How long is the Tour de France?

The peloton rides through the sunflowers on stage 19 of the 2022 Tour de France
The peloton rides through the sunflowers on stage 19 of the 2022 Tour de France (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The Tour de France has long been considered the crowning glory of the cycling calendar. Taking place over three weeks in July, the race features 21 stages, varying in length and style from day to day.

Typically with two rest days, the Tour de France usually lasts a total of 23 days, typically taking in around 3,500km in distance. 

In the 2023 race takes place from 1st July to 23rd July and clocks in at 3,405 kilometres starting from Bilbao, Spain with two punchy stages in the Basque Country that will most likely not end in a bunch sprint.

After eight flat stages, four hilly stages and eight days in the high mountains including four summit finales and a single time trial, the race will finish as is traditional, in Paris on the Champs-Élysées.

Three Grand Tours

The Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España make up the 'Grand Slam' of professional road racing. In terms of prestige and history, the Tour de France is top of the pile when it comes to Grand Tours, and as a result, it’s the most renowned. Is that reflected in the distance it covers, though?

Not this year. The Giro d’Italia takes the prize for the longest Grand Tour of 2023, at 3,448 kilometres, with La Vuelta a España the shortest at 3,153.8 kilometres. 

In recent years, though, the Giro and the Tour have been uncannily similar, in terms of their overall distances. The average overall distance from 2000-2020 was 3,490 kilometres over the three weeks for the Giro d’Italia and 3,491 kilometres for the Tour de France. 

La Vuelta remains consistently the shortest in overall distance for a Grand Tour, with its average distance over the same period a mere 3,195 kilometres, just under 300km shorter than either of its counterparts.

Longest Race in History

Historically speaking, you might assume that the Tour de France has become harder over the years, to compensate for the peloton’s access to rapidly-improving resources including diet and nutrition, performance apparel, and of course the equipment. 

This isn’t strictly the case. Overall, distances have come down over the years  although the number of stages has increased. 

The first three editions of the Tour were relatively short, all at under 3000km. In fact, the shortest ever editions of the Tour de France were the first two, in 1903 and 1904, both the same length at 2,428 km. It’s worth noting though, that this distance was divided into just six stages. 

Henri Desgrange, founder of the Tour de France, in 1903. (Photo by - / AFP via Getty Images)

Henri Desgrange founded, and rode, the Tour de France in 1903 (Image credit: Getty Images)

From then on, overall distance increased dramatically. Between 1911 and 1929, riders covered over 5000km each year. The longest edition of the Tour de France took place in 1926 and clocked in at an eye-watering 5,745 km (almost the distance from Paris to New York).

This remained the case for some time, total kilometres regularly exceeding 4000km all the way through to the 1980s.

The Giro and the Vuelta tell similar stories of extremes. The longest Giro d’Italia was  the 1954 edition at 4,337km, and the longest Vuelta was 4,407km. Ultimately, though, neither come close to the Tour de France’s mammoth distances of old.

This also applies to the length of individual stages. While the longest stage of this year’s Tour will be a 220km slog from Binche to Longwy, it pales in comparison to what riders of the past had to contend with. 

The longest-ever stage of the Tour was the fifth stage of the 1919 edition; it was a whopping 482 kilometres long, over twice the distance that the riders will cover in this year’s longest stage. Once again, the Tour de France proves itself the ultimate Grand Tour, as the longest stages the Giro and the Vuelta can boast are 430km and 310km ,respectively.

Jonas Vingegaard during the 2022 Tour de France

Jonas Vingegaard during the 2022 Tour de France   (Image credit: Getty Images)

How far is the 2023 Tour de France route?

These days, what the Tour lacks in overall distance compared with years gone by, it more than makes up for in varied days and challenging terrain. After the shortest edition of the Tour de France in 20 years last year, this year's route covers 3,405 kilometres.

However, the challenges that face the nearly 200 riders expected to compete across the span of a 23-day Grand Tour do not begin and end with sheer distance. There is the small matter of elevation gain – a very different proposition measured in metres – which will test the riders’ legs as they claw their way up France's most iconic climbs.

The race typically ascends a total 48,000 metres, the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest five and a half times.

Tour de France distances covered from 2013 to 2022 

  • Tour de France 2023: 3,405 kilometres (2116 miles)
  • Tour de France 2022: 3,328 kilometres (2,068 miles)
  • Tour de France 2021: 3,414 kilometres (2,122 miles)
  • Tour de France 2020: 3,484 kilometres (2,165 mile)s
  • Tour de France 2019: 3,366 kilometres (2,091 miles)
  • Tour de France 2018: 3,351 kilometres (2,082 miles)
  • Tour de France 2017: 3,540 kilometres (2,200 miles)
  • Tour de France 2016: 3,529 kilometres (2,193 miles)
  • Tour de France 2015: 3,360 kilometres (2,088 miles)
  • Tour de France 2014: 3,661 kilometres (2,275 miles)
  • Tour de France 2013: 3,404 kilometres (2,115 miles)
  • Tour de France 2012: 3,497 kilometres (2,173 miles)

Thank you for reading 5 articles in the past 30 days*

Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read any 5 articles for free in each 30-day period, this automatically resets

After your trial you will be billed £4.99 $7.99 €5.99 per month, cancel anytime. Or sign up for one year for just £49 $79 €59

Join now for unlimited access

Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Katy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has published interviews, features, and previews in Cycling News, Rouleur, Cyclist Magazine and the British Continental. She also writes opinion pieces on her own website and is a frequent contributor to the Quicklink podcast. 

She is obsessed with the narrative element of bike racing, from the bigger picture to the individual stories. She is a cyclocross nut who is 5% Belgian and wonders if this entitles her to citizenship. Her favourite races are Ronde van Vlaanderen and La Vuelta.

In her spare time Katy is a published short fiction and non-fiction author.