Two hundred and ninety.
That is the total number of Roval wheels at the Tour de France, being used between the Deceuninck-Quickstep and Bora-Hansgrohe squads. 100 sets of race wheels, 200 wheels total, to equip each race bike, backup bike, and ensure enough spare wheels on hand to deal with in-stage emergencies. Another 90 wheels specifically for the time trials. Eagle-eyed observers will also notice a significant number of unbranded 321 disc wheels in use as on other team’s TT bikes as well; at our last count, we have that at around 70 wheels. All combined, that’s a whole lot of Roval wheels in one place.
To us, that spells commitment. It is a huge undertaking to be part of this venerable, spectacular event, and the required dedication from everyone reflects that same commitment. From the soigneurs and mechanics to each and every racer, to the grunts who layout the crowd control banners and hang the sponsor flags along the course, this is a three-week-long exercise in total dedication. In order to put some of the scope of this event into a frame of reference, we’ve pulled together a list of Tour de France statistics. Regardless of how you look at this race, it’s big:
Image: Chris Auld
2021 Tour de France route total distance: 3414km (2121 miles)
Le Tour has varied in length, and number of stages, during its 118 year history (108 years, if you consider that there were two world wars that balled things up as far as giant races around France are concerned) from 2388km competed as six massive stages in 1904, to a whopping 5744km behemoth fought out over 17 stages in 1926. Total Tour distances seem to have stabilized somewhat into the mid 3000km range since the late 1980s.
Average Speed: 39.872km/h
That was the average speed in 2020 for the entire race distance. This year, that number might be a tick higher thanks to an abundance of sprint finishes. But we shall see. For reference, the slowest Tour ever, 1919, dawdled along at barely over 24km/h. The fastest Tour ever, meanwhile, banged out the 3608km between Fromentine and Paris at an eyebrow raising 41.65km/h in 2005. There may have been some additives in the fuel that year…
Number of contestants at the start of Stage 1: 184
The largest field ever was 210 racers, in 1986. The smallest field? 1903, 1905 and 1934 share that distinction, each year with a meager 60 starters.
Number of contestants who will reach Paris:
Well, we’ll know when we get there. But, for the sake of reference, 146 racers finished Le Tour last year, from 176 starters. In 1903, a scant 21 racers survived from the original 60 entrants. During the past decade, the race seems to spit out around 30 or so racers each year. The single worst year, in terms of sheer numbers of attrition, was the scandal-marred 1998 Tour, when only 96 racers out of an initial 189 entrants made it to Paris following the expulsion of both Festina and TVM squads.
Calories burned per racer, per day: >6,000
If you’d like to check out a nifty infographic for what 6,100 or so calories looks like, this one from a few years ago is entertaining…. Meanwhile, extrapolating that out a bit, and we are looking at somewhere around 128,000 calories burned per racer for the duration of the tour. Assuming there are 160 finishers, that’s over twenty million calories burned during the race, solely by human power.
Photo Credit: Billy Ceusters
Wattage generated: 40 kilowatts
Okay, we admit this number involves a whole lot of assumptions. Such as, assuming that any given rider is averaging about 250 watts across each stage (this is based on several different data dumps from past years, and it should be noted, is an AVERAGE effort), assuming a cumulative time of 89 hours (two hours slower than the 2020 winning time, but still way faster than the lantern rouge last year), and assuming 160 riders because ummm, attrition and bad math.SO, the 40kw number, that’s what the peloton is roughly generating as it blasts past you, wind tugging at your hair and clothes. Generate that for 89 hours, and we’re looking at somewhere around 3560 kilowatts produced during the event. No wonder they eat so much.
Water bottles used: >48,000
This one is a bit contentious, given the rule changes this year that mandate fines for riders caught throwing empty or used water bottles into the fans gathered roadside. Nevertheless, estimating that a team might use up to 100 bottles on a given day, times 23 teams, times 21 days, we’re talking about 48,300 water bottles. Let that sink in for a minute. Regardless of whether they are strewn into the French countryside or very carefully rounded up and conscientiously reused/recycled at a later point, that is a whole mess of water bottles. In fact, assuming a relatively ballpark 75-grams per bottle, that works out to about 3,719kg of plastic over the course of Le Tour.
Team support personnel: @400
This was gleaned from pre-pandemic numbers, so it might have shrunk, but each team has a retinue of about 17 support personnel along for the ride: four soigneurs, four mechanics, a general manager, two race directors, a cook, a press officer, a hospitality manager, a technical director, a doctor, and a photographer.
ASO personnel: @720
These are the people who put the race on. 220 ASO staff, and about 500 more contract workers who set up the course barriers and banners and the start/finish areas.
Media, other support personnel: @4000
This is a rough swipe at the rest of the circus; reporters, photographers, broadcast crews, media cars and motorcycles, neutral support, and anything else not directly tied to an individual team or ASO, based on pre-pandemic numbers from the 2019 Tour. This rolling swarm of people and vehicles moves around France with the race, and has to navigate its way through the following:
Again, these are pre-pandemic numbers, but that is not a typo. Between TEN AND TWELVE MILLION people lined the route in 2019 to watch the peloton go to work. That sizeable portion of humanity was held in check by:
Law enforcement personnel: 29,000+
Yep, almost 30,000 gendarmes and security personnel get called in to keep everything from devolving into total anarchy. In spite of this presence, things like this still happen.
In addition to the potential dozens of people reading this, Le Tour de France is watched live by a global audience of 750 million, with the Tour de France website racking up 202 million page views during last year’s event.
Photo: Billy Ceusters
Like we said, this race is kind of a big deal. We love this giant circus, it inspires us to build our best, reminds us why we race, and gives us heroes to cheer for. There is no greater test for our equipment, on a stage so huge and visible that there is nowhere to hide if anything goes wrong. And that is precisely why we make our commitment to Le Tour, year after year. Nothing else comes close.