BikeRaceInfo's Cycling Glossary
All fields have their own jargon, and bicycle racing is no exception. We've put together a glossary of bicycle racing terms, but it is a work in progress, and there are certainly terms we've left out. If there's one you need to know the meaning of, and it isn't here, drop us an e-mail (see the "contact" button on the left column) and we'll tell you what it means, and probably add it to this glossary.
@: In English language race results an asperand (or "at" sign) is used to denote the amount of time or number of points behind the winner. In the example below Luis Ocana won the race, taking 6 hours, 51 minutes, 15 seconds to complete the course. Joop Zoetemelk was behind him and crossed the finish line 15 seconds later. Pollentier was still further behind and crossed the line 3 minutes and 34 seconds after Ocana. Van Impe and Thévenet were with Pollentier but slightly behind him. The "s.t." means that they were given the same time as Pollentier. If a rider finishes close enough to a rider who is in front of him so that there is no real gap, he will be given the same time as the first rider of that group. French or Spanish results will use often use "m.t." to denote same time. If no time is given, same time is assumed.
- 1. Luis Ocana: 6 hr 51 min 50 sec
- 2. Joop Zoetemelk @ 15 sec
- 3. Michael Pollentier @ 3 min 34 sec
- 4. Lucien van Impe s.t.
- 5. Bernard Thévenet s.t.
a: In Italian race results "a" is the same as @
à : French for @ in race results
Aankomst: Flemish for finish line
Abandon: To quit a race. See also Broom Wagon
Abbuono: Italian for time bonus. See bonification.
Achtervolger: Flemish. A group chasing a breakaway. We first learned this word watching the Dutch television feed of the Tour of Flanders, and it was on-screen whenever they showed the chasing peloton. Looking at the word for a while, it occurred to us that they weren't showing us a racer named "Achtervolgers", but rather the "after-followers".
Amiraglia: Italian for a team follow car.
Arc-en-ciel: French for rainbow. See Rainbow Jersey
Arcobaleno: Italian for Rainbow. See Rainbow jersey
Arrivée: French for the finish line
Arrivée en altitude: French for hilltop finish.
Arrivo: Italian for the finish line
Arrivo in salita: Italian for hilltop finish
Attack: Generally a sudden acceleration in an attempt to break free of the peloton. On flat roads it is usually done by riding up along the side of the pack so that by the time the attacker passes the peloton's front rider he is traveling too fast for the pack to easily react. In the mountains it is usually enough to accelerate from the front.
Autobus: French. In the mountains the riders with poor climbing skills ride together hoping to finish in time to beat the time limit cutoff. By staying together in a group they hope that if they don't finish in time they can persuade the officials to let them stay in the race because so many riders would otherwise be eliminated. It doesn't always work. Often the group lets a particular experienced racer who knows how to pace the Autobus lead them in order to just get in under the wire. This risky strategy minimizes the energy the riders have to expend. Synonyms include Grupetto (Italian) and Laughing Group. See Time Limit.
Azzurri: Italian for the Men in Blue. The Italian National team wears blue jerseys, hence the name.
Bell Lap: If the riders are racing the final meters of a race on a velodrome or on a circuit in a town, a bell is rung at the start of the final lap.
Bidon: Water bottle. Now made of plastic, early ones were metal with cork stoppers. Until 1950 they were carried on the handlebars, sometimes in pairs. Around 1950 riders started mounting bottle cages on the downtube. The trend to dispensing with the bar-mount cages started in the early 1960s and by 1970 they were a thing of the past. In the early 1980s, as a result of the sport of Triathlon, builders started brazing bosses on the seat tube allowing mechanics to attach a second cage so that riders could again carry 2 bottles.
Bonification: Time bonus (actually time subtracted) awarded to a rider. Stage races vary and the Tour is always tinkering with its rules. Bonifications can be earned several ways: winning or placing in a stage, winning or placing in an intermediate sprint, being among the first riders over a rated climb. The rules have changed over the years. At one time in the early 1930's the Tour awarded a 4-minute time bonus for winning a stage. In 2005 the bonification was 20 seconds.
Bonk: To completely run out of energy. Sometimes a rider will forget to eat or think he has enough food to make it to the finish without stopping to get food. The result can be catastrophic as the rider's body runs out of glycogen, the stored chemical the muscles burn for energy. Famously José-Manuel Fuente didn't eat during the long stage 14 in the 1974 Giro. He slowed to a near halt as his body's ability to produce energy came to a crashing halt. Merckx sped on and took the Pink Jersey from the Spaniard who had shown such terrible judgment. It's happened to many great riders including Indurain and Armstrong but not always with such catastrophic results. The French term is défaillance but that term can also mean exhaustion or mental failure, such as when Gaul attacked in the Cevannes in the 1958 Tour. Bobet was unable to respond, mostly because he suffered a loss of confidence. This also would be a défaillance.
Break: Short for breakaway.
Breakaway: One or more riders escaping from the front of peloton, usually as the result of a sudden acceleration called an "attack". Riders will work together sharing the effort of breaking the wind hoping to improve their chances of winning by arriving at the finish in a smaller group. This can also be called a "break". Some riders do not possess the necessary speed to contest mass sprints and therefore try very hard to escape the clutches of the peloton well before the end of the race. Franco Bitossi was a master of the lone break even though he posssessed a fearsome sprint. Hennie Kuiper won many famous victories this way as well. Sometimes a break will escape during a Tour stage and no team will take responsibility to chase it down. Sometimes the gap results in an unexpected winner as in the case of Roger Walkowiak in 1956. See Chapatte's Law.
Bridge: Short for bridge a gap. To go from one group of cyclists to a break up the road.
Broom Wagon: When Desgrange added high Pyrenean climbs to his 1910 Tour he thought it would be necessary to have a rescue wagon follow the riders in case the mountain roads were beyond their ability to ascend, hence the Broom Wagon to sweep up the exhausted racers. It is still in use, following the last rider in a stage. Today when a rider abandons he usually prefers to get into one of his team cars. Years ago the Broom Wagon had an actual broom bolted to it but today this wonderful bit of symbolism is gone. In the 1910 Tour if a rider could not finish a mountain stage he could restart the next day and compete for stage wins but he was out of the General Classification competition. Today an abandonment sticks. The rider is out of the Tour for that year. Before a rider enters the broom wagon an official removes the dossard or back number on the rider's jersey. In French the Broom Wagon is called the Voiture Balai.
Bunch: When preceded by "the", usually the peloton. Far less often a group of riders can be "a bunch"
Cadence: The speed at which the rider turns the pedals.
Caravan: The long line of vehicles that precede and follow the racers.
Caravan publicitaire: The line of cars and trucks that precedes the race, promoting various company's goods and services. When Henri Desgrange switched the Tour to using National instead of trade teams, he became responsible for the racers' transport, food and lodging. By charging companies money for the privilege of advertising their goods to the millions of Tour spectators along the route he was able to help pay the new expenses. When the Tour reverted to trade teams the publicity caravan remained.
Category: In European stage racing it is a desgination of the difficulty of a mountain climb. This is a subjective judgment of the difficulty of the ascent, based upon its length, gradient and how late in the stage the climb is to be ridden. A medium difficulty climb that comes after several hard ascents will get a higher rating because the riders will already be tired. The numbering system starts with "4" for the easiest that still rate being called a climb and then with increasing severity they are 3, 2, 1. The most challenging are above categorization, or in the Tour nomenclature, "Hors catégorie", HC. In the Giro the hardest climbs are rated a Category 1.
Chairman Bill McGann: A man mad about bikes. A harmless drudge.
Chapatte's Law: Formulated by former racer and Tour commentator Robert Chapatte, it states that in the closing stages of a race a determined peloton will chase down a break and close in at the rate of 1 minute per 10 kilometers traveled. If a break is 3 minutes up the road the peloton will need to work hard for 30 kilometers to catch it. TV race commentator Paul Sherwen regularly uses Chapatte's Law to come up with his often surprisingly accurate predictions of when a break will be caught. It's now calculated by computer on French television.
Children's Heads: kinderkopje, Dutch for cobblestones. See Pavé
Cima Coppi: The highest point in the Giro.
Circle of Death: In 1910 Desgrange introduced high mountains into the Tour. The big stage with the Peyresourde, Aspin, Tourmalet and Aubisque was called the "Circle of Death" by the press who doubted that the riders could perform the inhuman task that was asked of them. Now the hardest mountain Tour stage is still occasionally called the Circle of Death.
Classic: One of seven one-day races whose history and prestige will make the career of its winner. They are: MilanSan Remo, Tour of Flanders, GentWevelgem, ParisRoubaix, Flèche Wallonne, LiègeBastogneLiège and the Tour of Lombardy. Gent-Wevelgem is traditionally held mid-week between Flanders and ParisRoubaix. Only Rik Van Looy and Eddy Merckx have won them all. Some writers include a few other races in their list of Classics: Omloop Het Volk, Amstel Gold Race, Rund um den Hernniger Turm, San Sebastian Classic, Championship of Zurich (also called "Züri Metzgete"), ParisBrussels and ParisTours.
Classifiche Generali: Italian for General Classification
C.L.M.: French abbreviation for contre-la-montre or time trial.
CLM par équipes: French for team time trial.
Col: French for mountain pass.
Colle: Italian for a small climb.
Combine: The Tour has had a competiton that uses an aggregate of General Classification, Mountains and Points competitions to arrive at the winner of the Combine category.
Commissaire: A race official with the authority to impose penalties on the riders for infractions of the rules. A common problem is dangerous or irregular sprinting. The commissaire will usually relegate the offending rider to a lower placing.
CONI: Italian. An acronym for Comitato Olimpico Nazionale Italiano, the Italian Olympic Commitee. It is responsible for the development and management of sports in Italy.
Contre-la-montre: French for time trial
Coup de bordure: French. Roughly means a blow or stab in the gutter. When the riders are in an echelon fighting a side wind, an attack, or un coup de bordure, can be devastating to the riders who have been unable to find shelter in the draft of another rider and are hanging on for dear life in the gutter. In the 2007 Tour de France Alexandre Vinokourov and his Astana team mounted a classic coup de bordure which ruined the classification hopes of French champion Christophe Moreau.
Criterium: A bike race around and around a short road road course, often a city block. Good criterium riders have excellent bike handling skills and usually possess lots of power to enable them to constantly accelerate out of the corners. The Dutch and the Belgians are the masters of the event.
Crono: Short for time-trial. See Cronometro, Time Trial.
Cronometro: Italian for time trial. Cronometro individuale is individual time trial and Cronometro a squadre is team time trial.
Cronoscatala: Italian for an individual timed hill climb
Cyclamen Jersey: The purple jersey of the points leader in the Giro.
Départ: French for the start line of a race.
Défaillance: French for a total mental or body collapse. See Bonk for more.
Directeur Sportif: The on-the-road manager of a bike team. Although French, it is the term used in English as well.
Direttore Sportivo: Italian for Directeur Sportif.
DNF: Did not finish. Used in results to denote that the racer started but did not complete the race.
DNS: Did not start. Used in results to denote a racer who was entered in a race but failed to start. Often seen in results in stage races where the rider abandons after the completion of a stage.
Domestique: French. Because bicycle racing is a sport contested by teams and won by individuals a man designated to be the team leader has his teammates work for him. These men have been called domestiques since Tour founder Henri Desgrange used it as a term of contempt for Maurice Brocco whom he believed was selling his services to aid other riders in the 1911 Tour. Today the term has lost its bad connotation and serves as an acknowledgement of the true nature of racing tactics. Domestiques will chase down competitors and try to neutralize their efforts, they will protect their team leader from the wind by surrounding him. When a leader has to get a repair or stop to answer nature his domestiques will stay with him and pace him back up to the peloton. They are sometimes called "water carriers" because they are the ones designated to go back to the team car and pick up water bottles and bring them back up to the leader. In Italian the term is "gregario".
Dossard: French for the rider's race number on the back of his jersey.
Drafting: At racing speed a rider who is only a few inches behind another bike does about 30 percent less work. Riding behind another rider in his aerodynamic slipstream is called drafting. This is the basic fact of bike racing tactics and why a rider will not just leave the peloton and ride away from the others, no matter how strong he is. Only in the rarest of cases can a racer escape a determined chasing peloton. To make an escape work he needs the pack to be disinterested in chasing for some length of time so that he can gain a large enough time gap. Then, when the sleeping pack is aroused they do not have enough time to catch him no matter how fast they chase. Hugo Koblet's wonderful solo escape in the 1951 Tour is one of the rare instances when a solo rider outdid a determined group of elite chasers. A rider who drafts others and refuses to go to the front and do his share of the work is said to be "sitting on." There are a number of pejorative terms for a rider who does this, the best known is "wheelsucker".
Drop: When a rider cannot keep up with his fellow riders and comes out of their aerodynamic slipsteam, whether in a break or in the peloton, he is said to be dropped.
Échappée: French for breakaway
Echelon: When the riders are hit with a side wind they must ride slightly to the right or left of the rider in front in order to remain in that rider's slipstream, instead of riding nose to tail in a straight line. This staggered line puts those riders further back in the pace line in the gutter. Because they can't edge further to the side, they have to take more of the brunt of both the wind and the wind drag of their forward motion. Good riders then form a series of echelons so that all the racers can contribute and receive shelter. Italian is ventaglio.
Équipe: French for team
Escape: When used as a noun it is a breakaway. When used as a verb it is the act of breaking away.
Ètape: French for stage.
Feed zone: The specific point along a race route where the riders pick up food and drink. Racing etiquette generally keeps racers from attacking at this point, but there have been some famous initiatives that have started while the riders were having musettes (bags) of food handed up. In 1987 a carefully crafted plot to attack Jean-Francois Bernard who was then in Yellow was executed by Charly Mottet and his Système U team. They informed Stephen Roche and Pedro Delgado of their plans so that there would be enough horsepower to carry it through, which they did.
Field: See Peloton
Field Sprint: The race at the finish for the best placing among those in the peloton. The term is usually used when a breakaway has successfully escaped and won the stage and the peloton is reduced to fighting for the remaining lesser places.
Fixed gear: A direct drive between the rear wheel and the cranks. The rear cog is locked onto the rear hub so that the rider cannot coast. When the rear wheel turns, the crank turns. Because this is the most efficient of all possible drive trains riders in the early days of cycle racing preferred fixed gears to freewheels. When the Tour added mountains in 1905 the riders had to mount freewheels so that they could coast down the descents; otherwise their velocity was limited by their leg speed. Track bikes use fixed gears.
Flahute: French slang for tough-guy bike racer, usually Belgian. A Flahute thrives on the cold-weather, rain, winds, slippery cobbles and sustained high speeds that characterize the Belgian Classics. A Flahute should expect to taste wet cow dung thrown up by the other riders' wheels as they race across barely usable farm country roads. Examples: Marcel Kint, Walter Godefroot, Roger De Vlaeminck, Rik van Looy and Rik Van Steenbergen.
Flamme Rouge: French. A red banner placed at the beginning of the final kilometer of a race.
Flyer: Usually a solo breakaway near the end of a race.
Foratura: Italian for flat tire.
Fuga: Italian for breakaway.
Fuga Bidone: Italian for a particular kind of successful break. A Fuga Bidone generally escapes early in a stage and is initially innocent-look but because of inaction on the part of the peloton a large time gap occurs that becomes dangerous to the main General Classification contenders. Often hidden in a Fuga Bidone is a quality rider who, as a result of the succesful break, has risen high enough in the standings to contend for the overall victory. Stage 11 of the 2010 Giro d'Italia which finished in l'Aquila was a classic Fuga-Bidone. 54 men escaped at kilometer 20 and by the end of the stage were over 12 minutes ahead of the main field. In that break was journeyman Spanish rider David Arroyo who then took the lead when the race hit the Dolomites and put up a tremendous, but ultimately unsuccessful fight for the Pink Jersey for the rest of the race.
Fugue: French for breakaway
GC: General Classification
General Classification: The ranking of the accumulated time or placings, whichever basis the race uses to determine its winner. The Tour (since 1913) and the Giro use time. Lance Armstrong was the winner in the General Classification for all Tours between 1999 and 2005. See Stage Race.
Giro d'Italia: A 3-week stage race, like the Tour de France. It is held in Italy, traditionally in May. It was first run in 1909.
Giudice di Gara: Italian for commissaire
Glass cranking: A rider who is trying to look like he is working very hard but is in fact taking it easy is said to be glass cranking. Often a rider in a break who wants to save his energy for later attacks will try to glass crank to keep from angering his fellow breakaway riders.
Glow time: The time right after a racer takes a drug when its concentration in his body is high enough to trigger a postive test.
GPM: Italian, for Gran Premio della Montagna. This is the Italian equivalent of the King of the Mountains.
Gran Premio della Montagna: Italian, see GPM.
Le Grand Boucle: Literally the big loop, meaning the Tour de France
Grand Tour: There are three Grand Tours, all lasting 3 weeks: the Tour de France, the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a España.
Green Jersey: In the Tour, awarded to the leader of the Points Competiti on (except 1968 when the Points Jersey was red). In the Giro, the leading climber wears a green jersey.
Gregario: Italian, see Domestique.
Gregario di lusso: A domestique of such high quality that he could might be the captain of his own team. When Herman Van Springel, who nearly won the 1968 Tour de France, raced for Eddy Merckx, he was surely a gregario di lusso.
Giornata no: Italian. A day in which a racer has no strength or energy. French is un jour sans (a day without).
Grimpeur: French for a rider who climbs well. Italian is Scalatore.
Gruppetto: Italian, see Autobus
Gruppo: Italian, literally, "group". In road racing it is the peloton. When they are all together without any active breakaways, it is "gruppo compatto". When referring to the bicycle "gruppo" means the core set of components made by a single manufacturer, such as a Campagnolo Gruppo.
HD: 1. The intials of Henri Desgrange, the father of the Tour de France. For years the Yellow Jersey had a stylized "HD" to commemorate Desgrange's memory. Sadly, to make room for commercial sponsors Desgrange's intitals were removed from the Yellow Jersey. They were replaced in 2003 to celebrate the Tour's Centennary 2. Hors délais or finishing outside the time limit. See time limit.
Hilltop finish: When a race ends at the top of a mountain, the rider with the greater climbing skills has the advantage. It used to be that the finish line was far from the last climb, allowing the bigger, more powerful riders to use their weight and strength to close the gap to the climbers on the descents and flats. The Tour introduced hilltop finishes in 1952 and did it with a vengeance ending stages at the top of L'Alpe d'Huez, Sestrieres and Puy de Dôme. In order to reduce Anquetil's advantage in the time trials and flatter stages the 1963 Tour moved the finish lines closer to the last climbs of the day, further helping the purer climbers.
Hook: To extend an elbow or thigh in the way of another rider, usually during a sprint, to impede his progress while he is attempting to pass. Often it is said that a rider "threw a hook". Means the same thing.
Hors-délais: French. See time limit
Hot Spot: See intermediate sprint
Individuel: French. Independent rider in the Tour. See Touriste-Routier
Intermediate sprint: To keep the race active there may be points along the race course where the riders will sprint for time bonuses or other prizes (premiums, or "preems"). Sometimes called "Hot Spots".
Isolés: A class of independent rider in the Tour. See Touriste-Routier
ITT: Individual time trial
Jour sans: French. See giornata no.
Jump: A rider with the ability to quickly accelerate his bike is said to have a good "jump".
Kermesse: A lap road race much like a criterium but the course is longer, as long as 10 kilometers.
King of the Mountains: Winner of the Grand Prix de la Montagne. In 1933 the Tour de France started awarding points for the first riders over certain hard climbs, the winner of the competition being the King of the Mountains. In 1975 the Tour started awarding the distinctive polka-dot jersey or maillot a pois to the leader of the classification. The first rider to wear the dots was the Dutch racer Joop Zoetemelk. The classification has lost some of its magic in recent years because of the tactics riders use to win it. Today a rider wishing to win the KOM intentionally loses a large amount of time in the General Classification. Then when the high mountains are climbed the aspiring King can take off on long breakaways to be first over the mountains without triggering a panicked chase by the Tour GC contenders.
KOM: King of the Mountains
Lanterne Rouge: French for the last man in the General Classification. Some years riders will actually compete to be the Lanterne Rouge because of the fame it brings and therefore better appearance fees at races.
Laughing Group: See Autobus
Loi Chapatte: See Chapatte's Law.
Maglia Rosa: Italian, see Pink Jersey.
Maillot a Pois: French for Polka Dot jersey awarded to the King of the Mountains. More correctly, Maillot blanc a pois rouges
Maillot Blanc: White Jersey. Currently worn by the best rider under 25. In the 1970's white was worn by the Combine leader.
Maillot Jaune: See Yellow Jersey.
Maillot Vert: French for Green Jersey. In the Tour de France it is worn by the leader of the points competition.
Massaggiatore: Italian for Soigneur
Massed Start Road Race: All the riders start at the same time. This is different from a time trial where the riders are set off individually at specific time intervals.
Mechanical: A problem with the function of a racer's bicycle, usually not a flat tire. Because rules have sometimes been in place that prevent rider's changing bikes unless a mechanical problem is present mechanics have manufactured mechanicals. In the 1963 Tour de France Anquetil's manager Géminiani cut one of Anquetil's gear cables so that he could give him a lighter bike to ascend the Forclaz.
Minute Man: In a time trial the rider who starts a minute ahead. It's always a goal in a time trial to try to catch one's minute-man.
Musette: A cloth bag containing food and drinks handed up to the rider in the feed zone. It has a long strap so the rider can slip his arm through it easily on the fly, then put the strap over his shoulder to carry it while he transfers the food to his jersey pockets.
M.T.: French for même temps or same time; Spanish for mismo tiempo. See "@"
National Team: From 1930 to 1961, and 1967 and 1968 the Tour was organized under a National Team format. The riders rode for their country or region. See Trade Teams.
Natural or nature break: Because races can take over 7 hours the riders must occasionally dismount to urinate. If the riders are flagrant and take no care to be discreet while they answer the call of nature they can be penalized. Charly Gaul lost the 1957 Giro when he was attacked while taking such a break so he later learned to urinate on the fly.
Off the back: To be dropped.
Paceline: Riders riding nose to tail saving energy by riding in each others slipstream. Usually the front rider does the hard work for a short while, breaking the wind for the others, and then peels off to go to the back so that another rider can take a short stint at the front. The faster the riders go the greater the energy saving gained by riding in the slipstream of the rider in front. When the action is hot and the group wants to move fast the front man will take a short, high-speed "pull" at the front before dropping off. At lower speeds the time at the front is usually longer. See echelon
Palmarès: French for an athlete's list of accomplishments.
Paniagua: Bread and water. To race paniagua means racing without performance-enhancing drugs.
Parcours: The race course.
Partenza: Italian for race start.
Passista: Italian for Rouleur
Passista-Scalatore: A Rouleur who can climb well, an all-rounder. Generally this is the type of rider who can win a stage race because he can do well on the flats and time trials and not lose time (or even gain time) in the mountains. Examples: Fausto Coppi, Bernard Hinault, Lance Armstrong, Eddy Merckx, Giovanni Battaglin
Passo: Italian for mountain pass. Plural is Passi.
Pavé: French for a cobblestone road. Riding the pavé requires skill and power. Some riders such as the legendary Roger de Vlaeminck can seem to almost glide over the stones knowing exactly what line to take to avoid trouble. De Vlaeminck, who won the ParisRoubaix 4 times, rarely flatted in this race famous for its terrible cobbles because of his extraordinary ability to pick his way over the tough course while riding at high speed. Flemish riders call the cobblestones "children's heads" (kinderkopje).
Peloton: The main group of riders traveling together in a race. Breaks leave the front of it, dropped riders exit its rear. Synonyms: bunch, group, field, pack.
Piano: Italian for soft. It can mean slow or easy when riding. The Giro often has "piano" stages where the riders intentionally take it easy until the final kilometers leading up to the sprint.
Piazza: Italian. See Podium.
Pink Jersey: Worn by the rider who is currently leading in the General Classification in the Giro d'Italia. It was chosen because the sponsoring newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport is printed on pink paper.
Plotone: Italian for peloton.
Podium: The top three places, first, second and third. Many racers know that they cannot win a race and thus their ambition is limited to getting on the podium. In major races such as the Tour and the Giro, attaining the podium is such a high accomplishment that it almost makes a racer's career. Italian is piazza
Poinçonnées: Riders in early Tours who had their bikes hallmarked or stamped so that the officials could know that the competitors started and finished with the same bike.
Point Chaud: French for Hot Spot, a now disused term for intermediate sprint.
Points: The usual meaning is the accumulation of placings in each stage. Today the Tour gives more points to the flatter stages so the the winner of the points competition is a more likely to be sprinter. See General Classification. In the Tour the Points leader wears a green jersey, in the Giro he dons a purple jersey.
Polka-Dot Jersey: Awarded to the King of the Mountains
Prologue: French. An introductory stage in a stage race that is usually a short individual time trial, normally under 10 kilometers. The Tour has also used a team time trial format in the Prologue.
Pull: A stint at the front of a paceline.
Queen Stage: The hardest, most demanding stage of a stage race and is always in the high mountains. Italian is Il Tappone.
Purple Jersey: In the Giro a purple, or more specificlly cyclamen, jersey is awarded to the leader of the points competition.
Rainbow Jersey: The reigning world champion in a particular cycling event gets to wear a white jersey with rainbow stripes. The championships for most important events are held in the Fall. A former World Champion gets to wear a jersey with rainbow trim on his sleeves and collar. If a World Champion becomes the leader of the Tour, Giro or Vuelta he will trade his Rainbow Jersey for the Leader's Jersey. In the 1975 Tour after Thevenet defeated Merckx on the climb to Pra Loup, Merckx gave up his Yellow Jersey to Thevenet and wore his Rainbow Jersey the rest of the Tour.
Relegate: Italian and English (pronounced differently, of course) for a judge's decision to assign a lower place to a rider after a rule infraction. Sprinters who fail to hold their line in the final meters and endanger the other racers are generally given the last place of their group.
Revitaillement: French for taking on food and drink, usually in the feed zone. Contrôl de revitaillement is French for the Feed Zone.
Rifornimento: Italian for taking on food and drink. Zona Rifornimento is Italian for the Feed Zone.
Ritiro: Italian for Abandon
Road furniture: Concrete medians and barriers put in roads to slow traffic. The roads of northern Europe, in particular, are filled with road furniture and it can make bicycle racing there dangerous.
Rouleur: French for a rider who can turn a big gear with ease over flat roads. Rouleurs are usually bigger riders who suffer in the mountains.
Routier: French for road racer.
Same time: See "@"
Scalatore: Italian for one who climbs well.
Scattista: Italian for a climber who can explode in the mountains with a devastating acceleration. The most famous and extraordinary of these pure climbers were Charly Gaul and Marco Pantani.
Soigneur: Today a job with many duties involving the care of the riders: massage, preparing food, handing up musettes in the feed zone and sadly, doping. Usually when a doping scandal erupts the soigneurs are deeply involved.
Sortie d'hôtel: French, an attack from the race's start.
Souvenir Henri Desgrange: A prize to the first rider of the highest summit of the Tour. In 2005 the Tour awarded Alexandre Vinokourov a 5,000 Euro purse when he was first over that year's highest point, the 2,645-meter high Galibier. In 1974 it was also the Galibier and the prize of 2,000 Francs was won by Spanish climbing ace Vicente Lopez-Carril.
Sprint: At the end of a race the speeds get ever higher until in the last couple of hundred meters the fastest riders jump out from the peloton in an all-out scramble for the finish line. Teams with very fine sprinting specialists will employ a "lead-out train". With about 5 kilometers to go these teams will try to take control of the race by going to the front and stepping up the speed of the race in order to discourage last-minute flyers. Sometimes 2 or 3 competing teams will set up parallel pace lines. Usually the team's train will be a pace line organized in ascending speed of the riders. As the team's riders take a pull and peel off the next remaining rider will be a quicker rider who can keep increasing the speed. Usually the last man before the team's designated sprinter is a fine sprinter who will end up with a good placing by virtue of being at the front of the race in the final meters and having a good turn of speed himself.
Squadra: Italian for team
Squalificato: Italian for disqualification. When Marco Pantani was found to have a high hematocrit near the end of the 1999 Giro he was tossed from the race. He suffered a "squalificato."
S.T.: Same time. See "@"
Stage race: A cycling competition involving 2 or more separate races involving the same riders with the results added up to determine the winner. Today the victor is usually determined by adding up the accumulated time each rider took to complete each race, called a "stage". The one with the lowest aggregate time is the winner. Alternatively the winner can be selected by adding up the rider's placings, giving 1 point for first, 2 points for second, etc. The rider with the lowest total is the winner. The Tour de France used a points system between 1905 and 1912 because the judging was simpler and cheating could be reduced. Because points systems tend to cause dull racing during most of the stage with a furious sprint at the end they are rarely used in determining the overall winner. Because points systems favor sprinters most important stage races have a points competition along with the elapsed time category. In the Tour de France the leader in time wears the Yellow Jersey and the Points leader wears green. In the Giro the time leader wears pink and the man ahead in points wear purple or more accurately "cyclamen". The race's ranking of its leaders for the overall prize is called the General Classification, or GC. It is possible, though rare, for a rider to win the overall race without ever winning an individual stage.
Stayer: A rouleur
Switchback: In order to reduce the gradient of a mountain ascent the road engineer has the road go back and forth across the hill. The Stelvio climb is famous for its 48 switchbacks as is L'Alpe d'Huez for its 21. In Italian the term is Tornante.
Tappa: Italian for stage
Il Tappone: Italian for the Queen stage of stage race. It is the hardest, most demanding stage and is always in the high mountains
Team time trial: See time trial. Instead of an individual rider, whole teams set off along a specific distance at intervals. It is a spectacular event because the teams go all out on the most advanced aerodynamic equipment and clothing available. To maximize the slipstream advantage the riders ride nose to tail as close to each other as possible. Sometimes a smaller front wheel is used on the bikes to get the riders a few valuable centimeters closer together. With the riders so close together, going so fast and at their physical limits, crashes are common. Some teams targeting an overall win practice this event with rigor and the result is a beautifully precise fast-moving team that operates almost as if they were 1 rider. Sometimes a team with a very powerful leader who is overly ambitious will shatter his team by making his turns at the front too fast for the others. Skilled experienced leaders take longer rather than faster pulls so that their teammates can rest.
Technical: Usually refers to a difficult mountain descent or time trial course on winding city streets, meaning that the road will challenge the rider's bike handling skills.
Tempo: Usually means riding at a fast but not all-out pace. Teams defending a leader in a stage race will often go to the front of the peloton and ride tempo for days on end in order to discourage breakaways. It is very tiring work and usually leaves the domestiques of a winning team exhausted at the end of a Grand Tour.
Tifosi: Italian sports fans, sometimes fanatical in their devotion to an athlete or team. The term is said to be derived from the delirium of Typhus patients.
Time Bonus: see Bonification
Time Limit: To encourage vigorous riding the Tour imposes a cutoff time limit. If a racer does not finish a stage by that time limit, he is eliminated from the race. This prevents a racer's resting by riding leisurely one day and winning the next. The time limit is a percentage of the stage winner's time. Because it is the intention of the Tour to be fair, the rules are complex. On flat stages where the riders have less trouble staying with the peloton and the time gaps are smaller, the percentage added to the winners' time is smaller. On a flat stage it can be as little as 5% of the winner's time if the speed is less than 34 kilometers an hour. In the mountain stages it can be as high as 17% of the winner's time. The faster the race is run, the higher the percentage of the winner's time allowed the slower riders. The Tour has 6 sets of percentage time limits, each a sliding scale according to the type of stage (flat, rolling, mountain, time trial, etc.) and the stage's speed. If 20 percent of the peloton fails to finish within the time limit the rule can be suspended. Also riders who have unusual trouble can appeal to the commissaires for clemency. More than once Paul Sherwen, now a television racing commentator, was given special dispensation for riding courageously when he had suffered misfortune but bravely continued and yet finished outside the time limit.
Time trial: A race in which either an individual or team rides over a specific distance against the clock. It is intended to be an unpaced ride in which either the individual or team is not allowed to draft a competitor. The riders are started at specific intervals, usually 2 minutes. In the Tour the riders are started in reverse order of their standing in the General Classification, the leader going last. Usually the last 20 riders are set off at 3-minute intervals. If a rider catches a racer who started ahead of him the rules say that he must not get into his slipstream but must instead pass well to the slower rider's side. This is one of the more often ignored rules in cycling. The Tour's first time trial was in 1934.
Tornante: Italian for switchbacks.
Touriste-Routier: A class of riders in early Tours who did not ride on a team and were entirely responsible for their own lodging, food and equipment. Various classes of independent or "individuel" and "isolé" riders persisted through 1937. As with all aspects of the Tour, the rules and designations regarding the riders constantly changed. Generally the best riders rode on teams. The best independent performance was Mario Vicini's second place in the 1937 Tour.
Track: See Velodrome
Trade team: A team sponsored by a commercial entity. Until the mid-1950s, cycle team sponsorship was limited to companies within the bicycle industry. That changed in 1954 when Fiorenzo Magni's bicycle manufacturer fell into financial difficulty. Magni was able to supplement the shortfall by getting the Nivea cosmetic company to sponsor his team. The move was initially resisted but it is now the standard. Bicycle companies do not have the monetary resources to finance big-time racing teams. Because the Tour organization suspected collusion between the various trade teams the Tour banished them from 1930 to 1961, and 1967 and 1968. During those years the teams were organized under a national and regional team format. Riders rode for their country, such as France or Italy, or if need be to fill out the race's roster, regions such as Ile de France.
TTT: Team time trial
Transfer: Usually a Tour stage will end in a city one afternoon and start the next morning from the same city. When a stage ends in one city and the next stage starts in another, the riders must be transferred by bus, plane or train to the next day's starting city. This schedule is normally done so that both the finish and start city can pay the Tour organization for the privilege of hosting the Tour. The racers loathe transfers because this delays their massages, eating and resting.
UCI: The governing world body of cycling, the Union Cycliste Internationale.
Ultimo Kilometro: Italian for the final kilometer, the same as Flamme Rouge in French.
Velodrome: An oval bicycle racing track with banked curves. They can be sited either indoors or outdoors. Olympic tracks are usually 333 1/3 meters around but indoor ones are smaller and have correspondingly steeper banking. Some road races like Paris-Roubaix have the riders ride onto the velodrome and finish after a couple of laps on the track. In the past the Tour would regularly do this, often with the rider's time being clocked as he entered the velodrome. With a 200-man field in modern Tours this is impractical. The disappearance of velodromes is also a major factor in this trend.
Ventaglio: Italian, literally a fan but in cycling slang it means echelon.
Vertrek: Flemish for start
Virtual Yellow Jersey: Not the leader of the Tour in fact. When a rider has a large enough lead on the Tour leader, so that if the race were to be ended at that very moment he would assume the leadership, he then is called the Virtual Yellow Jersey.
Virtuel Maillot Jaune: French for Virtual Yellow Jersey
Voiture Balai: French. See Broom Wagon.
Washboard: A rough riding surface with small bumps or irregularities. Like the pavé, riding on washboard requires a lot of power and puts the smaller riders with less absolute power at their disposal at a disadvantage.
White Jersey: See Maillot Blanc
Yellow Jersey: Worn by the rider who is leading in the General Classification in the Tour de France. Traditional history says that Eugène Christophe was awarded the first Yellow Jersey on the rest day between stages 10 and 11 during the 1919. It is further believed that Yellow was chosen because the pages of the sponsoring newspaper L'Auto was printed on yellow paper. Both may not be true. Philippe Thys says that he was given a Yellow Jersey by Tour founder Desgrange during the 1913 Tour. And Yellow may have been chosen because jerseys of that color were unpopular and therefore cheap and easy to get.