Geology of the Tour de France and the Tour de France Femmes: Earth science meets cycling

Following last year’s success, now even more content

The Grand Départ is scheduled for 1 July, but the preparations for this year’s Tour de France started more than 400 million years ago, when the rocks of the Central Massif and the Vosges Mountains were formed. Behind every climb, descent, or flat stage is a geological reason, and the team behind explains the geology that created the race parcours. In addition to their usual blogs, this year the team will also use short videos recorded on location. The site will describe the natural decor of each stage of the Tour de France: the various landscapes and the treasures that are found below the surface, for both the men’s and the women’s races. During this year's Tour de France Femmes, the team will pay special attention to female pioneers in the development of Earth science.

“Much more than in other sports, a cycling race is an event where you can enjoy the surroundings”, says geologist Douwe van Hinsbergen, Professor at Utrecht University and die-hard cycling fan. “So I decided to share our knowledge and the underlying geological treasures with the public, in a fun and accessible way, together with my fellow earth scientists from the Netherlands and abroad.”

Polka dot jersey should be red and green

The scientists include five of Van Hinsbergen’s colleagues in Utrecht. Walter Immerzeel talks about the deplorable condition of the alpine glaciers; Francien Peterse explains the origins of the soil under the French vineyards; Arwen Deuss tells why the polka dot jersey should actually be red with green dots; Emilia Jarochowska dives into the mass extinctions that happened 400 million years ago; and Alissa Kotowski tells why rocks can be under even greater stress than the peloton in full sprint.

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Dronebeeld van wegdek met logo Geo-Sports
The Geology of the Tour de France on location at the Col d’Issère, Pyrenees

Swiss cheese and clean laundry

This year, the Tour de France will once again race through the varied landscapes of France, and also northern Spain. To name just a few: the Swiss cheese of the Basque Country hills, a volcano that was once Europe’s largest in the Auvergne, rocks folded like a pile of clean laundry in the Alps, and a series of dinosaur tracks in the Jura. If you are curious how these phenomena were created, how you can recognise them, and how they affect our lives today, then take a look at and the linked social media channels.

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Ojo de Aitzulo in Spaans Baskenland
The Ojo de Aitzulo in the Basque country

Blogs and videos

With cycling commentator José Been as Editor-in-Chief, the team behind has now expanded last year’s pilot project with more blogs, more information, and videos with explanations, which are all free to use by the media. Utrecht University geologist Marjolein Naudé will host three videos for the Tour de France Femmes, and her colleague Douwe van Hinsbergen will do the same for the men’s Tour, for a total of nine videos. They will also co-host one video together. The videos will be used by television broadcasters during their live stage reports and at the end of the relevant stage, they will be posted to YouTube and the social media channels.

Wielrenner op de Col de la Croix
A cyclist climbed kilometers up to arrive in deep-oceanic rocks, high in the Alps. Copyright Pete Lippert

Send pictures

“The audience can also share photos and ask questions on Twitter and Instagram via the hashtag #GeoTdF”, adds Van Hinsbergen. “And during the Tour, we’ll provide daily commentary via our Twitter account @geotdf.” Fans can also follow Geo-Sports via other social media channels (

12 countries, 4 continents is an initiative by Utrecht University and the Naturalis Biodiversity Center, both in the Netherlands. Thirty researchers from 25 different institutes in 12 countries on 4 continents participated in the project.

The website is in English, French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Italian and several other languages.

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