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how do teams win the tour de france?

The Feed's Guide to the TDF: Teamwork Makes The Dream Work

There are few riders at the Tour that hope to even vie for the overall win. While a few may hold the yellow jersey for a stage or two, it’s a finite gift. However, there are other awards available in the Tour that can be significant for teams to chase. While ultimately a test of individual effort and fortitude, the race is largely dependent on a solid team. This is a game where you can play your cards in many different ways.

First, let’s look at what teamwork means in the Tour de France, what roles there are, and how you can win as a team. Then, we’ll explain the “other ways to win” at the Tour!

How the TDF Is Won by a Team

Teamwork can come in a variety of forms in the TDF. It may be obvious like a paceline (string) of riders sheltering their leader from a headwind, or it can be subtle like giving the leader a bottle or spraying them with water on a hot climb. Bringing them any number of gels, chews, or liquid fuel. Either way, a strong team is essential to succeed in the Tour.

Professional road cycling has an interesting dichotomy between the team and the individual. One thing is for sure though: a rider winning a stage or holding one of the leader’s jerseys for a single stage is viewed as a team success.

So if only one rider “wins,” what do the other seven riders on the team do to contribute to this?

Here are some ways they come together as a team to support their leader:

  1. Going for breakaways (small groups that attack away from the main group) — prevents the need for their team to spend effort in chasing down the breakaway.
  2. Chasing breakaways — this provides the leader with an opportunity to win or limit any time loss.
  3. Retrieving fuel for the leader or other crucial riders — offering on-road bottle or food service, see those special musettes, anyone?!
  4. Pacing important climbs — while drafting may not be as crucial, having a teammate by your side can offer a big advantage both physically and mentally on the climbs.
  5. Escorting the leader back to the peloton – in case of crashes, mechanical issues, or group splits, and on fast-paced stages, the leader will need help rejoining the peloton. Without teammates to draft, it can be extremely difficult or even unlikely.
  6. Giving the leader a bike or spare wheel in case of problems — often proves to be a quicker solution than waiting for a team car or neutral support to arrive with a replacement.

What Types of Riders Make Up a Team?

GC (general classification) riders

These are the riders vying for the Tour de France overall win. They have to be solid all-round riders, who are good climbers and time trialists and can hold their own technically. They are usually the team leader and receive support from the rest of the team.


Sprinters don’t contend for the overall win, and are more interested in winning individual stages. They often wait to attack at intermediate sprint points and the finish line of each stage.


Climbing specialists excel at going uphill… plain and simple. Climbers compete for stage wins on the tough mountain stages or work to support their GC leader in the mountains, if the need calls for it.


Most riders on the team will work as “domestiques” to support their team leader. They are all-around workhorses for the leaders and serve to do all they can (i.e., bring water/fuel, pace) for them.

Time Trialists

Some riders specialize in time trialing. Though there are usually only 1-2 of them in the Tour, they can compete for wins on these stages or work as powerful domestiques on flatter stages.

Now, to the other ways to win in the Tour de France. As we hinted at, there are other prizes and awards given out based on certain criteria. From climbs to sprint points, aggression to young riders…

The Main Jerseys:

GC Leader – Yellow Jersey

Sprint Leader – Green Jersey

King of the Mountain – Polka Dot Jersey

Other Prizes:

Best Young Rider Classification - White Jersey

This classification works the same way as the yellow jersey but only for riders under 26 years of age. On rare occasions, a phenomenal young rider will win both the yellow and white jerseys (i.e., Tadej Pogačar).

Best Team Classification - Yellow Helmets

Similar to the yellow or white jerseys, this award is determined by the cumulative time of the race, and the team with the lowest overall time emerges as the winner. Each team calculates the finish times of their three highest-performing riders in every stage. The team leading this classification is often distinguished by wearing yellow helmets.

Most Aggressive Rider - Red Number

Referred to as the Combativity Award, this prize holds an air of mystery within the Tour. In each stage (excluding time trials), a jury determines the rider who displayed the highest level of aggression, often characterized by frequent attacks or taking risks with breakaways. If you notice a rider sporting a red number on their jersey, it indicates that they were recognized as the most aggressive rider in the previous stage. At the conclusion of the Tour, a single rider is bestowed with the esteemed Super Combativity award.

Stay tuned for more special TDF content and vive le tour!

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The Feed. / Friday, July 7, 2023