Beginner’s Guide to the Tour de France: Basics of Strategy for Cycling’s Greatest Race through Europe
The Tour de France is a cycling road race through France and neighboring countries. It is the premier cycling event in the world and attracts attention even from those who do not follow the sport.
The Tour is a grueling three-week series of rides that ends in Paris. The races include individual time trials, team trials, and races over flat stretches or over large mountains in the Pyrenees and Alps.
At its simplest, the object is to complete each course in the lowest cumulative time, that is, each day’s race is timed and lowest overall time for the three week event is the winner.
Each day is timed, and every the winner of each race is celebrated. The leader of the overall race gets to wear the yellow jersey, distinguishing him from the other 179 racers.
Points are also given for the winners of certain sections of the race. The leading sprinter and climber also wear special color jerseys.
Tour de France Teams
One of the more unique aspects of cycling is that though there is an individual winner, the cyclists are organized into teams, with the goal of assisting one rider to win the day’s race or the overall event.
It would be similar to each member of a basketball team arranging their game to allow one player on their team to win the scoring title.
Every player on the Cleveland Cavaliers would work so that LeBron James scored all his teams points. In 2009 Team Astana attempts to put Lance Armstrong or Alberto Contador to the front.
In cycling, victory is both and individual and team achievement.
Wind Resistance at the Tour
The reason why team racing is necessary is the importance of wind resistance to cycling. The announcers on the Versus network (which carries the Tour in the United States) report that the lead rider has to work 30% harder than a closely following rider due to wind resistance.
Auto racing fans, particularly of NASCAR, know the importance of drafting to reduce resistance. It is even more important for cyclists, who supply their own power over courses that can cover 100 miles or more.
Riders will draft off of their teammates to reduce energy output. Also, riders on different teams will work together to break away from the main pact. Other riders will remain in the pack, which is called the “peloton,” to reduce resistance.
Although each rider is timed, those finishing together in the peloton are given the same finishing time, even though many seconds may elapse from the beginning to end of the pack.
Riders will rotate leading the breakaways or pelotons in order to finish the difficult distances or mountain climbs.
Newcomers marvel at the risk and speeds of young men racing through picturesque towns and majestic mountains. A basic understanding of strategy can add to the enjoyment of watching the Tour.