excel and a few minutes a day, email me and I'll send you the entire prize list (it's in .pdf).

Photo by Michael Steele, Getty Images Sport