The White Jersey at the Tour de France - A Brief History

The best young rider at the Tour de France is awarded the white jersey. But what is the history behind the maillot blanc?

Although it is sometimes considered to be a peripheral competition, the white jersey (or maillot blanc) is one of the most coveted prizes in cycling for young riders. The jersey signifies the leader of the young rider classification at the Tour de France.

The white jersey was introduced in 1968 where it was awarded to the winner of the combination classification which has since been scrapped. From 1975, the white jersey was instead awarded to the winner of the youth classification. The standings are calculated by each rider’s position in the general classification.

Current Tour de France standings

Tour de France 2021 Guide

A young Francesco Moser in 1975, when he won the first white jersey classification. Photo: RDB/ullstein bild via Getty Images

The requirements to qualify for the white jersey have changed over the years. Nowadays, a rider must be under the age of 26. However, between 1975 and 1983, the competition was fought out between riders that had been professional for three years or less. In 1975 it was a young Francesco Moser who took the white jersey for the first time.

From 1983 to 1986, riders were only eligible for the maillot blanc if they were competing in their first Tour de France. The modern-day under-26 rule was introduced in 1987.

Between the years 1989 and 1999, although the classification still existed, no tangible jersey was awarded to the leader of the competition. This means that three-time winner of the competition Jan Ullrich and two-time victor Marco Pantani never actually wore the white jersey.

Winners of the Young Rider Classification / White Jersey

Andy Schleck and Alberto ContadorAndy Schleck in the white jersey battles Alberto Contador in the yellow jersey at the 2009 Tour de France (Image credit: Tim De Waele/Getty Images)

  1. Jan Ullrich, Andy Schleck - 3 
  2. Nairo Quintana, Marco Pantani - 2

Jan Ullrich and Andy Schleck are the only riders to have won the young rider classification three times. Both riders did so three years in a row — Jan Ullrich in 1996, 1997 and 1998, whilst Schleck achieved the feat in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Both riders also won the yellow jersey in 1997 and 2010.

Nairo Quintana won the white jersey in 2013 and 2015. He finished second in the general classification to Chris Froome on both occasions. Marco Pantani is the only other rider to have won the young rider classification twice — he won the jersey in 1994 and 1995.

Laurent Fignon, Jan Ullrich, Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck, Egan Bernal and Tadej Pogačar are the only riders to have won the young rider classification while also winning the yellow jersey in the same year.

Recent Winners of the Young Rider Classification / White Jersey

Tadej Pogacar in the white jerseyTadej Pogačar in the white jersey at the 2020 Tour de France (Image credit: A.S.O./Pauline Ballet)

2011 - Pierre Rolland (Team Europcar)
2012 - Tejay van Garderen (BMC)
2013 - Nairo Quintana (Movistar)
2014 - Thibaut Pinot (FDJ)
2015 - Nairo Quintana (Movistar)
2016 - Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange)
2017 - Simon Yates (Orica-Scott)
2018 - Pierre Latour (AG2R La Mondiale)
2019 - Egan Bernal (Team Ineos)
2020 - Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates)

If he wins the 2021 young rider classification, Tadej Pogačar will become only the fifth rider to win the competition at least twice.

Cover image: Tim de Waele/Corbis via Getty Images