TeamCBC Cycling Tip – Understanding the Tour de France: Strategies and Terms

What Strategies Should I Look For?

Breakaways — Riders are very strategic, and don’t cycle as fast as they can throughout the race. They tend to cycle in a main group called a peloton, and have smaller groups break away to the front at almost every stage. The peloton will allow cyclists to stay ahead for a few minutes before rejoining them when they have lost momentum. Breakaways are a great method to use if a cyclist is not an exceptional climber or sprinter, because it gives them a chance at victory.

Attacks — Attacks frequently occur on climbs, and involve a rider abruptly breaking away from the peloton at an extremely high speed in hopes that the other riders won’t be able to keep up with them.

Sprinters — A sprinter is a cyclist that finishes a race by suddenly accelerating to a high speed, and often uses the slipstream of an individual cyclist or a group of cyclists in order to conserve energy.

Lead-out Trains — This is a strategy used to setup a rider for a sprint finish. One rider on the team rides at a very high speed, and the team’s sprinter follows close behind to benefit from their slipstream. This reduces wind resistance, and enables the sprinter to achieve faster speeds without using as much energy as they normally would.

What Are Some Of The Terms Used?

Peloton — French for “group.” Peloton is the main group of cyclists who ride together for coherence.

Gruppetto – This is a group of cyclists who form behind the leading peloton. The gruppetto forms on mountain stages when non-climbers can’t keep up and drop off the back of the peloton during the climb.

Sticky Bottle – Should a cyclist need a drink of water, they approach their team’s car and receive one from the director. Upon handing the bottle back, they retain their grip for just a little longer so as to receive a quick boost of speed.

Domestique — Every team has a leader, and the remaining riders (domestiques) support the leader in whatever way they can in order for them to win stages, accumulate points and hopefully win the tour.

Directeur Sportif — Each team has a director, known as directeur sportif, that follows riders during the race and gives them instructions.

Flamme Rouge — French for “red flag” this is used to indicate the last kilometer of the race.

Lanterne Rouge — French for “red light” this is the last rider in the general classification/the tour. This is not a dishonorable term.

Musette Bag — A shoulder bag containing food and water that is handed to riders at feeding stations.

Quote of the week: “In my time, it was different. When I knew the wind was strong, I attacked myself to make the race as hard as possible.” Eddie Merckx, 5-time TDF winner

Here is an article that explains the topic in more detail:

Stay Safe!
Rick Bunnell
President, TeamCBC