La Grande Boucle, Le Tour or simply Tour de France, is with no doubt the most prestigious and world’s most famous cycling event. This year, on the 104th edition, professional riders will compete on the total distance of 3,521 km during the 21 stages, visiting Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and finally - France.
How it all started?
It was 1903, a wonderful time for science, when the Wright Brothers successfully enjoyed their first airplane flight and Marie & Pierre Curie won the Nobel Prize for their research on the radiation phenomena. And it was the same year, when for the first time in history, Tour de France took place.
It all started from Henri Desgrange, a sports journalist and French bicycle rider, and his colleague Geo Lefevre from L’Auto newspaper, in which they both worked. Lefevre’s idea was to create an extravagant race as a stunt to increase the sales of the floundering magazine. Desgrange as a former professional cyclist, loved the idea and soon they started working on turning France into a giant racing arena. Approximately 60 daredevils stood at the start line on the 1st July in 1903 to set themselves against 2,428 km (1,509 mi) during the extraordinary long six stages. Slightly more than one third of the all cyclists had completed all of the stages, with Maurice Garin dominating the race. His victory with 2 hours 59 minutes and 31 seconds advantage still remains the greatest margin of victory in the Tour’s history.
The race turned out to be an undeniable success which contributed to a tremendous newspaper circulation rise during the event. Nowadays it would be described as a well prepared marketing campaign.
Since its big success in 1903, “Le Tour” is held annually, with only breaks during the world wars which cancelled 11 races. Every year, millions of fans from not only Europe line the route to cheer their favorite cyclists. It’s not a surprise that Tour de France attracts so many sports enthusiasts for more than a hundred years. The stake is huge as the name of the winner gains eternal glory.
The language of Tour de France
Everyone knows that French is a language of love and passion, but what about the language of cycling? Do you want to cheer your favorite Equipe (team) at each Etape (stage)? Or maybe you are lost in the multiple colors of Maillot (jersey) and are not sure which rider is the best? Here comes a little guide to help you enjoy the most of Le Tour.
The colors (les couleurs) of the tour
During the Tour there are several classifications and each of them has its own distinctive color. Here is a little cheat sheet to help you understand les couleures:
- Maillot Jaune (Yellow jersey) - This most famous jersey in the whole tour is worn by the leader of the general classification.
- Maillot Vert (Green jersey) - Jersey worn by the leader of the points classification.
- Maillot à pois (Red Polka Dot jersey) - This jersey is worn by the “King of the mountains”. Mountain points are awarded at the top of every categorized climb. The points for a summit finish are doubled.
- Maillot blanc (White jersey) - The best young rider (age 25 or under in the current year) in the general classification can wear this jersey.
What are they talking about? Le jargon cycliste
- ÊTRE EN CHASSE-PATATE – “To be on a potato chase”
This sentence refers to the rider’s efforts while he is trying to bridge across from (often) the chasing pack to the breakaway. There is no chance for him to catch up with the leaders so he is on “potato chase”.
Race number with a rider’s last name and nationality, which is pinned to his jersey.
Literally a “servant”. Domestique is a rider who works for the benefit of his team and leader, instead of trying to win the race.
- DES FOURMIS DANS LES JAMBES - “Ants in your legs”
To feel risky, to be impatient to attack.
- FLAMME ROUGE
A “red flame” in this case is a red flag that hangs above the road and signalize 1km to the finish during each stage.
Means riding out of the saddle, standing up and rocking from side to side for leverage.
A small shoulder bag which contains the food and drink given to the riders by team staff members in the Feed Zone or from the team car.