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The Story of the Yellow Jersey

As the Tour de France begins its second week of competition, there may be those who ask the question; "why the yellow jersey?"

In the very early 20th Century (1903), Henri Desgrange, founder of the French newspaper L'Auto (predecessor to today's L'Equipe) devised the race as publicity to increase newspaper sales, which happened to be published on yellow newsprint.  The press had asked the Tour Director of the time to come up with a way for them to easily spot the race leader, ergo the Yellow Jersey was born. 

But it would not be until 1919 when Eugéne Christophe (right) would become the first ever rider to wear the Maillot Jaune during the grueling race.  He would only finish as high as 8th overall.

  Eddy Merckx (1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1974) ©Getty Images

Eddy Merckx (1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1974) ©Getty Images

As the race grew more and more popular (and much larger) over the years and now generations, there have been more variations of such jerseys that recognize the best of the best of the Tour with jerseys recognizing the "King of the Mountain" (Polka Dot), Most Sprint Points (Green / Maillot Vert) Best U25 Rider (White / Maillot Blanc) as well as other lesser awards and classifications.

  Bernard Hinault (1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1985)   © James Andanson/Sygma/Corbis

Bernard Hinault (1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1985) ©James Andanson/Sygma/Corbis

While this year's Tour is a world away in terms of bicycle technology, athletic capability and commercial attention, the yellow jersey bears no less importance, certainly a lot more now as the famous garment is looked upon globally as its own brand and a crucial vehicle in television and media.

Current Tour leader Chris Froome is fighting hard to keep back the challengers as the second Pyrenean stage goes through Tarbes / La Pierre-St. Martin.

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  Eugéne Christophe, first man to wear 'Maillot Jaune" in the TdF

Eugéne Christophe, first man to wear 'Maillot Jaune" in the TdF

  Greg LeMond (1986, 1989, 1990) ©ESPN Films

Greg LeMond (1986, 1989, 1990) ©ESPN Films

  Chris Froome (2013) ©Reuters

Chris Froome (2013) ©Reuters