A Tour de France Guide

30 Jun

A guide to help you follow and understand the Tour de France race.


Remember this simple fact:

Bike racing is a TEAM sport – not an individual one.

Knowing that one fact will help you understand and enjoy the spectacle that is the Tour de France – the world’s most grueling sporting event.  Bike racing may look like a bunch of guys riding for themselves, all trying to win, but that’s not the case in a race like the Tour.  I’ll explain more about that later.

This year the 97th Tour de France begins Saturday, July 3rd in Rotterdam and ends in Paris (as it always does) Sunday, July 25th. This year’s Tour will cover 2,263 miles and consist of 21 stages (think of a stage as a one day race – 21 stages = 21 one day races) and 2 rest days. There are 22 teams that will start the 2010 Tour de France.

The Basics:

Each year every team starts the race with a squad of 9 riders, making 198 riders who will begin the Tour.  Not all will finish –  and you can take that to the bank. Riders drop out of each Tour because of injury, illness, doping, even death, but mostly because the race is just so grueling some riders simply cannot finish.

There is always plenty of excitement and high drama in the Tour de France.  And as with most team sports, strategy plays a big role as teams work to get their top rider up in the general classification (the overall race classification), or in competition for the green, polka dot or white jersey.

The Tour will commence with the Prologue, an individual time trial which kicks off the three week race and serves to introduce the riders and teams – before the more grueling racing begins. The rider that wins the Prologue will wear the Malliot Jaune or Yellow Jersey. In each of the race stages the overall race leader rides in the yellow jersey. 

Perhaps most important to remember about the jerseys: the Yellow Jersey is worn by the overall leader of the Tour – the rider with the lowest accumulated time for the race (fastest wins). By the end of the Tour the total time for the winning rider will be somewhere around 90 hours. Amazingly, the winner will probably win by just a few minutes over the closest competitor. It is not unusual for the winner to beat the 2nd place rider by less than 1 minute. Incredible when you consider how long they ride and the distance they cover. The smallest margin of time between the winner and the second place cyclist was in 1989 when American Greg Lemond won by a mere 8 seconds.

 

Leader Jerseys of the Tour de France
 
  • Yellow Jersey/Malliot Jaune – Overall race leader
  • Green Jersey – Sprinter’s jersey – sprint points leader*
  • Polka Dot Jersey (red/white) – King of the Mountains – climbing points leader*
  • White Jersey – Best young rider – overall time leader for racers under the age of 26

*During each stage, points for sprinting and/or climbing are awarded at fixed locations on the route. The rider that accumulates the most sprint points, climbing points or young rider points wins the Green, Polka Dot or White  jersey, respectively.

 


Bike Racing Lingo 

  • Peloton – The main group of riders.

  • Break/Breakaway – a single rider or group of riders who escape the peloton in an attempt to win the state. 

  • Chase – a single rider or group that tries to catch up to the leader or breakaway group. 

  • Domestique – worker bees – the riders on the team that sacrifice personal performance to help the lead rider(s) of the team. 

  • Drafting – Riding closely behind another rider, saving energy. This occurs in the peloton. It is estimated a rider conserves 30% of their energy by drafting. 

  • General Classification (GC) – Overall standing for the Tour. 

  • Time Trial – A race against the clock. Each rider rides individually. 

  • Team Time Trial – A team race against the clock. 

  • Prologue – A short time trial that opens the Tour. 

  • Flat stages – Minimal climbs, typically feature a bunched sprint finish. 

  • Mountain stages – Big climbs, this is where the contenders will fight it out. Climbs are classified in terms of difficulty, Categories range from 4 (easiest) to 1 and *HC* (hors categorie) – beyond category – the most difficult. 

  • Paceline – group of riders working together, each rider takes a pull (turn) at the front of the group and when not pulling, drafts with the rest of group. 

  • Feed zone – the area where riders pick up a mussette (bag) of food and water. Riders don’t stop to eat. They barely stop to *relieve* themselves.


    Understanding the Tour de France:

Each of the 21 stages of the Tour de France in actuality is an individual race and for each of the 21 stages there will be a winner. In fact, there could be 21 different winners. Only one rider will win the Tour however, and become  the Tour de France champion, capturing the maillot jaune – yellow jersey . Each day of the Tour (minus the two rest days) will feature a stage race that riders will compete fiercely to win, but the competition for the overall race (GC or general classification) is what the serious contenders compete for.

To give you a better idea of how this all plays out in the actual Tour, let’s look at a rider and his team.  You may have heard of a rider by the name of Lance Armstrong.  Lance rides on Team Radio Shack this year. He is their lead rider, the captain if you will, the rider that team management feels has the best chance of winning the Tour – no surprise there.

As the leader, every resource of Team Radio Shack is there to support Armstrong and give him the best chance to win or place high in the GC. During the flat stages (sprint stages) teammates will ride around him to shelter him from wind and accidents. They will also get him food, water or anything else he needs. During the flat stages, the goal of the team is to protect him in terms of accidents and weather as well as to make sure at the stage finish he is in the lead peloton (and thus gets the same finish time as the other contenders that are safely tucked away in the peloton with him).

The Tour isn’t won on the flat stages, but as Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen (Phil and Paul are the voices of cycling – the Howard Cosell’s of the professional cycling world) like to point out – it can be lost on the flats due to crashes and silly mistakes.

Armstrong will never take a pull at the front or work for another rider as long as he is in contention for the overall race – it’s not his job.  The domestiques on the team do that work, as well as get him water or food from the team car that follows behind the peloton. As we move into the mountain stages a different group of teammates (climbers) will support him by setting the pace and allowing him to draft and conserve energy plus protecting him from accidents, etc. Again, a teammate in this group makes sure he has what he needs – water/food. Typically in the tough mountain stages (with the HC or beyond category climbs) Armstrong will end up at some point on the climb alone (with no teammates) competing against the other team’s top climber and contender –  mano a mano.

The Tour will be decided either in the high mountains or the individual time trial. To win the Tour de France a rider has to be able to climb and time trial well. Some riders can do one of those well, only a few do both well.  Those few are the riders that have a chance to win the Tour de France.

It will be exciting to see how the Tour plays out this year. Barring accidents, drug test failures or other calamities, the winner of the Tour will be decided between 3, maybe 4 riders. Of course, one of those guys crashing, losing a significant chunk of time, or sustaining a significant injury changes everything. And those things happen, so who knows.

Possible Winners:

The favorite has to be the pistol saluting Alberto Contador; the young Spaniard and winner of the 2009 and 2007 Tours. Contador was Armstrong’s teammate last year (and I use the word teammate loosely – they did not like each other). Contador climbs effortlessly, time trials well and is young. Armstrong could also win. Obviously he climbs well, time trials well, but for a professional cyclists he’s pushing the calendar at age 38. But he is such a competitor, I wouldn’t count him out.

Then there are the Schleck brothers, Andy and Frank. Andy finished 2nd in last year’s Tour and he just keeps improving. There is also Cadel Evans, a complete rider who has had a good year, and a new team, so he could be up there – so could Americans Christian Vande Velde and Levi Leipheimer.  There are other riders, Bradley Wiggins for one, that have the talent and skill to win the Tour.  The odds are it will be Alberto Contador (his team reportedly isn’t that strong but with his youth and skill it may not matter), but Armstrong looked awfully strong in the Tour de Suisse coming in 2nd to Frank Schleck.  With a strong team behind the Schleck brothers you can’t count them out either.  By the time we get to the difficult mountain stages we should have a good idea of who is in contention to win it all. 

To watch more Tour de France coverage than you can imagine tune in to Versus NBC Sports each day where you can catch Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin commentating and providing the play by play of each stage, as well as Bob Roll on back-up and color (and he does *color* like no one else), and Craig Hummer serves as the ringmaster.  These guys are at times as entertaining as the race.

The best way to understand the Tour de France is just to watch the daily coverage. There are plenty of resources online for Tour coverage as well. The more you come to understand the sport of bike racing the more you will find an appreciation for what is a beautiful sport.

 

*Update 7/4/2016 – Although much of this post/guide is dated as far as the riders and commentators, the information about the Tour and bike racing in general is still true and still applies. Hope it helps you to enjoy the Tour ~Susan


For good information about the Tour and current standings:

www.steephill.tv 

www.cyclingweekly.co.uk/

www.velonews.com

www.cyclingnews.com

www.dailypeloton.com

And of course check back here for daily updates and race analysis here on For the Love of Bikes.

Vive le Tour!

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Catching Up

17 May

Greetings fellow bike fiends!

It has been a while since I last posted, but I still ride and still love cycling – blogging evidently – not so much.

Since it has been a while, I thought an update might be in order.

2015 Goals ~ First off, as far as my previously posted cycling mileage goal for 2015, I exceeded it. In the past that used to happen frequently, but in the last few years I have typically missed the mark. My 2015 cycling goal was 3,000 miles, I finished the year with 3,187. Nothing grand for many cyclists, but for me it was an achievement I was proud of, mainly because of how I did it, which I’ll explain in a bit.

As you might recall from my posts last year, I decided to continue April’s #30daysofbiking through the rest of 2015 with a #RideEveryDay goal. To that end, except for 12 days, I managed to ride every day from April 1 – December 31, 2015.

Going in I knew I likely wouldn’t be able to ride every single day – sometimes it just isn’t possible. There were days while traveling when I didn’t have one of my bikes so I had to get creative with how I could get my hands on one to keep the streak intact – anything short of stealing. So I utilized bike share, test rides and borrowed a bike from someone while traveling once for a quick ride.

Most importantly for me, riding every day changed the way I ride. I used bikes much more for transportation than I ever had previously – a big win. I also took shorter, slower rides which I found renewed my enthusiasm and love for cycling. No gadgets, no lycra on some rides – just me pedaling for the joy – and the goal of riding every day. Cycling had become too much about the miles, average speed and the like. Working a bike ride into my daily activity made me shift my focus from doing training rides to using cycling to get places, for recreation or stress relief or just to enjoy a beautiful day.

2016 Goals ~ When 2016 rolled around I wasn’t sure if I would set another goal to ride every day or wait until April’s #30daysofbiking and try to ride daily the remainder of the year – or neither.

As it turned out several illnesses over the winter made my decision for me.

Although I did bike some in January, February and March, more days than not I didn’t. I managed to ride every day in April, and the first part of May but then I missed a day, than another and so decided 2016 would be different with a change of focus.

With no daily goal of riding I have found more time for long walks, a few over 10 miles, the longest has been just over 15. I’ve also implemented daily weight training and yoga/stretching. Mixing it up basically and cycling is just a part of the mix.

Intermittent Fasting ~ Another part of the mix has been to implement Intermittent Fasting (IF). I utilize the 16/8 IF schedule 7 days a week. Basically I skip breakfast – black coffee only – and eat my first meal around noon or so. Dinner is around 7pm than nothing after 8pm until at least noon the next day – 16 hours of fasting.

Google Intermittent Fasting if you’re interested, there are some great resources on the web, one of which you can find here.

I love it. It’s easy, you don’t get hungry and if you want to turn into a fat-burning-beast, exercising during that fasting window is the way to do it. I’ve lost weight, but more than that I’m gaining muscle, getting leaner, from burning fat – win/win. Intermittent Fasting has become popular in the last few years and there are a number of ways to approach it, you likely can find something that will work for your lifestyle.

Primal Blueprint ~ Another change I’ve made is to follow the Primal Blueprint approach to food and exercise. You may not have heard of Mark Sisson but he’s a goldmine of nutrition and fitness information. You can find him and his Primal Blueprint at Mark’s Daily Apple website.

If you are familiar with Paleo diet, Primal is basically Paleo with a heart. The basic rule is you eat real food, not processed food – like meat, poultry, seafood, fruits and vegetables and some dairy. Unfortunately for a sweet lover like myself, chocolate cake doesn’t fall in the realm of “real food” but you can still enjoy wine, dark chocolate and the occasional indulgence – including chocolate cake.

The Primal method allows for an 80/20 adherence, mine is more like 90/10 or 95/5. I was very strict the first 6 weeks or so. For the most part I eat what I want, and certainly eat enough where I am satisfied. If it didn’t work well for me I wouldn’t do it. It doesn’t feel like a “diet”, you don’t go hungry and you eat good food. You do cook more and eating out requires a little thought and planning, but there are huge payoffs.

The surprising thing too has been 1) how easy it is to do, 2) how easy (fast) it is to lose weight, 3) how much more energy and focus I have.

Normally I don’t push or write about my lifestyle choices – sans cycling obviously – but I’m making an exception for Primal and IF because it works so well and is so simple. It seems like one of those things that’s too good to be true, and too good not to share.

If you are interested, check out the links above and like with everything else, google. Does anyone practice Intermittent Fasting or the Primal/Paleo way of eating? Feel free to comment below, I’d like to know your thoughts/experiences.

 

Massachusetts North Shore

5 Oct

We’ve spent late September in Massachusetts the past two years. Last year Cape Cod, this year the North Shore/Cape Ann area. Both are beautiful, both are great places to cycle.

If you are interested in cycling in the North Shore area or even the greater New England  area, I recommend checking out: http://bikenewengland.com. It’s quite the website with suggested routes, maps and cue sheets for all the areas. The tour was through Road Scholar and is offered twice each year.

This was a lower mileage tour than those we’ve done in the past and I found I enjoyed the lower miles too. With fewer miles there was more time and tendency to see the sights in the towns we stayed – Ipswich and Newburyport, MA. Quaint towns with tons of history, restaurants with great seafood and plenty to see and do off the bike.

Like our other bike tours, we rode with a wonderful group of people, participants and guides alike. There was a mix of ages and cycling experience but we meshed together well; truly a delightful group of people. The group of 14 usually broke into smaller groups, with at least one guide riding with each. All 4 of the guides were terrific and took good care of us – thanks to Gordon, Paula, Barbara and Jimmy. Unlike all the other tours, no one drove a support van and it worked out great. It wasn’t needed, we did out and backs from both locations and if someone had needed a lift back I’m sure one would have been provided.

In addition to riding in the North Shore/Cape Ann area we spent several days in Boston beforehand and had a chance to ride there. First off we did the Boston City View Tour with Urban AdvenTours – highly recommend them. The guides took great care as they navigated us through the streets of Boston, providing a very informative tour of Boston’s historical sites and neighborhoods. A wonderful way to see Boston, in addition we did several walking tours, but the bike tour was our favorite.

Boston's Urban Adventours City View Tour

Boston’s Urban AdvenTours City View Tour

Last but not least we used Boston’s bike share – Hubway. We bought a 72 hour pass so we could have the flexibility to ride each day and meet my “ride every day” goal. The most fun was when we decided to hop on and ride back to our hotel after eating a huge meal including a bottle of wine at Al Dente in the North End. We ended up in the middle of Chinatown on Saturday night – traffic jam deluxe! What a memorable ride that was – if only I’d had a GoPro to catch the whole thing on video!

Speaking of GoPro, or the lack of, I did take photos of our North Shore tour, most on the fly. Not nearly as many as the California or Quebec tours you might be happy to know. Here they are:

 

It was a fantastic experience and just a beautiful place to ride!

 

 

 

 

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Re-Cycle

25 Jun

One of my bikes I have always loved but I’ve never really loved riding. Know that feeling? Beautiful frame, pretty color, just a classic bike, the 2010 Jamis Aurora Elite.

aurorablue

 

The frame is Reynolds 631, with a sloping chromoly lugged crown. A thing of beauty, and a ride that smoothed out the rough roads around here. What didn’t I like? The disc brakes, the fenders, the toe-overlap and the too-long reach, mainly. The 50cm frame was just a little large, but the next size down was a 47cm – too small. A Goldilocks dilemma, with no “just right” size I opted for the 50cm.

I adjusted to the slightly too tall frame, but I never adjusted to the sluggish ride. So much slower to accelerate than my Scott road bike, and consequently over the years I rode this beautiful looking bike less and less. My plan was to sell it and buy something like a Trek FX or similar.

Fast-forward to May.

Since I rarely rode it anyway, I decided take it to northeast Ohio and keep it at my mother-in-law’s so I’d have a bike when I visited. With my commitment to RideEveryDay I wanted to make sure I had access to a ride when visiting and I’d buy the FX or something similar to ride here.

Additionally I decided to spend a few bucks (turns out more than a few, but isn’t that always the case with us and our bikes) and make it more to my liking. A few weeks ago I took it to my LBS of late and replaced the disc brakes with calipers and the 90mm stem with a 70 to improve the reach. I also had to go to a narrower tire so I switched to 25mm Gatorskins. The fenders were a joke so I removed them plus the rack. I may get a seatpost mounted rack.

The result? Well, the bike isn’t going to my mother-in-law’s any longer because I ride it almost exclusively now. Sorry Rocket (my Scott). The difference in the ride is nothing short of amazing and has me questioning what took me so long.

The biggest difference? Has to be a tie – between the improved acceleration/ride quality and the improved cockpit and comfort. I LOVE this bike – and now I LOVE riding her.

The moral of the story:  if you have a bike that doesn’t quite do it for you, before you sell it and buy something else maybe try to see if you can make it right.

www.loveofbikes.com

2010 Jamis Aurora Elite – For The Love of Bikes

www.loveofbikes.com

2010 Jamis Aurora Elite – For the Love of Bikes

 

 

Getting More Women on Bikes

29 May

© For the Love of Bikes

© For the Love of Bikes

The number of women bicycling lags behind men bicycling. A recent study, Bike Shops for Everyone, by The League of American Bicyclists addressed how to make bike retail more accepting and welcoming to women.

Caitlin Giddings, with Bicycling Magazine, took it a step further outlining 10 basic ways local bike shops could facilitate more women biking in her article, 10 Ways Bike Shops Can Welcome Women

I encourage you to read the article but her 10 strategies rang true for me; if you’re female they likely will for you too.

They are as follows:

1. Don’t assume she’s a beginner. Don’t assume she’s not. As you should with any customer, start a conversation to get a feel for her level of bike experience and then work from there. You’ll be glad you took the time to assess the situation when you’re saved from the embarrassment of explaining a basic bike concept to a pro masters racer who happened to wander into your shop in civilian clothes that day. If it turns out that you are dealing with a beginner, don’t just sell her the bike—explain what other gear she might want or need.

2. Remember that women aren’t a niche. We’re road bikers, commuters, mountain bikers, cyclocross racers, bike messengers, cycle tourists, and more. Don’t pigeonhole us or stereotype us. We have just as many needs and interests as men do on the road (or trail!).

3. Stock diverse women’s gear in different sizes—from XS bikes to plus-size cycling clothing. And make women’s gear look just as appealing as the men’s, says deputy editor Emily Furia. “Don’t cram a measly two women’s jerseys amongst a big rack of guys’ stuff, forcing us to dig for it like we’re at TJMaxx (an awesome place to score deals, but not a pleasant shopping experience).”

4. Don’t assume she wants a women’s bike. Gear editor Gloria Liu tells this story: “A friend of mine recently had the Liv Avail pushed on her so hard by multiple shops (though she said repeatedly that she didn’t like the position it put her in) that she asked me, ‘Geez, are they getting a special commission to sell these things?’” The geometry commonly used on women’s bikes—shorter top tube and taller head tube—doesn’t suit every woman’s body or riding style. And men with long legs and shorter torsos could be better served with a “women’s” bike, depending on their preferred riding position.

5. Take us at our word when we say we can do a mechanical task, says Emily Furia. “At a demo tent at a gran fondo, I had to explain to the guy working there THREE times that I knew how to install pedals before he would release my test bike without them.” Also, we like to work on our bikes, too, so stick to the requested repairs unless we’ve indicated otherwise.

6. The golden rule of all human interaction: Don’t be a dick. Staff writer Molly Hurford says this just boils down to a few simple points. “Don’t talk down to women, don’t hit on them, and don’t make assumptions about what kind of riding they’re doing.”

7. Hold rides, events, and mechanical clinics tailored to women. Many women feel perfectly at ease in a bike shop, but others don’t. And most will be excited to have new riding buddies. “Ask if she has friends to ride with,” says contributor Selene Yeager. “I saw an interesting survey about women riding much more often when they have others to ride with. Help her find a community.”

Associate editor Taylor Rojek, who used to work in a bike shop, agrees. “We had a women’s ride that was really great for introducing women to each other and growing networks,” she says. “Something I did personally was to ask women who were buying new bikes if they wanted to go for a ride. There were plenty of women who were just plain scared to ride on the roads, by themselves, with this expensive new bike. If you add in someone who’s supportive and encouraging and knows what she’s doing, it becomes a way more positive experience.”

8. Ask your customers—both men and women—what they want from your store. Women’s bike shop Gladys Bikes in Portland, Oregon, has this down to a science. “We have this thing called ‘GAB,’ the Gladys Advisory Board, made up by customers providing feedback on what they want from a women-specific shop,” shop owner Leah Benson says. “We’re constantly evolving in terms of what it means to make a place relevant for a large community of women by asking our board, ‘Hey, what do you want to see?’ Our Saddle Library came out of that. A lot of women saw saddle comfort as a barrier of entry to cycling, so we said, ‘Hey, we can make your butt more comfortable!'”

9. Talk saddles, suggests Selene Yeager. “I’ve heard from many many top industry insiders that this is the number one silent issue that keeps women off bikes. They are uncomfortable ‘down there,’ and they’re not comfortable talking about it. Dudes in bike shops are generally uneasy about broaching the topic. But somebody HAS to or there will be many women who will simply not ride.”

10. “Hire women!” says Taylor Rojek. “Having me at the shop made the whole experience more comfortable for a lot of women, and they were super appreciative of it,” she says.”

Case in point: Several years ago my husband and I went to a LBS for bike fittings. Mine was first, and although I repeatedly explained to the guy that I had ridden for many years and cycled many miles, done multi-day bike touring, etc., he insisted on setting me up on my racy ready carbon fiber road bike very upright, not the least bit aero. The problem was he treated me like his mother rather than a fellow cyclist. If he had listened he could have told by my level of understanding that I didn’t just fall off a cruiser. Completely ignoring my input, he explained I’d be “more comfortable” with the “non-aero” fit and left it at that. I didn’t want to be comfortable, I wanted to be fast!

My husband who at that time had ridden very little in recent years was fit in a much more aero position than I, even though he explained to the guy he hadn’t ridden much and was just getting into it again.

This shop did an injustice to me and my husband by making assumptions based on gender and not listening to our needs and experience level.

The same thing occurs because of age, but that’s a post for another time.

Happy trails!

 

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For the Love of Bikes Blog by Susan Lash (2009 - 2014) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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