A rider will burn nearly 124,000 calories over the course of the tour. Excluding the ceremonial prologue, that works out to be roughly 6,526 calories per day of energy expended. If riders ate fast food, they’d need to suck down 12 Big Macs per day.
The derailleur wasn’t used in the Tour de France until 1937. Prior to the introduction of lever actuated gear changes, riders had to stop and rotate their rear wheel to modify gear ratios. One side of the rear wheel had a “climbing” gear, while the other had a “downhill” gear.
Greg Lemond was the first American to win a Tour de France, and racked up victories in 1986, 1989 and 1990. Lemond was accidentally shot by his brother-in-law while turkey hunting two months before the 1987 race.
Despite Tour legends about riders pushing until their hearts exploded, only one rider (Tom Simpson in 1967) has died on an ascent. Simpson’s death was later attributed to heat stroke, but amphetamines were found in his blood, leading to the Tour’s first doping scandal. Two riders (Francisco Cepeda in 1935 and Fabio Casartelli in 1995) have died in crashes while descending mountain stages.
Although bicycle frames and components have gotten light enough to build road bikes below 10 pounds, the Tour mandates a minimum weight of 14.998 pounds for bicycles used in stages other than time trials. This baseline ensures that all riders are competing on similar equipment.
More than almost any other sporting event, the Tour is steeped in tradition. The main pack, called the peloton, stops en masse when a group consensus determines it’s time for a bio break, so no riders are receive an advantage for holding it in. Regardless of how much you may hate your team leader, if he’s wearing the yellow jersey, it’s your job to protect his lead. Even faster riders dare not attack a teammate in yellow, as it would be the end of your professional cycling career.