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Le Tour Basics

Tour de FranceThe race starts with the Grand Départ today in Copenhagen and will finish on 24 July in Paris, so I thought I should explain some of what I’ll be ranting about.

Tour jerseys

The cartoon characters from my header are wearing the various colored jerseys that indicate the leader in the different classifications in the race.

The Maillot Jaune, Yellow Jersey is worn by the rider with the lowest time overall in the race. The eventual winner of the race may never have come in first in any stage, but was near the lead throughout the race and achieved the lowest time over the entire course of the event. The winner is normally an “all-arounder”, someone is very good at the sprints and the hill climbing, even if they aren’t the best. “All-arounders” show up on the lists of the sprinters and the climbers, while staying in the top ten for overall time.

The Maillot Vert, Green Jersey, is for the speed demons, the sprinters. The guys who hit the highest gears on the bike. They are the flat-out, flat land fliers, reaching suicidal speeds. They win points for sprints on certain portions of the course. The top sprinters tend to be found in the back of the overall times because great sprinters tend to be lousy climbers.

The Maillot À Pois, Polka Dot Jersey, is for the climbers. The hills on the course are assigned levels of difficulty, and points are assigned based on finishing order at the top. Once the course reaches the mountains, the points really start to climb. The best climbers are those that high strength to weight ratios. These are the guys who are comfortable in the low gears, but manage to be one gear higher than everyone else.

The Maillot Blanc, White Jersey, is worn by the young rider with the lowest overall time. To be eligible you can’t have reached your 26th birthday on 1 January of this year. If a young rider qualifies for the Yellow Jersey, the White Jersey is worn by the second fastest young rider.

Tour NumbersThe Tour has 23 teams of 8 riders each for a total of 184. Every rider wears a number on his back. The first two digits indicate the rider’s team, i.e. Ineos Grenadiers riders are 02-, Team DSM riders are 14-.

The normal bib is black numbers on a white background, but the lead team wears black numbers on a yellow background, and the most combative rider gets white numbers on a red background the next day. On the Tour, combative means someone who makes their own breaks and goes for the lead from the peloton, the large mass of riders.

Now that I’ve explained all this stuff, you still don’t care, but I feel better. This is a war, not a ride in the park. At this level the riders are not nice people, but some are nastier than others, and the really good riders don’t get caught. It’s a lot like NASCAR, but with less pollution.