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How are Tour de France numbers assigned?

The lucky number 13 was last donned by Steven Kruijswijk in 2022... Superstition is the main reason 13 is worn upside down

In sport, a number can carry a lot of weight. In rugby or American football, a number denotes a position on the field. In American football clubs, a number is often so closely associated with a player that when that player retires, the number is retired alongside them – never to be used again. In ice hockey, skaters choose their own numbers, usually picked for personal or historical significance. In the Tour de France, and cycling more broadly, the meaning is a little more arbitrary.  

You’d be forgiven for assuming that at the Tour de France the numbers on a rider’s back mean little to nothing. And you’d be correct. Almost. But what they lack in meaning, they very much make up for in satisfying logic. With one or two interesting exceptions. Here’s a quick run-down of what is, admittedly, an inexact science.

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