The Tour de France now has more than 100 editions to its credit, over a lifespan of just under 120 years. During this time, racing has changed dramatically. In the good old days, runners often ran more than 400 km a day and had to do the mechanical repairs themselves (although many argue that the illicit use of trains, planes and automobiles often played a role) .
So, through the years of ever-changing racing, from dozens of runners at hours of racing, to well-tuned team strategies targeting bonus seconds here and there, what are the closest finishes to the race? history of the Tour de France?
Tour de France 2021 Guide
The smallest winning margin of the Tour de France
Laurent Fignon in 1989 (Image credit: AFP via Getty Images)
- Greg LeMond – 8 seconds, 1989
- Alberto Contador – 23 secondes, 2007
- Oscar Pereiro – 32 seconds, 2006
- Jan Janssen – 38 seconds, 1968
- Stephen Roche – 40 seconds, 1987
- Bernard Thévenet – 48 seconds, 1977
- Chris Froome – 54 seconds, 2017
- Jacques Anquetil – 55 seconds, 1964
- Carlos Sastre – 58 secondes, 2008
- Tadej Pogacar – 59 seconds, 2020
The closest Tour de France of all time was in 1989, where Greg LeMond beat Laurent Fignon by just eight seconds in one of the most thrilling finishes of a Tour you can see. Unlike modern races, this race featured five time trials, including the opening prologue in Luxembourg and the gigantic 73 kilometer individual time trial between Dinard and Rennes, where LeMond and Fignon finished first and third respectively. .
The duo hovered between the top two places throughout the race, taking turns in the yellow jersey regularly before returning it to their rival. LeMond regained the lead after the time trial on stage 15 at Orcières-Merlette, but Fignon recovered the yellow jersey on Alpe d’Huez and entered the last stage with a 50-second lead.
Nowadays that would mean that Fignon was the winner of the Tour de France because no time can realistically be won and lost. – the last stage is used as a celebration before a sprint finish. However, in 1989 Paris hosted a 24.5 kilometer time trial that ended on the Champs-Élysées.
LeMond and Fignon finished first and third respectively, but LeMond had averaged 54.5 kilometers per hour and beat Fignon by 58 seconds. The margin was enough for LeMond to win the Tour de France with just eight seconds. Fignon, who had won the Giro d’Italia earlier that year, never returned to a Grand Tour podium again, despite winning stage 11 of the Tour ’92.
The Tour de France has never ended with a time trial since.
The biggest winning margin of the Tour de France
In contrast, the greatest margin between the winner of the Tour de France and the finalist occurred at the Tour de France 1903, the first edition of the race. Maurice Garin finished with two hours, 59 minutes and 21 seconds ahead of Lucien Pothier. For the context, the same time interval separated Tadej Pogacar and Greg Van Avermaet in the 2020 Tour de France, who finished first and 50th respectively.
In general, the margin of victory in the Tour de France has diminished over time. Before World War II, the Tour de France was regularly decided in hours rather than minutes. The first Tour de France after World War II took place in 1947 and was the first Tour not organized by L’Auto. Since then, the time gap between the winner and the second has never been more than 30 minutes.
Fausto Coppi climbing the Alpe d’Huez to win the 1952 Tour de France by over 28 minutes (Image credit: AFP via Getty Images)
- Fausto Coppi, 28 minutes and 17 seconds, 1952
- Gino Bartali, 26 minutes and 16 seconds, 1948
- Hugo Koblet, 22 minutes, 1951
- Eddy Merckx, 17 minutes and 54 seconds, 1969
- Luis Ocaña, 15 minutes and 51 seconds, 1973
(Biggest margin of victory of the Tour de France since 1947)
Fausto Coppi won the 1952 Tour de France with just over 28 minutes, which is the biggest margin since the Tour de France restarted after WWII. Coppi also won five stages that year in a dominant performance.
Cover image: Jean-Yves Ruszniewski/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
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