Who has worn the most yellow jerseys at the Tour de France?
Chris Froome enters illustrious company as he passes 40 days in yellow
After successfully defending his yellow jersey on Finhaut-Emosson – and extending his overall advantage over second-placed Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) – Chris Froome wore the yellow jersey for the 40th time in his career as he won the Tour de France 2016 stage 18 time trial.
The Team Sky man, who first pulled on the jersey after victory on Ax 3 Domaines in 2013, has won the Tour de France twice and is leading the way for a third time in four years at the 2016 edition.
It puts him fifth on the all-time list for his collection of yellow jerseys – the only men to have worn it more often (now Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France career has been scratched from the record books) are the four five-time winners of the race: Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Miguel Indurain and Jacques Anquetil.
We’ve taken a closer look at Froome’s illustrious company atop the yellow jersey table.
Eddy Merckx (1969-1975) – 96 yellow jerseys
With 525 race wins to his name, including 11 Grand Tour titles and multiple victories at all five Monument Classics, there is very little Eddy Merckx didn’t achieve in his career.
And The Cannibal pulled on the yellow jersey 96 times in all, on his way to five Tour de France victories.
Merckx pulled on the yellow jersey for the first time when his Faema team won the stage 1b team time trial in the 1969 race, and was back in yellow on stage six after victory in Ballon d’Alsace – carrying the jersey all the way to Paris.
That year he also topped the points, mountains and – unsurprisingly – now-defunct combination classifications, and Faema were first in the team classification.
Merckx won the Tour in each of the next three years too, pulling on the yellow jersey after the prologue in all three, before later reclaiming the race lead to carry the jersey to Paris.
After missing the 1973 Tour de France, Merckx returned to the top of the podium in 1974 – his record-equaling fifth victory (the only five Tours he had raced at that point), and, thanks to his eight stage wins (another joint record), the year he moved top of the list of all-time stage winners. Already Giro d’Italia champion, he finished the year as world champion, too – the first rider to win cycling’s Triple Crown.
Merckx wore the yellow jersey for the final times in his career in 1975, assuming the race lead on stage six after winning a 16km time trial at Merlin Plage.
He continued to lead the race through to the final rest day, but was punched by a spectator climbing the Puy de Dome. Badly bruised as a result, Merckx lost the race lead when racing resumed after cracking on Pra Loup – that yellow jersey, the 96th of his career, would prove to be his last as he finished the race in second place.
Bernard Hinault (1978-1986) – 75 yellow jerseys
Bernard Hinault may have been overtaken in second place in the list of all-time Tour de France stage winners this year after Mark Cavendish took his tally of victories to 30, but he still sits second in the yellow jersey list.
Lance Armstrong (83) did wear the maillot jaune more, including from start to finish in 1999, but his victories – and yellow jerseys – have been annulled from the record since he confessed to doping throughout his career.
Hinault’s Tour de France record is hugely impressive. Having won his very first Tour in 1978, he finished seven of the eight races he started, won five of those seven and was second on the other two occasions.
He was even leading the race in 1980 when he was forced to abandon due to knee pain, taking his overall tally to 75 yellow jerseys.
In fact, Le Blaireau wore the yellow jersey in every Tour he raced, including his final Tour in 1986 when his constant attacking in the mountains – supposedly, and ultimately successfully, to help team-mate Greg LeMond – actually saw him lead for five stages.
Miguel Indurain (1991-1995) – 60 yellow jerseys
Miguel Indurain dominated the Tour de France in the early 1990s, collecting 60 yellow jerseys in all on his way to five consecutive overall victories between 1991 and 1995.
Big Mig’s ability against the clock saw him win the prologues in 1992 and 1993 to wear the yellow jersey early in the race, and he recorded individual time trial victories in all five of his victories.
Indurain, despite his considerable frame, could also climb too – he pulled on the yellow jersey for the very first time after distancing Greg LeMond on a mountainous stage in the Pyrenees in 1991.
Indurain dropped LeMond over the top of the Tourmalet, put time into him again on the Col d’Aspin and then stayed away with eventually stage winner Claudio Chiappucci.
Indurain was second again on Alpe d’Huez later in the race – proving that while all ten of his stage victories between 1991 and 1995 were against the clock, the mountains held no demons for the Spaniard.
He last wore the yellow jersey on the final stage into Paris in 1995 as the following year he struggled at the Tour, suffering from illness, so ending his years of dominance.
Jacques Anquetil (1957-1964) – 50 yellow jerseys
The first man to win the Tour de France five times, Frenchman Jacques Anquetil was, like Indurain, a master against the clock – to the extent he was nicknamed Monsieur Chrono.
That was proved by the fact 11 of his 16 Tour de France stage victories came in individual time trials.
His first yellow jersey came in 1957, two days after winning a 134km ‘plain stage’ to Rouen, however – one of two mass start stage wins for Anquetil that year. But it was in the individual time trials where the Frenchman cemented his lead.
It was not until 1961 that he wore the maillot jaune again, but that success kick-started four years of dominance – including his famous battles with Raymond Poulidor.
In 1961, Anquetil was in a race-winning breakaway on the first part of the opening day’s split stage – won by sprinter Andre Darrigade – and then took the yellow jersey with victory in the individual time trial in Versailles that same day.
With Anquetil already boasting a commanding lead as a result of those two stages, no other rider came close to yellow that year as the French team controlled the racing with ease.
The following year was a different story – it was not until the stage 20 individual time trial that Anquetil took the race lead, while it was a rare stage win in the mountains, followed by consolidating his lead in an individual time trial which earned him victory in 1963.
Anquetil’s final win in 1964 was perhaps his most famous. He took the race lead after another time trial on stage 17 but it was on the Puy de Dome climb where he faced his toughest battle to hold it as he rode shoulder-to-shoulder with Poulidor.
Poulidor would win the stage, but Anquetil’s efforts had been enough to keep hold of the yellow jersey. Victory in the final time trial into Paris gave him the win by 55 seconds – at that point the smallest margin in the race’s history.
His final maillot jaune completed a half-century of yellow jerseys – the first man to reach that landmark – and also proved to be the last time he ever led the Tour.
Chris Froome (2013-) – 44 yellow jerseys
Chris Froome pulled on the yellow jersey for the first time after a blistering attack on Ax 3 Domaines to win stage nine of the 2013 Tour de France.
That came a year after Froome finished second overall behind Team Sky team-mate and fellow Brit Sir Bradley Wiggins and he didn’t relinquish the maillot jaune from that point on – winning two further stages, one atop Mont Ventoux and one in a mountain time trial, to consolidate his lead.
The following year proved to be a bit of a disaster for the Kenyan-born Brit – a crash at the Criterium du Dauphine has already hit his form before he crashed several times on a wet stage four and had to abandon the following day.
In 2015, Froome roared back however – he pulled the maillot jaune on after finishing second on the Mur de Huy to take him past Wiggins’ British record of 14 yellow jerseys in the process.
Froome was happy to surrender the lead to Tony Martin on a cobbled stage the following day, but retook the yellow jersey when Martin abandoned injured and held it all the way to Paris, winning atop La Pierre-Saint-Martin in a stunning display of dominance on the race’s first mountain stage.
He held the jersey all the way to the second rest day, and after putting time into his rivals on the hors categorie Finhaut-Emosson climb on stage 17, became only the fifth rider with 40 or more yellow jerseys to his name in the race’s history.
After carrying it to Paris, and sealing a third overall triumph in the process, Froome now has 44 yellow jerseys to his name.
In the current peloton, only the soon-to-retire Fabian Cancellara comes close, with 29 to his name – the most of any non-Tour winner.
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