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Tour De France Basics(11 posts)

Tour De France BasicsJeff Rage
Jul 7, 2003 7:42 AM
This is the first time I've ever decided to watch the Tour De France. So far, the race makes no sense to me, and I'm hoping some of you out there can explain the basics of it.

I guess I made the assumtion that it was just a rally race, but there is much more to it. The riders also do these short sprints and get bonuses for them?

There appear to be different strategies they can use. Casn you explain some of them?

Why are most of the riders in a pack? I understand the concept of drafting, but shouldn't the riders be spread out over many miles?

Why is it that they seem to keep a steady pace and then sprint only at the end? Why not do more sprints, maybe one an hour?

I'm sorry if these questions sound stupid, but I am really new to road biking. Thanks for your input!
re: Tour De France BasicsMaRider
Jul 7, 2003 8:17 AM
The competition is many fold - in addition to yellow jersey which is given to the lowest accumulated time after each stage, you have green jersey of the best sprinter, given to the rider with the most "sprinters" points, polka-dot "mountain" jersey given for the most "mountain" points, and white jersey of the young rider competition - similar to yellow but given to riders under 25 years of age.

There are often intermediate sprinting/mountain points given at certain locations in some stages, along with time
bonuses, but each finish typically carries more sprinting points and time bonuses. Additionally, winning the stage is a great honor in itself, which is why you see more competitive sprints in the end of the stage, as opposed to intermediate sprints.

Drafting works only if you are close to the rider in front of you. Therefore the riders are bunched together, rather than being spread over many miles. Even if you are slightly to the side of the guy in front of you, you are still partially drafting, especially if there's a significant cross-wind. This is why you see a guy leading a peloton, followed by two guys, followed by two or more guys and so on. The peloton widens as it gets deeper, sort of like a flock of birds.

Breaking away from a peloton carries a significant energy penalty, because now you have to break a wind all by yourself. A well-organized peloton can switch their leading man as often as every 10-20 seconds, making up significant amount of ground on a smaller breakaway group, where each person has to do a much larger share of the work. Sprinters are very interested in contesting the sprint for the win in every flat stage, and they a number of domestiques who will help chase down the breakaway for them, which is why a long breakaway is always a gamble.

This all changes once you get into the mountains, of course, where most of the energy is spent on fighting gravity, rather than the wind, and the team's help is diminished. Still, having a teammate or two doesn't hurt, as they help one to cover quick "breakaway" accelerations, carry water, etc.
wowJeff Rage
Jul 7, 2003 1:48 PM
It's much more complex then I thought!
re: Tour De France Basicsgeckotb
Jul 7, 2003 9:09 AM
http://www.cyclingnews.com/road/2003/tour03/?id=features/FAQ
re: Tour De France BasicsJeff Rage
Jul 7, 2003 1:48 PM
Thanks, that answered a lot of questions.

So, if most of the riders have identical times each day, how does someone win the race?
that will all change soon...EpicX
Jul 7, 2003 2:25 PM
as soon as it hits the mountains, you will rarely see more than 10-15 riders cross the line at the same time. and it won't be the same groups together day after day. Also, the time trials are individual efforts that further spread out the time gaps.
So what is "just a rally race"? (nm)Kerry Irons
Jul 7, 2003 5:22 PM
So what is "just a rally race"? (nm)Jeff Rage
Jul 7, 2003 9:29 PM
A rally race is divided into stages. Your time is cumulated bwteen all of the stages, and the quickest time wins. From what I'm reading, the TDF is much more complex than that.
It's a formDwayne Barry
Jul 8, 2003 4:07 AM
of car racing, quite popular in Europe and South America. Basically it's a whole bunch of time trials run over 3 days over varied terrain (mostly gravel roads but also tarmac). The Subaru WRX that you see Lance hawking is the production version of a rally race car.
Leave it to me ...Jeff Rage
Jul 8, 2003 6:58 AM
... to compare auto racing to the TDF! :D)
Actually many forms of bike racing andDwayne Barry
Jul 8, 2003 7:17 AM
automobile racing are quite analogous to one another. Not surprising as they're both fundamentally about the same thing (power, drafting, and handling).