Grand Tours Decoded – The Beginners Guide

Here at Big Bobble Hats we love our cycling. Having spent many years travelling to France to follow the Tour we have become UCI Official Partners for cyclocross so our roots are firmly established in the cycling world.

But for our followers who have never followed cycling it can be a confusing sport. So lets try and decode the Grand Tours for you.

There are three Grand Tours every year, Giro D’Italia, Tour De France and Vuelta a Espana. Each one lasts three weeks. The Giro is always in May, the Tour in July and Vuelta in August/September.

According to the UCI, a Grand Tour is a 15 – 23 day stage race that can be up to 3,500km long and consists of teams of eight riders with 20 to 22 teams.

Grand Tours Hoodie

Grand Tours T-shirt

The Tour De France

Founded in 1903 and hands down the most prestigious race in cycling, there are 21 stages and two rest days.

Four jersey are up for grabs, Maillot Jaune (overall winner), Green Jersey (sprint winner), Polka Dot Jersey (mountains classification winner) and the White Jersey (best young rider).

Our very own Mark Cavendish is joint holder with Eddy Merckx of the most individual stage wins at 34. Two Netflix documentaries to watch are Tour De France: Unchained and Mark Cavendish: Never Enough to give you great insight to the Tour and how gruelling it is.

The Tour usually begins in a nearby country for the Grand Depart and the first few stages. The bulk of the route, however, is through France which generally includes a number of flat stage as well as mountain stages in the Alps and Pyrenees. The race always (since 1975) ends with a ceremonial ride into the Champs-Elysees in Paris, apart for next year as the Olympics will be taking place in Paris at the same time.

Tour de France Hoodie

Tour de France T-shirt

Giro D’Italia

Founded in 1909 and often regarded as the most scenic but also the most chaotic, there are 21 stages and two rest days.

Four jerseys are up for grabs, La Maglia Rosa (overall winner), Maglia Ciclamino (overall points winner), Maglia Azzurro (mountain classification winner), Magnolia Bianca (best young rider)

The great Mario Cipollini holds the record for the most individual stage wins at 42.

Like the Tour, The Giro often begins in a nearby country for the first few stages, unlike the Tour, however the Giro doesn’t have a set location in which it finishes.

Giro D’Italia Hoodie

Giro D’Italia T-Shirt

Vuelta a Espana

Founded in 1935 and often regarded as the most challenging of all the Grand Tours but also the least prestigious, there are 21 stages and two rest days.

Four jerseys are up for grabs, the maillot rojo (overall winner), the green jersey (overall points winner), the blue polka dot jersey (overall mountain classification winner), the white jersey (best young rider).

Delio Rodriguez holds the most individual wins at the Vuelta with 39.

Beginning in another country, La Vuelta later makes its way around Spain, hitting some of the most challenging mountain regions in the process, such as The Pyrenees, The Sierra Nevada, and Asturias. Like the Tour, the Vuelta generally finishes with a ceremonial ride into the capital, Madrid.

No male rider has ever won all three of the grand tours in a single calendar year. Winning all three grand tours in a career is sometimes called a grand tour triple crown, Chris Froome (GBR) is the only British rider to have accomplished this feat.

This week the Tour of Britain is taking place which is a multi stage cycling race over a week. This used to be known as the Milk Race as it was sponsored by the Milk Marketing Board. Each year Team GB enter a team of up and coming young cyclists for them to gain valuable experience. Previous winners include Bradley Wiggins (the first ever British winner of the Tour De France in 2012), Matthieu Van Der Poel, the current World Champion who was crowned in Glasgow!

Last week the women has their chance to shine at the first ever Tour De L’Avenir. Like the male version of the race it is for young under 23 riders to show their talent. It has been a springboard in the past for the likes of Pogacar, Gaudu and Egan Bernal. Our very own Anna Shackley from Glasgow came second to continue her run of form after her bronze medal at Glasgow 2023. The future is bright!