A Dummies Guide to Le Tour de France
June 30th, 2017
June 30th, 2017
Anna is a jack-of-all-bikes, and has been riding and racing in a myriad of genres for over seven years; from World Cup level cross-country, to grass roots coaching kids on the road.
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Ok, so your mates and your work colleagues keep talking about this "Tour", and how some bloke named "Froomey" (or was it "Wiggo"?!) and how he ran up a mountain without a bike for the sake of earning a garishly coloured jersey, right? Well, if it's all "French" to you, then fear not, we're on hand to explain the ins and outs of jerseys and jargon, and even give you an idea of who to watch out for, so you'll have something to say down the pub or at the water cooler next time the subject arises.
What’s It all About?
Well, basically, you have a bunch of professional cycling teams, who are all fighting to get noticed on TV. Of course, there is some winning to be had too, but there are a lot of winners involved in this race, both in the overall race and in each of the 21 days along the way. Certain teams will be racing for certain jerseys in a bid to steal some limelight at the most prestigious cycling race on the planet. Those jerseys are as follows:
The Yellow Jersey - The most celebrated jersey for the overall race leader. This is the person with the fastest total time across all stages. After the first day, a rider could win a stage, but his overall time added up from start to present may not be the fastest overall, so winning a stage and being the fastest on that day doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed a Yellow Jersey.
The Green Jersey - This is also referred to as “the points jersey” or the “sprinter’s jersey”. At each stage of the race there are short sections that are allocated for extra points. Think of it like a race within a race. Some riders are purely allocated to be a sprinter and concentrate only on winning these points so they can have the Green Jersey. Often the main racers, the ones aiming for a stage win or a yellow jersey, will sit back and let these riders battle it out at the front, as they don’t often go on to win, and the Yellow Jersey seekers need the energy for the longer game.
The Polka Dot Jersey - This is the one in red and white and is awarded to the best climber. Much like the Green Jersey, it is awarded on a points basis and there will be sections of each stage (obviously climbing sections) that are marked off to test the riders aiming to win this particular jersey.
The white jersey is for the best young rider, typically those 25 years or younger. Yup - they breed them young these days!
There's also a team classification category, with the winning team having the fastest overall time based on the team's first three riders across the line at the end of each stage.
Le Tour - Well, that’s Le (or THE) Tour de France. Although (bonus knowledge here), it has in fact started in Holland and England before now. Hence we now have “Le Tour de Yorkshire”.
Grand Départ - The “big departure” is the first day of the Tour.
Etape (pronounced; eh-Tap) - This is a stage, or a day, in the race. Of which there is 21.
Peleton - A group of riders. Often there is a “leading peleton” - those guys at the front of the race - and a “chasing peleton” - those guys desperate to catch up the leaders in the hope that they can stifle any tactics.
Domestique - A supporting rider. This is usually a member of a team that helps stir up a bit of tactics in order for his most important rider to take a win.
Super-Combative - An award that is basically a “competitiors’ prize” awarded to the best rider of the day, which is often the most tactical or aggressive rider in the bunch.
Champs Élysées - This is a famous attraction in Paris, and is always the finish point for Le Tour. What's interesting is that the last stage is more of a parade than a race. The winner is actually decided on the penultimate day and the Yellow Jersey can't change hands on the last day. It's more of a victory parade, really.
Dutch Corner - A mental section of the race infested with Dutch cycling fans all dressed in orange, beered-up to the eyeballs, sporting orange wigs, flags and face paint, spilling onto the road and generally being the epitome of Tour fan carnage
Bonus Knowledge For 2017
To really get you noticed at the water cooler, you might be interested to know that 2017’s Tour will start in Düsseldorf, Germany, and will even head into Luxembourg later on in the race, which is incidentally where our very own British rider, Chris Froome, won his first stage. This year the race organisers have chosen to have a slightly flatter course in order to make for more aggressive riding, however, it won’t stop them using all five of France’s mountain ranges, including the Alps and the Pyrenees, to tackle some of the most iconic climbs on the planet. One stage will in fact see four big climbs totalling over 4,600m.
Chris Froome is still riding for Team Sky this year, and this year they're all in white. Froome and Team Sky have won overall (Yellow Jersey winner and Team Classification) for three years now, interrupted only by Vincenzo Nibali (Italian rider for Astana), and Froome has already made it known that he wants a fourth win. We don’t doubt that for a second, but with the Tour increasing aggression, and a total of 12 National Road Racing Champions expected to race, you never can tell, especially when the Tour is known for epic mass-crashes. Fabio Aru (another Italian rider for team Astana) is tipped to be Froome’s biggest competition this year, as he's said to be on similar form to Nibali when he beat Froome and won in 2014.
Other riders worthy of note, is Peter Sagan; a Slovakian rider who has been the reigning Green Jersey winner since 2012. Former Team Sky rider, Bradley “Wiggo” Wiggins had won the Tour before Froome in 2012, and was the first Brit to ever win, but he is now retired. Mark Cavendish is another British rider we've come to love. He is good at winning stages and has announced this year that he wants to break Eddy Merckx's record of 34 stage wins.
Bastille Day is a big French holiday, and it’s always a special day for French riders, often giving everything they have to win this French stage, in France, on a very French day. This year, it will be extra short, packing a lot of racing into approximately three hours. This, the first day and the last day, will surely be the most exciting of spectacles.