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Tour de France 2017

Tour de France 2017

The 2017 edition of the Tour de France starts in Germany for the first time since its 1987 West German Grand Depart.  A 14km time trial opens the race in Düsseldorf with stage 2 to also start in the German city.

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Running from Saturday July 1st to Sunday July 23rd 2017, the 104th edition will be made up of 21 stages and will cover a total distance of 3,540 kilometres.  9 flat stages, 5 hilly stages, 5 mountain stages including altitude finishes (La Planche des Belles Filles, Peyragudes, Izoard), 2 individual time-trials stages & 2 rest days.

It will include a total of 23 mountains climbs or hills and altitude finishes ranked in second, first or HC class. 1 in the Vosges, 6 in the Jura, 8 in the Pyrénées, 2 in the Massif central & 6 in the Alps.

 

Chris Froome (Team Sky) is set to return to defend his 2016 title.  The British rider will be aiming for his fourth Tour de France title.  Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Richie Porte (BMC Racing), and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) are expected to challenge.

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The Tour de France is the biggest race on the cycling calendar with the three-week grand tour taking place each July.  It is the 2nd Grand Tour of the year & for many fans, the Tour is the gateway to cycling and often their first contact with the sport.  Part of understanding the sport of cycling is knowing some of the language of cycling which includes French, Spanish, Italian, and Flemish phrases that signify its history.  Here is a guide to some of the cycling jargon.

Autobus / Gruppetto – Also known simply as ‘the bus’, this is the group of riders at the back of the race in the mountain stages. The bus mostly consists of sprinters and other non-climbers, and the aim is simply to finish within the day’s time limit.

Bidon – French for water bottle.

Breakaway – A rider or group of riders who have a lead over the main bunch during a stage.

Bonking – A rider who has completely run out of glycogen, the carbohydrate that fuels the muscles, is said to have bonked.

Bunch sprint – The mass dash for the line at the end of a stage when the whole race is still together. Despite the name, a bunch sprint isn’t contested by the whole field – the riders at the front are the specialist sprinters and their lead-out men.

Cadence – The rate in revolutions per minute at which the rider turns the pedals. Cadence is a matter of preference, comfort, efficiency and, to a certain extent, fashion.

Classic – The one-day races at the beginning and end of the season, such as Paris-Roubaix and Giro di Lombardia.

Directeur sportif – The term more or less translates as ‘team director’, but the directeur sportif’s role includes management tasks such as selecting which of a team’s riders will ride a particular race; directing the day-to-day and hour-to-hour tactics and strategy on the road; ensuring the riders get the coaching and other physiological help they need and so on. In short, the DS takes care of all the team’s sporting activities, while a general manager looks after issues such as sponsorship and salaries.

Domestique – Domestiques are the worker bees of a team, responsible for looking after the team leader and the other stars. Domestiques ferry food and water to their team leaders, provide a wheel for the leader to follow and in extreme cases even surrender their bikes if the leader has a mechanical problem.

Grand Tour – The highest category of stage race recognised by the UCI. There are three Grands Tours: the Tour de France, Spain’s Vuelta a España and Italy’s Giro d’Italia. Each one lasts for three weeks. The Tour was the first and is generally regarded as the most important, but a win at the Vuelta or the Giro is still a major honour.

Lanterne rouge – The last rider on GC. The term means ‘red light’. There’s no dishonour in being the lanterne rouge. Merely to reach the standard as a pro cyclist where you are selected to start the Tour is a substantial achievement, and to finish it, even dead flat last, is no trivial feat.

Lead-out man – A rider who specialises in providing a wheel for a sprinter to follow in the final stages of a race. Nestled in the lead-out man’s slipstream, the sprinter waits for the final possible moment, then accelerates for the line as the lead-out man pulls to one side. Pairings of sprinter and lead-out man often travel together from team to team, but not always.

Musette – The little cloth shoulder bag handed up to riders at feeding stations, containing food and water bottles.

Peloton – This French word simply means ‘group’. It’s also perhaps the most frequently misspelled piece of cycling jargon there is. ‘Peleton’ is not an alternative English spelling of the word, it’s simply a flag that the writer is missing a clue.

Radio Tour – The broadcast station that keeps the whole Tour caravan and spectators informed of what’s happening out on the road in the Tour de France.

Slipstream – The still air behind a rider. At racing speeds most of a rider’s effort goes into overcoming air resistance, and it’s therefore significantly easier to ride in the slipstream of another rider than to break the air yourself.

Soigneur – A member of team staff who looks after the riders, performing duties such as giving massages, handing up food and water bottles, seeing that riders get to their hotels and so on.

Sprinter – A rider who is capable of accelerating very quickly at the end of a race. Sprinters are born, not made: you need a high proportion of ‘fast-twitch’ muscle and steely nerve to go shoulder-to-shoulder with a dozen similarly gifted riders at 70km/h.

Stage race – A multi-day race such as the Tour, in which each section of racing is a smaller race in itself. Stage races usually have just one stage per day, though ‘split stages’ comprising, say, a short road race stage in the morning and a time trial in the afternoon, are common in less important stage races.

Team car – The car that the team’s directeur sportif, a soigneur and a mechanic ride in. The team car is the team’s mobile base on the road and from here the directeur sportif dictates strategy and the mechanic and soigneur look after the riders.

Team leader – The team’s best rider, for whom the rest of the team is working to achieve a goal like the overall victory, or the points jersey.

Team captain – Sometimes but not always the team leader. The team captain is in charge of what happens out on the road, relaying information and instructions to and from the directeur sportif. If the team captain is not the team leader, then a very experienced rider will take the role.

Time bonus – Time bonuses are awarded in some stages for the top finish positions, and for intermediate ‘bonification’ sprints in stages. Time bonuses are generally only on offer in the first week of the Tour and the idea is to generate some more exciting racing, giving the sprinters a chance of wearing the yellow jersey even if they are a few seconds behind after the prologue.

Time limit – Riders in each day’s stage must finish with a certain percentage of the winner’s time or they are eliminated from the race and not allowed to start the next day. The exact percentage varies according to the type of stage, the terrain and the speed. For a fast, flat stage it can be as low as five percent, while for a slow, mountain stage it can be 16 or 17 percent. In certain circumstances the race organisers have discretion not to eliminate riders, for example if doing so would eliminate a very large part of the field.

Time trial – A race against the clock, either solo or in teams. Known as the ‘race of truth’ the time trial is the most powerful test of a riders’ ability simply to ride as hard and fast as possible.

UCI – Union Cycliste Internationale – the world governing body of bike racing, based in Switzerland

Yellow, green, white and polka-dot jerseys are awarded to riders during the Tour de France if they lead one of four distinct classifications.  The jersey for each classification is awarded to the leader of that classification at the end of each stage, and the recipient earns the right to wear it during the following day’s stage.

Yellow jersey – overall classification leader

The Tour de France yellow jersey is the most coveted item of clothing in professional cycling. The wearer is the rider who has completed the race in the least amount of time, and as such tops the overall or general classification of the race.

Green jersey – points classification leader

Points are awarded to riders according to the position that they finish each stage, plus points are also awarded for intermediate sprints during some stages.

Stage winners get the most points, with less points awarded to those that cross second, third, etc. The points are then tallied up after each stage and added to points won in all previous stages. The green jersey is awarded to the rider with the most points.

Polka-dot jersey – King of the Mountains classification leader

Mountains points are awarded to riders who crest the Tour de France’s climbs first. The amount of points awarded depends on the severity or ‘category’ of the mountain – the bigger it is, the more points are on offer (50 point for the first up a HC climb, running down to 2 points for the 15th rider over the summit.  The first rider over a 4th Category climb would receive 1 point)

The points are tallied up after each stage and added to points won in all previous stages. The distinctive white-with-red-dots jersey is given to the rider with the most mountains points.

White jersey – Best young rider classification leader

The least distinctive of all of the classification jerseys – it’s plain white – is awarded to the under-26 rider who has completed the Tour de France in the least amount of time.

Non-jersey classifications

There are two further classifications that do not earn the winner(s) a coloured jersey – the Combativity Award and Team Classification.

The Combativity award isn’t a classification as such, as the award is given to a rider who has been deemed by a race jury to have shown ‘fighting spirit’ during each individual stage. However, a ‘Super Combativity’ award is handed out on the final stage.

The Team Classification is based on the squad which has collectively completed the race in the least amount of time.

Sprinters may well wear the Yellow Jersey in the early stages of the race, when the terrain tends to be relatively flat.  But it is the latter, mountain stages of the race where the climbers come to the party.  This is when larger time gaps start to emerge, with the climbers contesting the Yellow Jersey at the business end of the race.

With the race being a UCI World Tour Race, there are 22 teams of 9 riders.  18 of the teams are from the top tier of the sport, with 4 Pro Continental teams from the second tier being invited by the organisers ASO.

Each team is made up of 9 riders, with many of the team members are domestiques, there to support the leader, riding to protect him and keep him out of trouble.  Teams without a contender for the Yellow Jersey often focus attention on the sprint stages.  You will see the sprint trains starting to form with 2-3km to go on a flat stage.  The teams aim to get their man in the right position, without him expending too much energy – ready for the final bunch sprint.  On the hillier stages the sprinters join Autobus or Gruppetto, at the back of the race.

The winner of the Yellow Jersey, in more recent years, has tended to be worn by the one with the most team mates able to support him.  The Alps and the Pyrénées generally host the majority of the mountain stages and with those challenges behind them the riders head to Paris for the final stage.  This offers the sprinters the chance to win one of the most coveted stages in cycling – the sprint down the Champs-Elysées.  It is rare for the Yellow Jersey to be challenged on the final day, meaning it is somewhat pf a procession for the winning rider.

The 2017 Tour takes place over July 1-23, and will feature the most comprehensive television coverage of any Tour to date with every stage filmed from start to finish.

Eurosport and ITV will be broadcasting live coverage of each stage, in addition to analysis and highlights programmes.

How the Climbs are Categorised

Category 4: 2km or so @ 6%, 4km or so @ < 4%

Category 3: 2-3km @ 8%, 2-4km @ 6%, 4-6km @ 4%

Category 2: 5-10km @ 5-7%, 10+km @ 3-5%

Category 1: 5-10km @ >8%, 10-15km @ 6%

HC: 15+km @ 8%+ (Alpe D’huez, etc.), 20+km @ anything uphill. (Galibier is ~=4% over 40km)