I love cycling, and I enjoy playing with numbers. One day, I asked myself: What if I combine these two hobbies? What if I create a comparison of cycling Grand Tours statistics?
The result is a unique comparison of all three Grand Tours – Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, and Vuelta a España. I am sure you will see some of these stats for the first time.
Below, you find comparisons of all edition distances, average stage lengths, general, mountain, and points classification winners height & weight data, rider’s BMI, and many more interesting stats.
Abbreviations used: GC – General Classification, GT – Grand Tour, TdF – Tour de France, BMI – Body Mass Index
I used publicly available data from sites such as wikipedia.org, procyclingstats.com, and official GT websites letour.fr, giroditalia.it, and lavuelta.es for the statistics and charts below. Some data is not available (especially the rider’s weights/heights).
Please, also remember the following
- The Tour de France did not take place between 1915-1918 and 1940-1946.
- Giro d’Italia did not take place between 1915-1918 and 1941-1945.
- Vuelta a España did not take place between 1937-1940, 1943-1944, and 1951-1954.
- Lance Armstrong was stripped of all his results and prizes from 1 August 1998. No alternative winners of TdF 1999-2005 were declared yet.
- The actual rider’s racing weight could vary.
Grand Tours (Over Time)
Let’s start with the basics. The chart below shows the total distance of individual Grand Tour editions. The Tour de France was the longest Grand Tour for decades. For example, the average Grand Tour length was around 3,680 km between 1960-1980, 3,720 km between 1980-2000, and “only” 3,390 km between 2000-2020.
The number of stages experienced an opposite trend. While the first Tour de France editions had only six stages, this number multiplied in the following decades. For the past decades, it oscillates around 21.
The chart below shows that the average stage length went down from a whopping 278 km between 1909-1939 to 191 km between 1949-1979 (excluding Vuelta because its first edition took place in 1935).
The overall average speed increased dramatically, probably thanks to technological progress, better training methods, and nutrition—it exceeded the mighty 40 km/h mark. Will we ever see a Grand Tour ridden with an average speed of 45 km/h?
TIP: Interested in cycling? Feel free to read my guide on how to choose a bike type in 5 minutes or less.
Grand Tours (Historical Extremes)
What about the longest and shortest editions? Not surprisingly, the longest Grand Tour ever was the Tour de France in 1926. Riders had to cover 5,745 km (this is about the same distance as from New York to London). The longest Giro d’Italia took place in 1954 (4,337 km), and the longest Vuelta a España was in 1936 (4,407 km).
The shortest Grand Tour ever was also the Tour de France. The first two editions (1903 and 1904) were the same length of 2,428 km. The shortest Giro was 15 km longer (1912), and the Vuelta 14 km longer (1963), resulting in 2,443 and 2,443 km.
Speaking of length, here is another “best” for the Tour de France. The longest Grand Tour stage ever (482 km) was the 5th stage in the 1919 edition. Meanwhile, the longest Giro stage (stage 3 in 1914) was 52 km shorter. Vuelta falls behind with only 310 km stage (stage 6 in 1935).
However, Vuelta holds a record of the fastest Grand Tour edition ever. Riders covered the 58th edition of Vuelta a España (2003) with an average speed of 42.53 km/h. The fastest TdF was in 1998 (41.74 km/h) and Giro in 2011 (41.86 km/h).
The title for the slowest Grand Tour holds Giro d’Italia. 1914 Giro was ridden at an average speed of 23.37 km/h. My humble guess is that this record won’t be broken – 8 out of 12 stages were classified as mountain stages.
The slowest Tour de France took place in 1924 (5,425 km). The winner, Ottavio Bottecchia, reached the winning time of 226h 18′ 21″, resulting in an average speed of 23.97 km/h.
The slowest Vuelta a España (25.72 km/h) took place in 1948. It took the winner 155h 06′ 30″ to cover the 3,990 km.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Many websites (including Wikipedia) list the 1919 Tour de France as the slowest TdF ever. This figure is incorrect because the winning time of Firmin Lambot was 231h 07′ 15″. The 1919 edition was 5,560 km long. When we do some math, it is easy to calculate that the average speed was 24.0567 km/h.
Rider’s Height, Weight, and BMI (Over Time)
How does the rider’s height, weight, and BMI develop over time? How do these data differ between riders for the general classification, climbers, and sprinters?
I want to stress that a lot of data about winners from the past century is missing, so trend curves can skew the results.
General Classification Winners
Are GC riders getting taller and leaner?
The past decades have shown that even riders above 1.85m can win Grand Tours—to name a few: Chris Froome, Bradley Wiggins, Miguel Indurain, Fabio Aru, or Tom Dumoulin, who are all tall riders.
The GC winner’s height oscillates +- 10 cm around 179 cm. Giro and Vuelta seem to be more “short riders friendly.” More riders below 175 cm won these Grand Tours in the past decades.
The trend for the lower weight also seems not to be a myth. Although many heights and weight data are not available, the following chart shows that riders are really getting leaner on average. An average GC winner weight was 67.67 kg between 1980-2000, while only 64.33 kg between 2000-2020.
Probably the most interesting chart of the series of these 3 is the following BMI chart. BMI uses your height and weight to work out if your weight is healthy. (Source)
Here is a quick guide on how to interpret the values:
- Below 18.5 – underweight,
- 18.5-24.9 – normal,
- 25.0-29.9 – overweight,
- 30.0 and above – obese.
The GC winner’s BMI has varied between 21 and 19 in the past decades, averaging around 20.11. For example, Chris Froome’s BMI was around 19.08 when he won his Grand Tours, and Fabio Aru’s (Vuelta 2015 winner) was even lower at 18.81.
Mountain Classification Winners
The height data of the winners of mountain classification is also exciting. The average height of the GT mountain classification winner is 1.74 m.
Vuelta is, according to some people, considered the toughest GT. However, based on data, the average weight of the Giro mountain classification winner is 63.5 kg. This is 2.5 kg less than at Vuelta and 1.1 kg less than at Tour.
The average weight of the GT mountain classification winner is 64.6 kg.
The average BMI of mountain classification winners is 21.26. We can see a similar trend as with GC winners. Nowadays, climbers have a lower BMI on average than at the beginning of this classification. The average BMI of mountain classification winners is lower than the BMI of GC winners (21.58).
Points Classification Winners
Sprinters and all-around riders’ height rarely goes below 1.70 m or exceeds 1.85 m. The average height of a points classification winner is 1.78 m.
Not surprisingly, sprinters and all-around riders are heavier than climbers. The average weight of a GT points classification winner is 70.93 kg. This is 6.37 kg more than the mountain classification winners.
The average BMI of points classification winners is 22.28. However, the BMI variance of individual winners has been relatively significant in recent years.
Rider’s Height, Weight, and BMI (Historical Extremes)
The following stats are focused on historical extremes. You can easily compare your own height and weight with Grand Tour GC winners.
General Classification Winners
The average height of a Grand Tour GC winner is 1.77 m.
The tallest GC winner ever is Bradley Wiggins (TdF 2012). He is 1.90 m tall.
The shortest GC winner ever was Romain Maes (Tour de France 1935 winner). He was 1.60 m tall.
The average weight of a Grand Tour GC winner is 65.5 kg.
The heaviest GC winner was Tour de France 1909 winner François Faber. He weighed 88 kg.
The lightest GC winner was Marco Pantani. He won Tour de France and Giro in the same year (1998), weighing just 57 kg.
A GC winner has an average BMI of 21.63.
A GC winner with the highest BMI was François Faber. He won the 1909 Tour de France with a BMI of 27.77 (1.78 m, 88 kg).
A GC winner with the lowest BMI was Fabio Aru. He won the 2015 Vuelta with a BMI of 18.81 (1.83 m, 63 kg).
Mountain Classification Winners
The average height of a mountain classification GT winner is 1.74 m.
The tallest mountain classification winner ever was Mauricio Soler (TdF 2007). He is 1.90 m tall.
The shortest mountain classification winner ever was Mariano Díaz (Vuelta 1967). He was 1.59 m tall.
The average weight of a mountain classification winner is 64.56 kg.
The heaviest mountain classification winner was the Giro d’Italia 1933 mountain classification winner Alfredo Binda. He weighed 77 kg.
The lightest mountain classification winner was José Rujano. He won the 2005 Giro mountain classification weighing just 48 kg.
A mountain classification winner has an average BMI of 21.26.
A mountain classification winner with the highest BMI was Mariano Díaz. He won the 1967 Vuelta a España mountain classification with a BMI of 24.92 (1.59 m, 63 kg).
A mountain classification winner with the lowest BMI was José Rujano. He won the 2005 Giro mountain classification with a BMI of 18.29 (1.62 m, 48 kg).
Points Classification Winners
The average height of a points classification GT winner is 1.78 m.
The tallest points classification winner ever was Tom Boonen (TdF 2007). He is 1.92 m tall.
The shortest points classification winner ever was Stan Ockers (TdF 1955 and 1956). He was 1.65 m tall.
The average weight of a points classification winner is 70.93 kg.
The heaviest points classification winner was Rik Van Steenbergen. He won Vuelta a España 1956 points classification weighing 83 kg.
The lightest points classification winner was Joaquim Rodríguez. He won the 2012 Giro points classification weighing just 57 kg.
A points classification winner has an average BMI of 22.28.
A points classification winner with the highest BMI was Walter Godefroot. He won the 1970 Tour de France points classification with a BMI of 24.94 (1.71 m, 73 kg).
A points classification winner with the lowest BMI was Chris Froome. He won the 2017 Vuelta points classification with a BMI of 19.08 (1.86 m, 66 kg).
Overall Victories & Stage Wins
The rider with the most Grand Tour GC wins (11) is Eddy Merckx. He won TdF and Giro 5 times, as well as Vuelta once.
The following table shows three riders with the most stage wins for a given Grand Tour.
|Tour de France Wins||Giro d'Italia Wins||Vuelta a España Wins|
|1.||Eddy Merckx||34||Mario Cipollini||42||Delio Rodríguez||39|
|2.||Mark Cavendish||30||Alfredo Binda||41||Alessandro Petacchi||20|
|3.||Bernard Hinault||28||Learco Guerra||31||Laurent Jalabert|
Rik Van Looy
Consider these Incredible Bicycle Statistics to discover more about the sport we all love so much.
We have a song in the Czech Republic that goes like this:
“Statistics are boring, but it has valuable information…”
I have never enjoyed statistics, but spending dozens of hours putting this comparison together was fun. I was surprised to see some Grand Tour data visualized. The riders’ height, weight, and BMI data points are pretty interesting. What do you think about these cycling Grand Tours statistics?
I hope you like this comparison and if so, don’t forget to share it with your friends. You can also check out my other articles dedicated to individual Grand Tours that go into more detail: