Trust me it is yellow. The first yellow jersey of the Tour. Note it is a proper jersey and nothing like today's lightweight material that is used.
Yesterdays time trial marked the centenary of the yellow jersey and I thought i would delve through some articles as to why and where the idea came from. The jersey means so much and it is a prize few get to wear and only a select few who wear it in Paris. The race started in 1903 to help boost sales for the L'Auto newspaper. It attracted the imagination of the public and it was common practice to cheat and for spectators to beat up rival cyclists. A cyclist aimed to cover 20 km per hour so a 300 km stage would take them 15 hours back then.The race worked for the newspaper and reached a peak in 1933 of over 600 000 copies sold every day.
1933 tour going up the Tourmalet where they are racing todays stage. It has changed a bit.
Philippe Thys who was a Belgian rider reported that he was offered a yellow jersey in 1913 whilst leading the race but refused to wear it. His reasoning was that it would make him stand out and other riders would be able to recognise him easily and would be a target for frequent attacks trying to dispose of him as the leader. I agree with him as I had no idea that riders literally were attacked and beaten up by rival fans.
In those days it didn't really matter what color your jersey was as part of the course was over mud roads and not like we see them today. With the dirt roads riders were covered in mud and dust which would not make them distinguishable form one rider to the next.
Just after the war in 1919 the cycle industry wasn't quite in full production as yet and the garments worn by the cyclists were all so similar. Light grey was the common color as that what was available then. It was decided that colors needed to be worn by the various category leaders so the public would be able to recognise who was who and it would generate more interest.
L'Auto was the main sponsor of the race and being a newspaper the newsprint they printed on was a mustard yellow. For this reason it was decided that yellow would be the jersey for the general classification leader. This was decided during the 1919 tour and first presented on stage 11. What I found funny was it was presented ahead of the 2 am start of a 325 km leg to Geneva. The jersey was literally a jersey and the first holder complained it was itchy and scratchy and hated wearing it. Today's jersey looks like an ultra light sports shirt.
The 2am start is slightly different from today as with the roads they travel on and the technology in the bikes things have changed massively. The times that the legs take is far quicker and no night riding is required today.