Friday Feature: A to Z of the Tour de France

A = Alpe d’Huez. The legendary Alpine climb with its 21 hairpin turns will be climbed twice in one day for the first time in Tour history this year. (It has appeared twice in the same Tour once before, in 1979.) It last appeared in 2011, when Europcar’s Pierre Rolland won the stage.

B = Breakfast with Bernie. A popular series of short films made by Velonews during the 2011 and 2012 Tours, where Bernie Eisel gave his thoughts on each stage of the race. Unfortunately, as he was not selected for the Sky Tour team this year, these will not continue this year. Women everywhere are gutted.

C = Casartelli. Italian gold medallist Fabio Casartelli was a member of the Motorola Team who died tragically on the descent of the Col de Portet d’Aspet during the 15th stage of the 1995 Tour. He died from head trauma sustained in the crash. The peloton will ride past his memorial on stage nine this year.


Fabio Casartelli, 1970-1995

D = Didi the Devil. Dieter ‘Didi’ Senft runs alongside the roads of the Tour dressed in a Devil costume and wielding a trident. He also builds custom bikes! Learn more about him on his website. Also for Danny van Poppel. At 19 years and 338 days, he is the youngest Tour starter since before WWII. Danny’s older brother – the fantastically named Boy – is also on the Vacansoleil team.

E = Eight seconds. The slimmest margin of victory in the Tour de France. Greg Lemond made up 58 seconds on race leader Laurent Fignon to win the 1989 Tour in a final time trial on the Champs-Elysees. Also for Eternal Second, the name given to Raymond Poulidor, who never seemed to get that one step higher on the podium. His rivalry with Jacques Anquetil is the stuff of legend – Anquetil may have been the champion, but Poulidor was the rider the public loved.

F = Flying Haribo. The Tour’s caravan has sausage cars, dancing Yetis, water cannon and flying Haribo. What’s not to love?


One pass of the caravan and you’ll believe this candy can fly

G = Galibier. One of the iconic climbs of the Tour, this was the setting for Andy Schleck‘s epic solo win on stage 18 of the 2011 Tour. It was the 100th anniversary of the Tour’s first use of the Galibier and it was also the highest summit finish in Tour history at 2,645 metres.

H = Hors categorie. The classification awarded to the toughest climbs, in terms of height and steepness, in the Tour. The term translates as ‘beyond classification’ and was first used in 1979 to add another classification to the already existing Cat 1 to 4 (one being the hardest).

I = I am the motor. After Fabian Cancellara‘s prologue win in the 2010 Tour, race officials scanned his bike to make sure there wasn’t an engine secreted in the top tube. “I said to them, ‘You’d better scan me, because I am the motor.’”

J = Jaja. No, not for that reason. Laurent Jalabert was taken out of 1994 Tour when a policeman stepped into the road to take a photo just as the bunch were going hell for leather in a bunch sprint. Wilfried Nelissen ran right into him, causing a big crash that took down JaJa, who needed jaw and facial surgery.

K = King of the Mountains. The polka dot jersey is awarded to the rider who has accumulated the most KOM points on climbs in the Tour. Last year’s winner was a tenacious Thomas Voeckler.

L = Lanterne rouge. The cyclist who finishes in last place. The title has earned a certain cachet through the years. Also for le lion en peluche, the cuddly toy awarded after every stage to the wearer of the maillot jaune.


A little lion looking for a hug

M = Merckx. Belgium’s Eddy Merckx jointly holds the record of five Tour victories, but has won more individual stages (34) than any other rider. (The most successful active rider is Mark Cavendish, who ranks fourth with 23.) Merckx is also one of three riders to have won eight stages in a single Tour – and the only one to have achieved the feat twice (1970, 1974). Also for maillot jaune, the yellow jersey awarded to the rider who has finished the Tour in the shortest amount of time. The jersey is ‘worn’ every day by the current leader in the GC but is only ‘won’ at the end of the Tour.

N = Night-time finale. The celebrations for the 100th edition of the Tour de France will culminate in the last stage being raced at night, with the Champs-Elysees circuit extended to go around the Arc de Triomphe, followed by fireworks! The atmosphere should be electric!

O = O’Grady vs McEwen. The two Aussie sprinters had an irregular sprint in 2005, with some serious tussling behind Tom Boonen in stage three. McEwen was later relegated to the back of the peloton, putting paid to his green jersey hopes that year.


Robbie just trying to get close to Stuey. Tom stays focussed up ahead.

P = Points jersey. The green jersey awarded to the rider who has accumulated the most points in the race. The highest points are given to the winner of a sprint finish, which is why it is often referred to as the sprinters’ jersey.

Q = Quixotic. The dictionary defines this word as ‘caught up in the romance of noble deeds and the pursuit of unreachable goals; idealistic without regard to practicality. If that doesn’t describe most of the breakaways in the Tour, I don’t know what does, and the most quixotic of all riders has to be Jens Voigt.

R = Robinson. Brian Robinson was the first Brit to win a Tour stage – stage seven in the 1958 Tour. He also won stage 20 in the 1959 Tour.

S = Stitches. Johnny Hoogerland required 33 stitches to the deep cuts in his legs after being hit by a car and flung into a barbed wire fence in stage nine of the 2011 Tour. He finished the stage and received his KOM jersey and Most Combative Rider award in tears.

T = Tourminator. That would be Peter Sagan, of course. In his Tour debut last year, he won three stages, did a few wheelies and won the green jersey. He’s back this year …

Panache poptastic Peter Sagan

“I’ll be back!”

U = Unattractive men in their pants. The unfortunate manifestation of enthusiasm by men, usually youngish, seemingly drunkish, who take it upon themselves to strip down and run alongside riders when said riders are trying to climb a steep mountain.


Dear God, make it stop

V = Ventoux. This lone mountain in Provence, with its sun-blasted, lunar-like landscape, is one of the iconic climbs of the Tour. It is on this mountain that Tom Simpson collapsed and died in the 1967 Tour.

W = WAG war. Last year’s war of words on Twitter between Michelle Cound (Chris Froome‘s now-fiancee) and Cath Wiggins (Bradley Wiggins’ wife).

WAG war

X = X-rays. Invariably at some point in the Tour, a rider will post up a picture of his broken collarbone, as seen on a light box by his doctor.


Okay, this is Cancellara’s x-ray from Flanders but you didn’t really think we were going to get through this column without a pic of Fabs, now did you?

Y = Young rider classificationThe white jersey is awarded to the rider under 26 years of age with the lowest aggregate time over all 21 stages. Only four riders have won both the young rider classification and general classification in the same year. They are Laurent Fignon, Jan Ullrich, Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck. 

Z = Joop Zoetemelk. The Dutch rider started the Tour 16 times between 1970 and 1986 (missing only the 1974 edition) and finished every one, including winning overall in 1980. Stuart O’Grady will join George Hincapie tomorrow by recording his 17th start, but no one has completed as many as the durable Zoetemelk.

One thought on “Friday Feature: A to Z of the Tour de France

  1. Just had tears in my eyes watching that clip. And I will never forget how humble he was in an interview later when he said that “…. nobody had died”. He had the whole “incident” in perspective and puts many other a sportsman to shame. Glad to see he’s riding again this year

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