How the Tour de France's yellow jersey came to be yellow
Wearing the yellow jersey, which indicates the overall leader in the Tour de France, confers power in the peloton – the pack slows if he has to make a pit stop – and financial gain.
“I’m pleased I have this jersey,” he said, after donning yellow for the first time in his career after Stage 9 a week ago. He wore the jersey for the next six stages until losing it to Contador today when the Spaniard attacked just as Schleck's chain popped off in Stage 15.
“This jersey” is not just professional cycling’s most prestigious prize, it’s also an icon that transcends the sport.
Sponsors like Nike and LCL, a French bank, spend millions of euros each year to put their logos on the kit.
Wearing it confers power in the peloton – if the race leader has to use the bathroom during the race, for example, the pack slows down to wait – and financial gain: €350 ($450) after each stage, a cool €450,000 for winning the race.
How the yellow jersey came to be yellow
Before there was yellow, there was green.
During the race’s first decade, at the dawn of the 20th century, leaders wore a green armband over their cycling outfits.
It didn’t exactly stand out.
“Spectators didn’t know who was in the lead; it wasn’t very interesting to follow,” says VeloNews’ John Wilcockson, a veteran reporter following his 42nd Tour de France.
So in 1913 – or 1919, depending on whom you ask – race founder Henri Desgrange developed a plan to more clearly identify the top rider.
At the time, Desgrange was editor of L’Auto, the newspaper that funded the race, and decided to fashion a jersey to mirror the yellow-colored broadsheet the paper was printed on.
After seeing that it increased the race’s popularity, organizers have added other colored jerseys over the years, including green for sprinters and polka dot for mountain climbers, to make the race more interesting to viewers.
But the yellow jersey continues to be the most coveted.