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tour de france beginners guide
Your guide to Le Tour

In case you didn’t know, Le Tour de France starts tomorrow. For some of you, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for all year. You’ve followed the main players in the lead up, and have cleared the necessary early morning schedules. This post might not be for you.

But for many others, you may know the Tour is about to start, but have never really been able to grasp what all the fuss is about. It’s just another cycling race, right?

Well yes, but also NO!

It is the most famous, most challenging, most controversial and most prestigious bike race in the world. But it’s bigger than bikes. It is the biggest sporting event in the world, with almost 200 riders competing over three weeks, across 3,460kms, with over 3.5 billion people tuning in to watch.

It’s kind of a big deal.

For those of you who are not quite familiar with the nuances of the Tour, but want to be able to keep up with the chat around the water cooler, we’ve put together a brief guide for you below.

 

ATTENTION MELBURNIANS! Bicycle Network are teaming up with Burnley Brewing on Saturday 20 July for a Tour de France Tourmaley party, with freshly brewed beers, half price pizzas and 117.5kms of grueling bends through the French Alps. Register now to receive 10% of all food and drink from 8pm.

 

BASIC FACTS

2019 is the 106th edition of Le Tour de France. Starting in Belgium and travelling 3460kms for the traditional finish along the famous Champs-Élysées in Paris.

The race runs from Saturday July 6 to Sunday July 28, featuring 21 stages of riding with two rest days after stages 10 and 15.

176 of the world’s best riders compete across 22 professional racing teams (teams are not segmented by nationality). Riders generally work as a team to carry each other through the 21 stages of the tour, but ultimately there is only one winner – the person who completes the entire course in the shortest amount of time.

Each day of the race is known as a stage, which can last up to six hours. At the end of each day the rider who crosses the finish line first is the 'Stage Winner', and gets up on the podium.

The winner after each stage is awarded a yellow jersey, which is what the ultimate winner is competing for. There are a number of other jersey classifications awarded to riders throughout the race, including the polka dot jersey (best mountain climber), green jersey (points leader) and white jersey (best young rider). See jersey section of the glossary!

The Tour is televised live to Australia exclusively by SBS and SBS On Demand, and normally graces our screens in the late hours of the night/early hours of the morning. 

 

2019 FAVOURITES

With the notable absence of Tour favourite Chris Froome due to a horrific, multi-bone breaking crash in June, there are three main players expected to take out the yellow jersey.

Egan Bernal: A young Colombian rider who’s team has produced seven of the last eight Tour winners.

Geraint Thomas: Another member of the Tour dominating team Ineos (formally team Sky), Geraint is last year’s winner and is at good odds to defend his title.

Jakob Fugslang: Is a veteran Danish-Swiss rider who some people are picking as a bit of a ‘relaxed favourite’, with the ability to pinch the win from under the noses of team Ineos.

*Richie Porte: Richie Porte is probably not going to win the Tour, but he is up there abouts, and most importantly, he is Australian! Keep your eye out for him, you’ll certainly hear his name a lot.

 

STAGES TO WATCH

The thing about The Tour de France is, it’s in Europe, which makes viewing in AEST a bit tricky. Unless you’re planning on going full-nocturnal, you probably want to plan your late nights with care. We’ve listed some stages to watch out for below.

TIP: A lot of people tune in as much for the incredible scenery as the actual riding.

STAGE 3 – JULY 8 – BINCHE TO ÉPERNAY

Starting in Belgium before heading 170kms into France, the final 45kms of this stage features a series of climbs in short succession towards the finish line, which should call for some exciting riding.  

STAGE 6 – JULY 11 – MULHOUSE TO LA PLANCHE DES BELLES FILLES

The summit finish at La Planche des Belles Filles has played a major role in determining the outcome of recent Tours, and with an extra kilometer added to the final climb this year, you’re going to see people pushing themselves to their extreme limits to claim this important stage.

STAGE 8 – JULY 13 – MÂCON TO SAINT ÉTIENNE

Stage 8 features some challenging riding through some beautifully mountainous regions of France, but perhaps more importantly, it is Bastille Day weekend, so you can expect the French spectators to being going absolute bonkers on the side of the road.

STAGE 14 – JULY 20 – TARBES TO TOURMALET

Stage 14 is a mere 117.5kms, which suits the modern attention span, and the day ends with one of the most famous and challenging summit finishes, on the Col du Tourmale, which is always fun to watch from your couch. Head down to Burnley Brewers if you’re in Melbourne for Bicycle Network’s Tour de France Tourmaley party!

STAGE 20 – JULY 27 – ALBERTVILLE TO VAL THORENS

For the uninitiated Tour watcher, it can come as quite a surprise that the final stage (21) is effectively ceremonial. There are no lead changes, and riders even sip champagne as they parade up and down the Champs-Élysées.

Note from the author: I travelled to France as an ignorant teenager in 2008 when Aussie Cadel Evans came second, and was loudly and hysterically screaming for him to take the lead as he cruised through Paris. It seemed un-Australian not to at least try to win! Hopefully this guide will save someone from the same embarrassment.  

But for this reason, the second last stage should be a good one to watch, as it’s the last chance for riders hoping to win the 2019 Tour.

 

GLOSSARY

Keeping up with the lingo can be half the battle. We've scoured the web for some Tour definitions to help you make sense of what everyone is talking about.

Courtesy of www.ef.com 

Riding terms

The jerseys

Yellow – overall leader

Also known as the maillot jaune, the yellow jersey is worn by the rider who is the General Classification (GC) leader, riding the race in the least amount of time.

Green – points leader

The green jersey, or maillot vert, is worn by the rider that has accrued the most points during the race. Points are awarded based on the positions that riders finish each stage as well as their performance during intermediate sprints within stages.

Polka-dot – King of the Mountains

Worn by the rider that has the had the best finishes and earned the most points in the mountain stages of the race. The more difficult the climb, the more points can be won.

Rider roles

Climber: A light rider who specializes in hilly or mountainous racing.

Sprinter: A powerful rider who can perform high-velocity burst finishes.

Time trialist: A strong endurance rider who excels at maintaining a high speed over a long period of time to win stage sprints or time trials.

Road captain: An experienced rider in charge of executing the team strategy and ensuring each rider goes to the right place at the right time.

Protected rider: The rider who is favored by the team for either the day’s stage or the overall. This may be a climber on a mountain stage, a sprinter on the flats or the GC contender.

Domestique: A teammate who helps the protected rider, whether by sheltering them from the wind, physically buffering them from other riders or bringing more water from the team car.

Rider positioning

Peloton/Bunch: The main group of racers.

Paceline: When riders arrange themselves in a single or double line to gain aerodynamic shelter from the rider in front of them. Riders will then rotate to the front of the line, breaking wind for their teammates.

Breakaway: When one or more riders escape from the peloton and rides ahead of the main bunch.

Chase: Riders or groups of riders who are trying to catch up with the break but are stuck between the break and the peloton.

Courtesy of www.newsobserver.com

French terms

ALLUMER LES PHARES: "Turning the lights on" — Used to describe a rider suspected of taking doping substances before a stage, hence the strange flash in his eyes.

ALPE D'HUEZ: The most famous climb in the Tour, it has 21 switchbacks and is always a coveted win for climbers.

AVOIR LA FRITE: "Having the french fry" — A classic expression used to describe a rider in great shape, capable of making big moves, and responding to others' attacks.

BAROUDEUR: "Fighter" — A rider capable of launching long-range attacks and staying ahead of the chasing peloton.

BIDON: "Plastic Water bottle"

CHAUDIERE: "Hot water heater" — A doped rider.

DOMESTIQUE: "Servant" — A rider dedicated to helping his team leader. The most talented of the domestiques often become leaders in their own right. Or sometimes team leaders can be relegated, as in the case in last year's Tour with Chris Froome, relegated to a "super domestique" role in aid of teammate Geraint Thomas.

FLAMME ROUGE: "Red flame" — The triangular red banner hanging over the road signaling the final kilometer of each stage.

GRAND TOUR: — The term used to describe the three major three-week stage races: the Tour, the Giro d'Italia and the Spanish Vuelta.

GRUPPETTO: "Small Group" — An Italian word describing the group of cyclists dropped by the main pack riding together at the back of the race. In French, they are called the "autobus."

LANTERNE ROUGE: "Red Lantern" — The last rider in the overall standings.

PASSER PAR LA FENETRE: "Going through the window" — This expression full of imagery describes a rider getting dropped and losing ground very quickly after a rival, or the peloton, accelerates.

PUNCHEUR: "Puncher" — A rider who can open up a big gap quickly on hilly terrain.

SOIGNEUR: "Rider's aid" — Someone in charge of taking care of a rider's every need: Massage therapist, finish line care, etc.

SUCER LA ROUE: "Suck someone's wheel" — Used to describe a rider refusing to go in front and break the wind for a rival, staying just behind instead and conserving his energy.

SUIVEUR: "Follower" — The term used to describe journalists and other workers who follow the Tour.

 

BONUS FACTS

The Tour is sadly a men-only event, however there is an all-female race hosted by Tour de France called Le Course by Le Tour de France, on Friday 19 July. 

Bicycle Network friend Sarah Anne Evans is joining an all women's team this year who will be riding the entire course of the famous event, to show the world what women can achieve. 

Tour tragics will know his voice all too well, and now the voice of cycling and one of the world's most iconic sporting commentators, Phil Liggett, will be the subject of a new documentary created by Demand Films. Stay tuned!

Although named the Tour de France, the race sometimes ventures into neighbouring countries such as Belgium (where it is starting this year), Italy and Spain. In previous years the Tour has even started in Britain!

The first ever Tour de France took place in 1903, but because the Tour de France was cancelled during World War 1 and World War 2, the 100th Tour de France was not celebrated until 2013.

The youngest rider ever to win the Tour de France was 19-year-old Henri Comet in 1904.

The oldest person to win the Tour de France was 36-year-old Firmin Lambot, who won in 1922.

Only one Australian has ever won the Tour de France, Cadel Evans, in 2011.

 

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