The 1991 Tour de France was the 78th edition of the Tour de France, taking place from 6 to 28 July. The total race distance was 22 stages over 3,914 km (2,432 mi). The race was won by Miguel Indurain, whose Banesto team also won the team classification. The points classification was won by Djamolidine Abdoujaparov, although he almost crashed out in the final stage. The mountains classification was won by Claudio Chiappucci, and the young rider classification by Álvaro Mejía.
The 1991 Tour started with 198 cyclists, divided into 22 teams of 9 cyclists. Sixteen teams qualified by being ranked in the top 16 of the FICP ranking for teams in May 1991: After the 1991 Giro d'Italia and the Dauphiné Libéré, the Tour organiser gave six additional wildcards.
The teams entering the race were:
Greg LeMond, the winner of the last two editions, was still considered a favourite going into the race, although not by the French media, as his early season had been unsuccessful.
The prologue was won by specialist Thierry Marie, who also had won the prologue in the previous race. LeMond finished with the third-best time. In the first stage, a group of eleven cyclists escaped, including some cyclists aiming for the overall win: LeMond, Breukink, Rolf Sørensen and Kelly. Marie was not in this group, and thanks to time bonuses LeMond became the race leader. Later that day, the team time trial (stage 2) was run, won by Sørensen's team, and Sørensen became the new leader of the general classification.
Sørensen kept the lead for a few stages, but in the fifth stage he fell and broke his clavicle. He managed to finish the stage, but was unable to start the next stage, so the sixth stage started without a yellow jersey. In that sixth stage, Thierry Marie escaped early in the stage, and reached the finish alone, with a solo of 234 kilometres (145 mi), the third-longest post-war solo escape in the Tour de France. His margin to the rest was big enough to put him back in the top position of the general classification. The time trial in stage eight was won by Miguel Indurain, with LeMond in second place, only eight seconds slower. This was enough to make LeMond the new leader, with Breukink in second place.
Before the tenth stage, two cyclists from PDM gave up. During that stage, two more gave up, and one came in late. The team revealed that the remaining four cyclists (including Breukink, Kelly and Alcala, ranked in the top ten of the general classification) were also sick, and the next morning the entire team abandoned. There were rumours that a doping program had gone wrong, but no official penalties were given. After the eleventh stage, there was a rest day, on which the cyclists were transferred from Nantes to Pau, by airplane. Urs Zimmermann had a fear of flying, so he refused to use the airplane. The jury then disqualified him, but after the other cyclists protested, he was allowed to use other means of transportation.
The Tour entered the Pyrenees in the twelfth stage. A group escaped with some strong outsiders: Luc Leblanc, Charly Mottet and Pascal Richard. LeMond was unable to organise the chase, so the group stayed away until the finish. Mottet won the stage, and Leblanc became the new leader in the general classification, with LeMond now in second place.
The thirteenth stage included even more climbs than the twelfth stage. LeMond escaped on the bottom of the Tourmalet, but Indurain chased him and reached him, taking other cyclists with him. Near the top of the Tourmalet, LeMond was unable to follow, and lost contact with the others. After the top, LeMond was able to get back on the descent, but in the meantime Indurain had escaped. LeMond tried to get back to Indurain, but was unable to do so. When they reached the start of the climb of the Col d'Aspin, LeMond was within sight of Indurain, but on the climb Indurain increased the distance.
Claudio Chiappucci had escaped from the chasing group, and was getting close to Indurain. When Indurain heard this, he waited for Chiappucci; they then worked together to get away from LeMond. Chiappucci and Indurain stayed away until the finish; Chiappucci won the stage and Indurain became the new leader. LeMond finished that stage in ninth place, losing more than seven minutes.
The next three stages were relatively flat, and normally no important changes in the general classification are expected. But LeMond did everything he could to win back time, and escaped on the sixteenth stage; finishing in second place, he won back almost half a minute.
The seventeenth stage was in the Alps, with an uphill finish on l'Alpe d'Huez. Gianni Bugno won, closely followed by Indurain. LeMond lost two more minutes this stage. The eighteenth stage was the last mountainous stage, and in this stage LeMond lost almost seven minutes. Indurain was leading the race, three minutes before Gianni Bugno. Because a time trial, Indurain's specialty, was the last serious obstacle in the race, Indurain was almost sure of the victory. And indeed, Indurain won that time trial, so he won the Tour de France of 1991.
In the last stage, there was a crash on the Champs-Elysées, just before the finish, after Djamolidine Abdoujaparov, sprinting for the stage victory, hit a barrier. Abdoujaparov was leading the points classification, but had to finish the stage to win this classification. After fifteen minutes, he was able to get up and walk his bicycle across the finish line.
There were several classifications in the 1991 Tour de France. The most important was the general classification, calculated by adding each cyclist's finishing times on each stage. The cyclist with the least accumulated time was the race leader, identified by the yellow jersey; the winner of this classification is considered the winner of the Tour.
Additionally, there was a points classification, which awarded a green jersey. In the points classification, cyclists got points for finishing among the best in a stage finish, or in intermediate sprints. The cyclist with the most points lead the classification, and was identified with a green jersey.
There was also a mountains classification. The organisation had categorized some climbs as either hors catégorie, first, second, third, or fourth-category; points for this classification were won by the first cyclists that reached the top of these climbs first, with more points available for the higher-categorized climbs. The cyclist with the most points lead the classification, and was identified with a polkadot jersey.
The fourth individual classification was the young rider classification, which was not marked by a jersey in 1991. This was decided the same way as the general classification, but only riders under 26 years were eligible.
For the team classification, the times of the best three cyclists per team on each stage were added; the leading team was the team with the lowest total time. The leaders of the team classification had previously worn yellow caps, but this was abandoned after the 1990 Tour.