How does the Tour de France (or any other similar race) work?

Norry1

Guru
Location
Warwick
OK, so I am new to this cycling lark and have started watching the various races (Giro d'Italia and next the TdF). Can someone explain how it works. If I say what I know, maybe you can fill the gaps in.

The race is over a lot (say 24 stages). I assume the winner is the one who has the lowest combines time? I know there are sprints and time trial sections. How do they play into the overall result?

I know there are different jerseys for top sprinter and climber. Do some riders just aim for these? How does the Team thing work? Do team members just act as pacemakers and slipstreamers for the top guy?

Anything else I need to know?

Ta muchly

Martin
 
I have just bought a book from Amazon - Tour De France for Dummies, and it covers all the aspects of the race you ever need to know about.
 

montage

God Almighty
Location
Bethlehem
Whoever has the shortest combined time wins.
At the top of various mountains are mountain points, where whoever reaches that point first gets the point.
There are also sprint points along the stage, as well as the big sprint finish. People aim for these.

Time trials are included into the time.

Riders will play to their strengths, e.g. the lightweight Andy Schlek will use his climbinf abilities to his advantage and try to put time over the other riders.

Teamwork is important - as you say, slipstreaming. Also chasing down breakaways etc etc
 
OP
Norry1

Norry1

Guru
Location
Warwick
xpc316e said:
I have just bought a book from Amazon - Tour De France for Dummies, and it covers all the aspects of the race you ever need to know about.
Ah, sounds like I'll go get that then. Thanks.
 
OP
Norry1

Norry1

Guru
Location
Warwick
montage said:
Whoever has the shortest combined time wins.
At the top of various mountains are mountain points, where whoever reaches that point first gets the point.
There are also sprint points along the stage, as well as the big sprint finish. People aim for these.

Time trials are included into the time.

Riders will play to their strengths, e.g. the lightweight Andy Schlek will use his climbinf abilities to his advantage and try to put time over the other riders.

Teamwork is important - as you say, slipstreaming. Also chasing down breakaways etc etc
So what is the point of sprint and mountain points? Do they count to the overall result?
 

Skip Madness

New Member
Norry1 said:
The race is over a lot (say 24 stages).
The three grand tours - France, Italy and Spain, are all 21 stages long.
I assume the winner is the one who has the lowest combines time?
Yep!
I know there are sprints and time trial sections. How do they play into the overall result?
It varies with time trials. Tey are usually very significant in shaping the overall result, but it's variant depending on how long and numerous the time trials are. Some recent Tours have had more than 100km against the clock. This year's has just 61km. Accordingly, a good time triallist who isn't so strong in the mountains will find that certain editions are better suited to them than other editions.

Sprints have no bearing whatsoever on the overall result. The kind of riders who win sprints aren't built to survive the mountains and time trials, so never figure in the overall standings. Some races (not the Tour de France) offer small time bonuses to the first three riders across the finish line, but these few seconds are nothing to offset the hours that sprinters will lose over the course of a few mountain stages and time trials. Those bonuses could feasibly affect the overall result when they are awarded at the end of a mountain stage, but in reality they seldom do. And as I said, the Tour doesn't use these end-of-stage time bonuses any more anyway.
I know there are different jerseys for top sprinter and climber. Do some riders just aim for these?
Absolutely - most riders don't have a hope of winning the overall general classification, so they'll aim squarely for stage wins or one of the other jerseys.

The points jersey is awarded to the rider with the most points. These points are earned by winning a stage (with decreasing numbers of points available for coming second, third etc. down to about 15th place or something like that). There are also two or three intermediate sprints at different locations on each stage where points are available to the first three across those lines - 6, 4 and 2 points respectively, I think.

The mountains jersey works on a similar principle. Climbs which are deemed tough enough are graded 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st or hors category in order of ascending difficulty. There are points available to the first few people to the top of each climb, with those points being greater depending on the climb's classification. Climbs which serve as mountain-top finishes award double their usual categorisation points at the Tour de France.

During time trials, mountain points are available for whoever has the best time up a classified climb, but points-jersey points aren't awarded.
How does the Team thing work? Do team members just act as pacemakers and slipstreamers for the top guy?
They do both of these and more. If there's a crosswind, they'll adjust their position slightly to the side of their protected rider in order to protect them from the wind. They'll also go back and forth collecting water bottles or rain capes from their team cars, and if their leader punctures and a team car isn't immediately available, they'll give their leader a spare wheel or possibly just give them their bike.
So what is the point of sprint and mountain points? Do they count to the overall result?
Not to the overall result, no. They are basically there to animate the race. Only a select few can win the overall GC, and none of them are sprinters. The points competition enlivens the sprints, and the intermediate sprints means that sometime sprinters will go off on mountain stages to try and be the first to take those sprints if they know the stage will be too difficult for them to contest at the finish. Likewise, the mountains competition encourages aggressive riding throughout the stage rather than only at the key moments, and may see less fancied riders trying to get into long escapes to rack up points on earlier climbs if they know they'll suffer on later climbs.
 

gaijintendo

Veteran
Location
Scotchland
Teamwork is important - as you say, slipstreaming. Also chasing down breakaways etc etc
How does one reel in a breakaway? Add drag by slipstreaming?

I am used to the language from the telegraph podcast, but often the mechanics pass me by.
 

smutchin

Cat 6 Racer
Location
The Red Enclave
often the mechanics pass me by.
You need to hold your hand up to let them know you want them to stop. ;)

But seriously...

It takes something like 30% less effort* to ride in the middle of a bunch compared to riding at the front ('nose in the wind', as they say) so a large group of riders can ride much harder and faster (by taking turns at the front) than a small group or a lone rider.

A single team chasing down a breakaway will also 'burn their matches' - ie let one rider stay on the front, riding as hard as possible for as long as he can, until he can ride no more, at which point he will drop off and let the next rider take over. Luke Rowe is doing this job on today's stage for Sky - if you're only watching the highlights, you might wonder what contribution he makes to the team, but he's the workhorse who is dragging the pack along through the 30km valley section of the stage to set them up for the last two climbs. Once he's burnt out, he'll drop off and let Castroviejo or Moscon take over. Expect Rowe to finish a good 15 minutes behind the stage winner today.

*don't quote me on this - the exact figures depend on all sorts of factors and the science is out there on the internet if you want to read up on it in more detail, but the key point is that it makes a BIG difference.
 

andrew_s

Guru
Location
Gloucester
And as I said, the Tour doesn't use these end-of-stage time bonuses any more anyway.
A good general summary, but you're out of date - bonifications (time bonuses) are back in.

The competition rules are continually being tinkered with, so the details of the subsidiary competitions varies between of race and another and between one year and another. If you want the full reliable info, you've got to go onto the race website and dig out the current race rules.
https://chroniqueduvelo.fr/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/2018-Tour-de-France-Regulations.pdf

Examples:
At the Giro, the points are the same for all stages, so the points jersey may be won by a climber. At the Tour, they tend to view the points jersey as a competition for sprinters, so they give substantially more points for a flat stage than for a mountainous stage.
A few years back, the mountains jersey at the Tour was often won by someone (like Virenque) who deliberately lost a lot of time early in the race, and then went on a long breakaway on a mountainous stage, picking up enough mountain points to defend for the rest of the race. The Tour felt that a proper climber should be in with a better chance, so they doubled the points for mountain finishes (also no longer applicable)
 

Adam4868

Legendary Member
21 stages,somesomes flat,sometimes mountains.Lots of different individual stage winners and at the end of it a bloke called Chris Froome wins !
 
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