Tour of France for Dummies

10 07 2008

*This was posted originally about a year ago, but has been getting hits from search engines again with the tour starting.  I thought I would edit it a bit and repost it.

I am willing to admit that most people who are going to read this post could really care less about what is going in the Tour right now (especially after last year’s fiasco with doping). I, however, have looked forward to watching it all summer. The great thing about watching the Tour is that it is really five or six races in one. Also each stage of the race is different, showcasing the different talents and specialties of cycling.

The are flat stages where a small group tries to breakaway from the peleton. These usually end with the breakaway being caught and the sprinters fighting their way to the finish line at about 35 mph. Then there are the mountain stages where the elite climbers leave the peleton behind and fight for control of the overall lead. There are also time trials. These are shorter and riders do it individually against the clock. They can’t draft off the riders so it is sometimes called the “race of truth.”

Here are all the different races going on each day:

  1. Stage: Each day’s race is incredibly important to most riders. Many riders hope to win one of these stages during their entire career. With 189 riders each day, it is hard to pick who is going to be the first across the line. Each day’s ride can be as long as 150 miles.
  2. Yellow Jersey: General Classification or “GC.” This is the person who has the best cumulative time over all the stages of the race. In some cases the person wearing yellow does not even come close to winning a stage.
  3. Green Jersey: Points. Every stage has a certain amount of points spread out along the race route. The first three people to pass through these “sprints” get points. The finish line is worth the most points each day. The riders going for green need to always finish the race as close to first as possible.
  4. Polka Dot Jersey: King of the Mountains. The first few riders to cross the summit of each climb earn points too. These are similar to the green jersey points. The longer and steeper the climb, the more points it is worth.
  5. White Jersey: Best Young Rider. This is very similar to the yellow jersey, but only riders 25 or younger are eligible.
  6. Overall Team: The team with the combined best overall time gets a distinction as well.

It is important to note that having one of the jerseys for even one day during the race is the dream of most riders. Even if they don’t finish with the jersey on their shoulders, they will fight to have it for a single day.

If there is nothing else on television over the next few weeks, and you are curious (and you have cable) watch a stage of the Tour. There are two “American” teams in the tour this year, and they are off to a great start with stage wins and multiple jerseys: Garmin-Chipotle and Columbia.  I don’t think an American will win the tour this year, but Kim Kirchen (Luxemburg) of Team Columbia currently holds both the Green and Yellow Jersey.  Check it out, you might get hooked, and then I will have someone to talk to about it.




4 responses

13 07 2007

It seems to me that those Jersey’s would get pretty smelly. I don’t think I would want to wear some other guy’s jersey (especially if he is European) – even if it is polka dotted.

14 07 2007

A very helpful summary. Now I can continue on ignoring the tour in a much more informed way.

15 07 2007

Charles, you will continue to be my authoritative voice on the Tour.

23 07 2008

Have you ever thought about the RAGBRAI?

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