Let’s be clear, it’s Q’s idea to call this a girl’s guide. I’d rather call it a newbie guide..
22 teams will line up in Leeds on 5th July at the start of the Tour de France, each with a maximum compliment of 9 riders meaning that 198 riders will roll away on the mammoth journey towards Paris. Once the race starts there is no substitution – lose a rider to injury, illness, failed drug test or missing the time limit on the day and you start with fewer the next. What makes cycling so unique is that even on day 1, less than 10 riders will honestly think they have any chance of taking the overall win.
So what makes the rest want to ride 3,664km in 3 weeks (other than the promise of a scone at Betty’s Tea Room at the stage 1 finish in Harrogate)?
To help your team mate win the race – If your team leader has a chance of winning the yellow jersey, it’s your job to help him do that and he’ll make it worth your while. Tradition has it that the prize money for the winner is actually given to his team mates so that’s a minimum win bonus of just over 56k Euros per rider in the team of the winner (allegedly Bradley Wiggins has still not paid Chris Froome his money from 2012…)
For stage wins – every stage needs a winner (and there’s 22.5k euros up for grabs for the winner each day) and in most stages the favourites don’t need to be at the front. As long as they finish in the same bunch as the winner everyone gets the same time. That’s why you don’t see the spindly contenders for the yellow jersey battling with the big sprinters on flat days. It’s also why you see riders ride away from the big bunch at the start of the day – some days those guys do win, particularly later in the Tour, when the stage is not flat enough for the sprinters and all of the contenders for the overall win are happy to watch each other and have an easy day (although most days they only fulfill the need below)
To get you or your team on the TV – Cycling makes great TV, especially the Tour De France. Brightly coloured clothing, beautiful scenery (the Tour is basically 3 weeks worth of great reasons to go on holiday to France), crashes, gurning, it’s got the lot. Typically the most attention is given by the cameras to the riders at the front on that stage. With most stages being at least 4 hours long and all on TV, that’ a lot of time the brands on your jersey can be shown live on TV
For one of the other jerseys – more of those later…
Main Types of Rider
Potential Winner aka GC contender – these guys can climb, time trial and position themselves well enough in the bunch (with the help of their teammates) to stay out of trouble
Sprinters – Great to watch on any stage. On the flat they are saving every ounce of energy to unleash all of it in the last 300m as they hurtle towards the line at speeds of up to 70kph. In the mountains the 80kg+ that some of them carry around means they suffer on these days like nobody else as they and their most trusted team mates battle to reach the line before the time cutoff
Climbers – in the mountains it’s all about power to weight ratio, that’s why you’ll sometimes see tiny guys disappearing up the road. The best climbers weigh as little as 57kg
Domestiques – if you ride in one of the teams with a rider who can win the whole thing, your only job for 3 weeks will be to do whatever your team leader needs – no matter how good you are. Ride in front of him to keep him out of the wind. Go back to the team car to get him water bottles, gels, jackets etc. Stop with him if he needs a natural break to make sure he gets back to the bunch. Give him your wheel (or entire bike if it fits) if he gets a puncture. Lance Armstrong’s US Postal started the fashion of putting all of your eggs in one basket and backing one rider for the win and not caring about anything else and now Team Sky have taken up the mantle (hence Mark Cavendish having a less than stellar tour in 2012 by his standards – the team had claimed they would go for the yellow and green jerseys, but made no real effort at the green. Cavendish was World Champion at that point and even did his work bringing bottles for the team on some days, something a World Champion would typically never be asked to do in cycling’s strict hierarchy)
by Stuart ‘Clip’ Caunt