How a stage race works

How can a rider be the overall winner without winning a single stage, why do they ride in different coloured jerseys and how do they store all their food?
Here is a quick guide to how a stage race works.

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A stage race is between 3 and 21 days, most stage races JLT Condor compete in take place over 5 or 7 days. The Tour de France and Giro d’Italia are the longest stage races in the cycling calendar and have 21 days of racing.
Each day of racing is known as a ‘stage’ can last up to six hours and cover a distance of up to 225k (140miles). The terrain of a stage can be anything from pan flat to tortuously mountainous.

The race comprises of a number of competitions: the general classification; points; mountains; best young rider; and team classification.

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Ian Bibby wears the leaders yellow jersey in the 2017 Mitchelton Bay Series

The general classification: the rider who completes all stages in the shortest overall time will win the general classification and the race itself. The rider leading the general classification during the race – meaning they have completed the stages so far in the least amount of time – wears the leaders jersey. Typically tthey will ride in a yellow jersey (‘maillot jaune’).

The points classification: The green jersey (‘maillot vert’) goes to the rider who has accrued the most points overall. Points are awarded to the first 5 riders over the finish line of each stage and over the intermediate sprint line, which appears at roughly halfway through the stage.

The mountains classification: The polka-dot jersey (‘maillot à pois rouges’), known as the ‘King of the Mountains’, is also awarded for points. The white jersey with spots is worn by the rider who has won the most points in the mountains classification. Points are awarded to the first 5 riders who reach the top of certain peaks first.

The team classification: the times of the top three riders in each team are added together and the team with the lowest overall time wears a yellow number and is allowed to wear yellow helmets (if they wish).

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Steve Lampier was awarded the Combatvity Jersey on stage two of the Jayco Herald SunTour

Combativity prize: After each stage, one rider is awarded a combativity prize, for being the most constantly attacking  or for a show of good sportsmanship. The award was introduced in the  1952 Tour de France and can be awarded to riders who may not even have finished the stage or the race. The race organisers or commissaires (judges) selects a winner and the next day the rider wears a special jersey or special number on a red background (instead of the usual black on white) pinned to his jersey.

How can you win a stage but not win the race overall?
Winning a stage of the race may not put the rider in the race lead. If a rider crosses the line in a large group everyone is awarded the same time.

If a rider attacks the peloton and crosses the finish line a number of minutes or seconds ahead of their competitors the time taken to complete the stage is less and their overall culmulative time is less.