It’s back and the anticipation is greater than ever. This week the 2011 Tour gets under way. The greatest show on the road is already shaping up to be one to remember with many riders self-proclaiming to be in the best shape of their lives. We’ve scoured the internet and all of this year’s Tour guides to bring you all the facts and jargon we can pack into the alphabet which will hopefully give you some ammunition down the Pub to impress your mates. Without further ado here is this year’s A to Z of the Tour de France.
A: Alpe d’Huez.
Weak kneed, short of breath and dizzy and that’s just the anticipation of the climb. The Alp D’Huez is the most famous climb of the TdF. Described as the place where the Tour is won or lost the route up the Alp comprises of 21 switchbacks which are named after the riders who have won that particular stage. Naming restarted after the 22nd stage was held there in 2001. 76% of riders who have been in the yellow jersey at this point in the race have gone on to take the overall title.
B: Backstedt, Magnus.
The Swede is recorded as the heaviest rider to have ever entered the Tour de France. The 6.5ft rider weighed in at an colossal 95kg (209.5 lbs) and even won the 19th stage of the 1998 Tour de France while riding for the French team Crédit Agricole. Well I’ve got the weight sorted all I need now is a contract with a French Pro Cycling team…
C: Contador, Alberto.
Love him or loathe him there is no doubt that this will be one of the main men to watch at the Tour. An impressive Giro saw Bertie making child’s play of the mountain stages in Italy while other riders were struggling to make the elimination time. Although with many of the Tours other main contenders opting out of this year’s Giro, opting for other races in preparation, has Contador bitten off more than he can chew?
D: Desgrange, Henri.
Henri Desgrange was a cyclist and sports journalist who organised the first Tour back in 1903. The original idea for a race around France was designed to be a publicity stunt by a French newspaper to help increase circulation. 98 years later and his brainchild is still going strong. Similarly in 1908 the Giro was created under the same circumstances in Italy.
E: Evans, Cadel.
Is it a case of always the bridesmaid, never the bride for the Aussie rider? Cuddles has come second in the great French race twice in both 2008 and 2009. Time is running out for the 34 year old dog lover with this year possibly being his last shot at the Tour title.
F: Fanatic Fans.
I’m not sure if it’s the lack of oxygen but the mountain stages always seem to bring out the craziest of fans at the Tour. Whether it’s Didi (the man in the Devil suit) or a mankini clad Borat the passion of fans at the Tour rivals any other sporting event in the world, although sometimes spectators can get a bit over excited as Jens Voigt explains.
Stage 19 sees the riders of this year’s Tour pass over the Col du Galibier. At 2645m above sea level this is the highest point on the Tour although could possibly be some riders lowest point as they try to avoid the elimination cut off time.
H: Hincapie, George.
For some riders this is their first Tour, for George Hincapie it will be his 16th equaling the record of Joop Zoetemelk if he arrives at the Champs Élysées on the 24th July. If that wasn’t impressive enough Hincapie plans to do “one last Tour” next year to see off a career in the pro peloton that’s lasted 19 years!
Boonen is back after last year when a knee injury saw him miss the Tour. The Belgium is quietly confident after a successful spring campaign with victory at the Ghent-Wevelgem. Cuddles is another who has been hampered by injury but is in fighting form going into the Tour while the winner of the 2010 Giro, Ivan Basso, required stitches after sustaining a heavy fall during training for the Tour.
J: Jens Voigt.
The hard man of cycling, Jens has gone down in history for his quirky quotes and grit and determination in the saddle. Now part of the newly formed Leopard Trek outfit, Frau Voigt will be looking to help Andy Schleck to victory. Expect classic quotes like: “Shut up legs!” and “Every time I race, I will race so fiercely my legs cry”. Quality.
Katusha look to make history in this year’s Tour with the team consisting entirely of Russians. This is the first time in the Tours history that a 100% Russian team has entered. National teams had previously entered the Tour until 1961 when loyalty of riders was questioned within and between teams after riding for trade team during the rest of the year.
Although English has become common place in the pro peloton over the last couple of decades it doesn’t hurt to know a couple of other languages. If not purely to communicate with other riders but also to tell that over excited fan to move out the way. French, Spanish and Italian are also prevalent but with 30+ nationalities in the peloton this year expect a few exchanges of colourful language in several different tongues.
Every team employs an army of masseurs to help in the recovery process of riders’ muscles. Massages are usually done in the riders’ hotel room after each day of riding however there’s no ‘happy ending’ to this massage with the riders having to get back on the bike for another 5 hours in the saddle the following day. Often mechanics may double up as masseurs while top riders in the team may have their own personal masseur.
During each stage a designated feeding zone allows riders’ to fulfil their nutritional needs. On average a rider will burn 123,900 calories over the course of the Tour. Modern day TdF riders will have to consume somewhere in the region of 8,000 to 10,000 calories a day. Here in the PBK office we feel they should go back to the good old days of café and restaurant raids as seen in the video.
O: Oh mon dieu!
Will probably be said by most riders at some point during the race. For those European metric users the Tour covers 3,430km (for the rest of us that’s 2,131 miles) during the course of July. Although this isn’t the longest distance the Tdf has seen with the 1926 race covering a biffin bridge bashing 5,745km (3,570 miles). Makes the 10k ride into work seem like nothing.
P: Paint jobs.
There seems to be an abundance of custom paint jobs at this year’s Tour. Those wearing the Yellow Jersey often don some sort of yellow accessory however images of custom yellow Trek frames have been leaked. Then there’s Cadel’s Max V02 equation, Greipel’s angry gorilla (not an innuendo) and Cancellara’s Spartacus helmet (again no innuendo intended) painted frames.
Q: Quick Release.
Today’s riders should count their blessings thanks to Tullio Campagnolo’s (yes we recognise that name as well) 1933 invention of the quick release. Before then riders had to painstakingly undo their wing nuts and change the puncture themselves losing precious time. Those were the days.
R: Relieving oneself.
Taking on all those fluids and being in the saddle for hours at a time, the riders are only human and at some point nature will call. Often riders will go in pairs to enable them to get back to the peloton or sometimes the whole peloton will pull up and relieve themselves. TdF cycling etiquette dictates that no will attack while someone is taking a leak. Some have even mastered going while still on the bike although you don’t want to be slip streaming someone at this point.
S: Schleck, Frank and Andy.
Andy Schleck is the main man to ruin the Alberto show at this year’s Tour. Having finished runner-up to Contador in 2009 and 2010, this year may be slightly more personal after the whole Chain-gate incident. Frank will be looking to improve on last year after crashing out of the TdF in stage 3 fracturing his collarbone.
T: ‘The Manx Missile’.
Ok so we’re stretching this one a bit but we couldn’t miss out old Cav. The HTC Highroad sprint specialist is never short of words and has firmly stated his desire to be the first Brit to take home the Green points Jersey. Let’s just hope he can stay upright this July.
U: Uran, Rigoberto.
The young Colombian rider showed great promise as a youngster and is already in his 5th season as a pro despite only being 24. Uran was snapped up by Team Sky at the end of last season with his climbing skills prompting him to be a possible future TdF winner.
V: Voiture balai.
Translated into English Voiture balai becomes the more recognisable Broom Wagon, the last vehicle following the Tdf picking up race stragglers. The original Broom Wagon, an iconic Citroen H Van, did in fact have a broom attached to the cabin. A creative vacuum cleaner company took this and sponsored the Broom Wagon for several years however insisting the broom be taken down.
W: Wiggins, Bradley.
The hype after Wiggin’s 4th place finish in the 2009 Tour was not lived up to last year with the Brit finishing a disappointing 24th. After a bit of soul searching and high altitude training the Sky rider looks in good form after taking victory at the Critérium du Dauphiné (often referred to as the mini Tour de France). Could this be the Sky riders year?
Both riders and steeds will be subject to these this year. It’s not just medical doping that has been the topic of cycle forums over the last few years. Accusations of mechanical doping have also appeared. Most notably Cancellara and his motor issue. X-rays are now going to be used to ‘see’ inside of the riders’ frames to check for anything suspicious.
Y: Yellow Jersey.
The Maillot Jaune is what every cyclist dreams of wearing in Paris. To win the biggest race on earth brings with it massive respect (and money) and is something most cyclists would love to wear just once. Lance has worn it 7 times! Will Contador do the double after winning the Giro or will Wiggins, Cuddles or Andy Schleck take the most prestigious jersey in cycling?
Z: Zut alors!
Although the last time this phrase was used by a French man was probably in the Napoleonic War there may be a lot of other cursing from French fans of cycling. Despite France having produced 36 winners of the TdF in the past, of the five French teams in this year’s Tour none look to be able to take home the yellow jersey. Tip of the day: Shouting “Zut alors!” at riders while simultaneously tutting is a great way to inject a continental feel into your club rides.