The Tour de France is one of those sporting events that has all of us glued to the TV, internet or radio to keep us up to date with the latest action and events as they unfold. What can be very irritating, distracting and inconvenient however is when a loved one or friend keeps interrupting us to ask a series of questions that simply can’t be answered in one word.
Therefore at PBK, we have devised a simple glossary of terms to hand out to the uninitiated to avoid a lengthy explanation of just why the big group of cyclists don’t seem to be pedalling very fast and why that skinny guy is wearing a red spotty jumper. Also, there may be some of you out there who for some reason don’t know the answers and are now to embarrassed too ask, as this would result in ridicule and potential expulsion from your cycling fraternity.
The Tour de France: A 3 week stage race (multiple stages to the whole race) around France and usually starting in a ‘host’ country/city which for 2010 is Rotterdam. It is what Wimbledon is to tennis and the World Cup is to football……just a whole lot better!
Yellow Jersey: To win the Tour you need to accumulate the least amount of riding time over the 3 weeks – the rider who currently has the least riding time is allowed to wear the Yellow jersey (maillot jaune), remember it’s about total ride time, you could win 14 out of 21 stages and still not win the yellow jersey overall.
Green jersey: There are also other jerseys which you can win; the Green Jersey or Sprinters jersey is won by the rider who gains the most ‘sprint points’. On a typical stage there will be a village or marker along the way at which the first three riders over the line gain these ‘sprint points’. Sprint points tend to be awarded and gained on the early flatter stages where a sprint finish is more likely. In the mountains the Polka Dot Jersey is the aim.
Polka Dot Jersey: The first riders over the summit of each climb get awarded points. The one with the most points gets the Polka Dot Jersey at the end of the day and different categories of climb give you more points. Climbs are categorised 4, 3, 2, 1 and HC or Hors Category. 4 being easiest and HC being ‘out of category’ or a true monster such as The Col du Tourmalet for example.
White Jersey: The final jersey is the White Jersey which is the Young Riders’ Jersey. This one is a bit more simple and it gets worn by the best placed rider under 25 years of age. A good sign of future potential.
When a rider is in the position of wearing both jerseys, then the more ‘important’ or prestigious jersey will rule. Yellow – Green – Polka Dot is the order of importance.
Other prizes are the most ‘combative rider’ who has a white on red number for being the most active and ‘racy’ member of the peloton and the best placed team who all wear black on yellow numbers.
Peloton: Once the race is under way, the main mass of riders is collectively known as the ‘peloton’. This is French for ‘little ball’ and by riding in a group, the riders can shelter from the wind and travel much faster than a lone breakaway rider or group ahead.
Breakaway: If a rider is feeling strong and/or brave, he will ‘breakaway’ solo or in a small group and try to make up time on the main peloton which is where the current leader tends to sit for safety and to be with his team. If a breakaway succeeds they often gain many minutes on the leader, if not, they have given their team a lot of airtime which makes for happy sponsors!
Echelon: If the wind is blowing from the side then an ‘echelon’ will form. Rather than a ball of riders the group will camber off to one side of the road and shelter that way – hard to describe on here but you’ll see it on the flat windy stages coming up.
Tete de la course: On race coverage you will also see ‘tête de la course’ which indicates you’re watching the leaders of the race or breakaway riders.
Arrière du peloton: These are the back markers or guys catching up with their Team Director in the car.
Cadence: the speed at which a riders cranks are turning. A high cadence means ‘pedalling really fast’ or spinning. A style made popular by Lance Armstrong and his ‘less effort, more often’ approach to cycling and it doesn’t seem to be that bad! Grinding or pedalling squares is the opposite, when a rider is in a big gear and spinning slowly.
Lantern Rouge: a small ornament worn by the last rider in the overall standings. A historic relic which has been a tradition in recent years – originally a lantern used by railway workers.
Flamme Rouge: the 1km to go tunnel/banner. A massive inflatable tower which bridges the road and has a small red flag on the top to signify the final 1000m to go.
The white convertible VW EOS: the medical car which you are allowed to hold onto if being treated. Drafting and holding onto the other cars is not strictly allowed though a blind eye will be turned if you’re catching back up after a mechanical issue or puncture, anyone who abuses this will soon be seen and shouted at by the commissaire.
Commissaire: the referee or judge of the race somewhere in the cavalcade of red cars at the front (often seen standing up through the sunroof). Like the pope, but without the bullet proof glass.
Broom Wagon: the last van in the procession which will collect any crashers or injured riders who can’t fit into the team car. It is said to ‘sweep up’ after the race has passed through. A note for all the greenies – a team of people checks the route once the riders have passed and collect all the bottles and any rubbish which may have fallen/been thrown away by the riders and cavalcade.
Sticky Bottle: you’ll see this when a rider wants a little help in getting back to the group. A bottle will be passed from the car to the rider and on the exchange a good ‘shove’ will be given by the person in the car. Basically, the rider holds on for a bit too long and this gives the rider an extra push to get back on the group.
Climber: to be a climber you need to be light, powerful and have a great pair of lungs. When the Tour hits the big Alps you’ll see the small light guys simply riding past the heavier, stronger sprinter type riders. They often have a very ‘fluid’ style and can react to sharp inclines and efforts while climbing steadily better than the rest.
Domestiques: These are the guys who ‘serve’ the team leader and his companions. Their job is to fetch bottles (aka bidons) and food (sometimes in a musette – the French style of cotton bag with one strap) from the car and bring it back up to the front. They also are used to set the pace on climbs and shelter the team leader from any wind. It seems like they will be the under appreciated member, but at the end of the race, they know their works done when their guy wins.
Sprinter: See Mr Cavendish for more info. He’s very strong in a sprint though he’d never get to the finish line at the front without his team and lead-out crew to deliver him to the final few hundred metres. There is quite simply no one faster over the last few hundred metres of a race. Explosive power though only for a limited time.
Time Trial specialist: Fairly self explanatory. A very strong rider who can put the power down steadily over the distance. Unless it’s a hilly TT, weight isn’t so important here, muscle and power rule!
GC Rider: See Alberto Contador for a classic example. A good all round rider who excels in the mountains. While being very good at most disciplines he can climb with the best. Lance Armstrong, another GC rider is again good all round, but in his case TT’ing is his ‘best’ event. As well as having great all round capabilities they need a good team and brains behind the scene to have a chance of winning overall.
So there you have it. Print this off and either pin it to your fridge or have one handy to pass around in case of emergency. You never know, it may just save you missing the pivotal moment in a stage due to your polite explanation of why he is wearing such a pointy helmet!