It’s back and the anticipation is greater than ever. This week the 2012 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.
Despite being retired for sometime now the big Tex is still a major influence in the world of cycling. Whether you love him or loathe him Lance is the only person in history to win the Tour 7 times and that’s quite an accomplishment. Despite a worn out doping accusation raising its head once again the Boss is still a rider revered and respected by many. The recent case opened by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has even effected Lance’s old director Sportif Johan Bruyneel who has opted to stay away from the Tour this year so that the media attention will not affect his RadioShack Nissan Trek team’s performance.
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…
These are the mountain goats of the Peloton. If you want to be wearing the yellow in Paris you’ll need to put the grunt in on the mountains. Specialist climbers will usually have a specific body type in order to maintain a high tempo on an incline. Riders like Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck are considered specialist climbers although neither will feature in this year’s Tour.
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.
We thought it would never happen. Cuddles had come second in the great French race twice in both 2008 and 2009 but last year he proved that you can teach an old dog new tricks.
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.
G: Garin, Maurice.
The Tour de France in 1903 was very different to the modern day race although some aspects seem very similar. Garin, has the dubious honour of being the first winner to be disqualified, a year later. It is thought the Frenchman caught a train at some point, while he was also given illegal feeds from officials in a race where cheating was rife.
H: Hincapie, George.
For riders like Sagan this is their first Tour, for George Hincapie it will be his 17th beating the previous record of Joop Zoetemelk after completing last year’s Tour. Unfortunately this will be Hincapie’s last Tour which sees off a career in the pro peloton that’s lasted 19 years!
A crash can thwart a riders chances of yellow in a matter of seconds. Last year both Wiggins, Vino and Boonen had to wave good bye to the Tour early due to crashes. If you’re caught up at the back of the peloton it can be a dangerous game to play. Expect to see the Tour doctor in his white car patching up plenty of riders on the go.
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. Currently riding for the RadioShack Nissan Trek outfit, Frau Voigt will be looking to help Frank Schleck to victory. Expect classic quotes like: “Shut up legs!” and “Every time I race, I will race so fiercely my legs cry”. Quality.
The polka dot design was first worn in the 1975 Tour and was chosen as it was the same as one of the jersey’s sponsors. The record winner of the King of the Mountains jersey is Frenchman Richard Virenque, who earned it seven times. Think Lance but with chicken pox!
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 accessories. Last year we saw 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 brothers.
Over the past couple of years we’ve come accustom to seeing one of the Schlecks looking round while scaling a mountain, but not for the next attack, rather for where their sibling is. This year there will be only one Schleck riding with Andy crashing out in the Dauphine and with it any chance of glory at this year’s Tour. So Franks left riding solo, who will he be looking round for this year?
Ok so we’re stretching this one a bit but we couldn’t miss out old Cav especially with his new look skinny image. The Team Sky sprint specialist is never short of words but this year it seems that Olympic gold is the goal for this summer rather than the Green points Jersey. But we’re sure he’ll pick up a couple of stage wins just for good emasure.
U: Unbelievable feats of riding.
We saw it last year in the mountains when Cadel chugged up, up and away with a worn out Voeckler in toe. The Tour seems to bring out the super human riding capabilities in riders. Let’s hope this year doesn’t disappoint!
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 hasn’t been lived up to in the last few years with the Brit finishing a disappointing 24th and DNF in the last 2 years. 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 Cadel do the double or will Wiggins or Frank 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.