Can someone explain theTour de France?

or refer me to a website that does?

Big question: Yesterday Lance Armstrong came in 11 minutes behind the leader but he, and everyone else, is more confident than ever that he will win. But his lead is less than 3 minutes.

How can they be so confident that he won’t lose to Basso or Ulrich by 11 minutes before it’s over?

You’re asking why an athlete is optimistic about his chances to win? I’m confused. I think you should clarify.

First, I think that was today’s stage.

Here’s the answer. Armstrong and his team will not let a break get away that has someone who is within striking distance in it. If Basso was with the group that got away, Discovery would have been chasing hard to catch him. With no one like Basso or Ulrich in the break, they can afford to let it get away. No one in the break was a threat to the top CG standings.

DagOtto has it right.

The basic point is that if you have a 3-minute or better lead over your top ten rivals and the ability (and teammates) to ensure that none of them can get more than a few seconds in front of you, you’re likely to win.

And when someone who is 40 minutes behind your cumulative time breaks away to a sizeable lead, what’s the point in chasing him - instead, concentrate on staying close to the serious rivals.

The number of people with the real ability to contend for the overall lead is very small, especially now since the sprinters have fallen behind so far in the mountain stages (many of them openly didn’t care and only rode hard enough not to get disqualified).

As of today, the overal standings at the top are:

1 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel
2 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC 2.46
3 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank 3.46
4 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team 5.58
5 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d’Epargne 7.08
6 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner 8.12
7 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 9.49
8 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team 10.11
9 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems 10.42

These are the people to watch. Everyone in the race knows who these people are, and if any of them go for a breakaway, Discovery will make sure to either pull the peleton (big group) up to the leaders, or jump a couple people and pull just Lance to the leaders. That last bit wouldn’t probably be possible, as there would be a cascade effect of 4-5 other teams trying to pull their stars to the leaders, which would be so many people going that the peleton would just draft behind the huge group going, and you’re back to the whole peleton pumping hard all together, again.

The reason the other stars probably won’t even really try much is that Lance is known as not only a very good climber, but probably the best time trial rider. On the relatively flat stages, getting away from him and his very respectable team is almost impossible.

Well, are all the other major bike races this dull - as far as the GC award’s concerned? If not what can the Tour de France do to make it more exciting?

I have great admiration for these athletes, and particularly for Lance.

But it seems to me this is the dullest of all the TdF’s that our man from Texas has competed in. Is it that he’s just too damned good or what?

Yeah, pretty much.

I have seen some of the times for individual stages in the paper, and it is confusing. It might say “Rider A, 3 hours, 42 minutes, 23 seconds” and then it essentially says “Riders B thru Z, same time”.

This is one weird scoring system. If they give everybody the same time, how does anybody ever get ahead or fall behind?

From my understanding, if you’re in a big group of riders, they give everyone the same time as the lead rider. If you’re off by yourself, you get your own time.

Why, I don’t know, since it seems with electronic timekeeping it wouldn’t be impossible to stick an RFID chip on the front axle of everyone’s bike or something, but I’m guessing it’s something like a “this is how we’ve always done it” thing.

I did hear some good logic from Paul and Phil on OLN. If you split hairs on the times in the big groups, you get people jockeying for any tiny space they can find. This ends up causing massive pileups and even injuries.

If you can be confident of getting the same time, you won’t be knocking people down to get to the front.

Also, the position in the large group is almost luck or something. It’s just as hard to draft 3 people at the back at the same pace as it is to draft 3 people at the front. As long as you don’t get dropped, it’s about the same thing.

What Cardinal said. At this time of year, there are lots of questions on the TdF and many of them revolve around the same thing: a lack of understanding that road cycle racing strategy turns on the one big constant: air resistance and the effect drafting has upon it.

Everyone in a given bunch is in a single alliance of convenience between rivals against air resistance, so everyone gets the same time.

Thanks for the info. I think I’m starting to get it.

So if I’m hearing you correctly it sounds like the Discovery riders know who is in the breakaway pack, or more importantly, they know who isn’t - specifically the guys who are within 10 minutes of Armstrong. And as long as the guys who are a threat aren’t in front they can let someone else beat them by 11 minutes. This leads to a couple of other questions.

How do they know where the challengers are? Do they have some form of communication system, which includes those guys in the cars that pass them water?

What would be the disadvantage of trying to stay closer to the breakaway group, maybe even pass them?

They do have a communication system, yes, they have radios. However, that’s not really the answer to your question. The answer is much lower tech. The leading teams are generally to be found towards the front of the peloton. They just watch one another.

What for? There’s no real advantage to chasing down some back markers. All it’s going to do is tire you. It’s a long race.

The OP raises a good point when it comes to the final few days. Outside of LeMond’s amazing final-day time trial finish many years ago, the last 3 or 5 stages seem to lack drama (or is that only in the last 7 years :slight_smile: ).

It seems it’s the mountain stages that are the most strategic, most interesting.

So why not finish the race in the mountains, or have the second-to-last stage or so there?

Is it simply geography, and having to end in Paris?

I understand that it is ‘conventional’ for the last stage (into Paris) to be a procession for the leaders. They accept the cheers of the crowd, but no serious racing takes place.

I much prefer your idea - finish the race either in mountains or with a time trial. Either way we get a proper race.
There could be a ‘ride past’ (in finishing order) afterwards if the riders want to be cheered.

This sort of problem is down to combining teams and individuals in a single race.

Glee snippet:

I understand that it is ‘conventional’ for the last stage (into Paris) to be a procession for the leaders. They accept the cheers of the crowd, but no serious racing takes place. \snippet

Merely accept the cheers? Many of them, Lance included, will drink a wee bit of champagne to toast one another, etc. That’s how leisurely it is - until the last frantic dash, of course.

But I wouldn’t change it. The French know how to celebrate.

When the Chunnel was completed , they brought out champagne, hors d’oeurves, and so on, all elegantly served to the French work force. The Brits supplied bottled water to their troups.


I don’t think the last few days lack drama at all. There is so much more to the TdF than just yellow. Each stage has the potential for superb spectacle and racing with heroic breakaways and mad, bad sprints. Even the last stage in Paris is keenly contested by the sprinters. Who can forget Abdoujaparov’s spectacular crash, right on the finish line in 1991!.

How the Tour calculates the team competition.

The award is based on the cumulative times of a team’s top three riders on a stage. Day-by-day, it can be different riders, but they take each team’s top three each day, add up their times and that is calculated throughout the Tour that way.

What is the neutral zone?

Most grand tour stages begin with a stretch of anywhere between one and ten kilometers in which riders are not allowed to attack. It is not counted as part of the race. They generally start the neutral zone in small towns and it’s generally a question of safety, starting the race outside of town.

Question about designations of climbs. Calling a climb a Category 1 or 2 is a somewhat subjective process, but there are some consistent rules.

CAT. 4 Usually less than 3km in length, an easy pitch that amounts to no more than a sustained rise in the road.
CAT. 3 Slightly harder, up to 5km in length.
CAT. 2 Between 5km and 10km, and steeper than a 4-percent grade.
CAT. 1 Long and steep. Between 10km and 20km, and steeper than a 5-percent grade.
HORS CATÉGORIE (HC) or Above Category -The longest, steepest mountain climbs. Extremely difficult, sometimes 15km to 20km, with grades often exceeding 10 percent.

What I’m confused about is how Lance can be leading and can have the shortest elapsed time when he hasn’t won a single stage. Is there a time trial at the beginning of the race that he won? Can anyone shed light on this?