#bikeschool: Le Tour 101… Deux!

ED – Just as this post was about to go live I received word from the lovely people at ITV who host the Tour here in the UK that the predictions I made on behalf of LovingTheBike.com have just been published. I may be last in the list but it’s a damn fine list to be bottom of! Here’s the link to ‘What the Experts are Saying’!

Oh yes folks…. it’s just 5 days until the 2011 edition of the Tour de France and I for one can’t wait! As some of you may know I’m heading to France at the end of the week to take in the the sights, the smells and the atmosphere of the Tour as well as to get hit with quite a few bottles of Evian and mini PMU lions thrown by the caravan  procession. This is a particularly exciting time for those interested in Pro Cycling, but as we identified a few weeks ago there are people out there who are going to be watching the Tour for the first time. This means their virgin-like goggle balls and confusion filled noggin-box may need some assistance in understanding what is going on in the race which will only increase their enjoyment of it. So I’ve put together an idiot’s guide below to assist in building up those noggin-boxes. (The astute readers out there will have noticed the apostrophe signifies the guide belongs to me, therefor I’m the idiot… ergo… you can’t be angry me with for calling it an idiots guide. WHAMMO! Another English language linguistic masterclass!)

 

The gloves come off in July

The Tour can be very casually described as a mind-meltingly painful 3,550 km (or 2,200 mile) bike ride around France and some neighbouring countries. Approximately 190 riders will set off from Fromentine as the the race heads in a northerly direction towards Brittany before spearing south towards the Pyrennes, that straddle the French-Spainish border and then just when you thought they couldn’t throw any more at the riders, they pop over to the Alps in the east and make them suffer before heading to Paris and the Champs Elysee on the 24th of July. Oh… and they will average a staggering 40km/h (25 mph) over the course, often riding much, much faster than that. Like I said… mind-melting!

As they travel across the beautifully varying terrain of France there are 4 distinct types of stages that you’ll see, each with certain riders specialising in that type of ride, which is why the construction of an well rounded is often essential to winning the Tour.

Prologue – Not classified as a full stage, this is a short (usually 10km or less) individual time trial (see below) used to decide who has the honour of being the race leader the next day. There may sometimes be short individual time trials in the middle of a stage race but these are usually mountain top finishes and it is only the first stage of a Grand Tour* that is classed as a Prologue. (*The 3 Grand Tours are Giro d’Italia, Tour de France & Vuelta a España)

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