Explain the Tour de France to me

I know nothing of it. I know Lance Armstrong has won it a bunch. That’s it.

IT apparently is NOT a flat out race from point A to point B. There are also teams? Me no gets it…

It is basically “a flat out race from point A to point B,” but it’s done in many separate stages. The overall winner may not necessarily be the winner of all or most of the stages, because the overall winner is decided by the lowest cumulative time over all the stages.

What the smug cat said.

On the team thing: Much of a bicycle racer’s energy goes into stirring air. By riding in a tight formation (pack) the team can cut thier total wind resistance. They can take turns riding in front (most work) and riding farther back in the pack (less work). They can also break the wind for thier star performer (who typically skips his turns in front) so he is fresher and can more effectivly sprint for the finish. They can also, to some limited degree try to block a challenger.

Air resistance is less of a factor in the mountains. Uphill speeds are slow, so there is little wind resistance. The hill is so steep going down, that speed is limited by having to make the turns, not air resistance. In the mountain stages, teamwork therefore plays a lesser role, and individual strength and endurance has more to do with what wins those stages.
Teamwork still matters to a degree though.

Google is your friend.

I’m not sure that someone breaking “the wind” in front of a rider is neccessarily the best thing for him.

Hey- thanks for that!. But it is really for those who know about the TDF and are interested in this race in particular.

But thanks to all of you who have responded to my OP. You have shed a bit o’ light for me.

Whats the deal with pints vs. overall time?
And there is some sor t of time bonus for placing well?
I do understand groups get the same time - how grouped do they have to be?

What’s the purse? What sort of cash do the riders win and for doing what? Has anybody ever won it without a team? How does a team block an opposing team’s rider? Just physically get in their way, or do some fancy reverse wind break scheme? (like ride slower if an opponent starts to draft)

First off you might want to cruise over here to check out the SDMB thread on the tour, it has several links that may help explain the tour.
The TDF is actually several races all in one. The tour runs from July 2-24 and goes around France (clockwise in odd years, counter-clockwise in even years).
There is a separate race each day called a stage, the first guy across the finish line is the stage winner. Each rider gets a time in relation to the stage winner; if a bunch of riders cross the line in a group (peleton) they all get the same time.
The lowest cumulative time for all the stages in called the General Classification or GC. This is the race for the yellow jersey, and what Lance Armstrong has won for the last 6 years. Each day after the first, the race leader (GC) wears a yellow jersey. Whoever has the lowest elapsed time when they arrive in Paris on the 24th will be the yellow jersey winner for the tour.
In each stage there are sprints on the flats with points awarded to the riders that cross 1st through 20th in each sprint section. The rider with the most sprint points wears a green jersey.
On the climbs there is a similar competition for King of the mountains. Point are awarded based on the difficulty of the climb, and the position of the rider as he crossed the line at the top of the hill.
There is a similar competition for the best young rider (under 25) for the white jersey.
The GC (yellow jersey) is what everyone talks about, but the other races can be just a intense or more so.
As has been mentioned, the team will try and get their GC rider to the front. Even in the mountain stages, the team is important. When the race gets to the Alps watch the Discovery boys to lead the race, and one by one the riders will crack, sit up and fall back. At the end of this line will be Lance Armstrong, and Jan Ulrich plus one or two other GC contenders. When the last Domestiques (supporting riders) cracks the race is on between the GC contenders. Mano y mano up some very steep hills.
To complicate matters, there is a time limit for each stage based on the stage winner’s time. If you are having a bad day, and arrive at the finish past the cut off time, you are out of the tour.
If you start watching the TDF, you may get hooked like I am. Compared to the TDF all other sporting activities are for sissies. Picture running a marathon every day for 3 weeks. :smiley: These guys are tough.

To answer the questions that sprung up when I previewed
Points are for sprints, and King of the mountain. Stage, GC and white jersey are based on lowest elapsed time. As far as the purse goes, it can run some pretty big bucks. The overall purse for the 2004 race was 3 million dollars with 400,000 going to the yellow jersey winner. The yellow jersey winner will share this purse with his team. IIRC last year, Lance gave the entire $400,00 to his team. The team doesn’t block the other rider, they just ride so fast that the other guy can’t attack and break away. The yellow jersey holder may let a non GC contender make a break, but if one of the serious contenders for the GC attacks and tries to make a break look for Lance to be right on his wheel. Try this scenario on for size. Discovery is leading the peleton, Jan Ulrich decides to make a break, the entire Discovery team will be right on his wheel. This means that Jan is breaking the wind, and all the D boys have an easy ride. If Jan does not have several team mates around to help him it is unlikely that his break will survive. This is one of the things that makes Rasmussen’s break so very incredible, he was all by himself for over 150 Km. The team riders will also surround the GC contender to try and keep him out of trouble such as crashes.

While riders used to drink a lot during the race, they now rarely do. Or did you mean points? :slight_smile:

There are several titles to be had in the TDF: sprint champ, king of the hills, to name two. There are complex point systems to determine who wins each of them, based on criteria that changes through the years. They have some impact on overall standings but not that much.

I saw something in the recent time trial stage that indicated there was a bonus of several seconds for 1st, 2nd, or 3rd. But I don’t think there are any for the regular stages.

I don’t know the specifics but most days the peloton can be the majority of the riders, with a few breakaways up front and some stragglers in back.

Points arwarded for order of finish. For the first 25 riders in flat stages, first 20 in medium mountain stages, first 10 in high mountain stages. Winner of the points race gets the green jersey at the end. Generally means he’s been the most consistent rider overall in finishing close to the front of the pack – or even winning some stages for they are mostly sprinters. To win the jersey they have to finish the Tour.

However, this often means very little in terms of the overall standing since the largest time gaps are made in the mountains – where most of the front finishers in flat stages disappear/lose tons of time. Ultimatedly, there’s really only one jersey that counts: the yellow jersey, given to the overall winner on time. IOW, the cyclist who completed The Tour in the shortest amount of time.

Two other jerseys are also in dipute; the polka-dot jersey, which identifies the king of the mountains (cyclist with most points going up same; sometimes can be won by the overall winner; not often) and the best young rider (white jersey – under 25 yo).

Yeah, bonuses for first three finishers of 20"12" and 8" respectively – in addition to, you also get minor bonuses for midstage sprints.

Really up to the discretion of the stewart (race official), but it’s fairly easy to spot the packs visually.

PS-BTW, rules do tend to change somewhat year to year.

This year’s rules here (pdf)

There are also sprint sectins in the middle of some stages, called intermediate sprints. There was one in stage 8 IIRC

What’s the difference between a time trial and a regular stage? What’s an intermediate sprint? Do the riders all start at the same time? What percentage of riders finish / don’t finish?

Yes, of course, Though I may not have been clear I mentioned as much before:

*Bonuses: time and points.

From the link provided:

Gets yet a bit more complicated here. There are usually three time trials per Tour. Two of those are individual, one a Team Trial. In the first, it’s each man against the clock – the first opening stage TT a starting formula is agreed upon by organizers and team managers…with the strongest cyclist normally starting late. Second one, reverse orser of standings is used. Team Trials are another kettle of fish and there is a time bonus for the winning team. To simplify, teams need to finish at least five strong, with the last man crossing the line setting the offcial time. Helps the deep teams; time bonuses not as big this years as years past for this event.

1-One taken pretty much mid race. Just a bit of a mid-satage incentive, rarely leads to major break-aways.

2Other than the referenced TT’s, yes they do.

2-Roughly, anywhere from as little as 50-55% in extraordinarily tough years to 80-5% in others not as taxing Any number of factors can contribute to this wide range: course, weather, mass falls, etc.

These were a fairly recent contrivence, designed to allow the Yellow Jersey to swap shoulders more often in the early stages. This only applies to the first week before the serious contenders come to the fore*.

*Armstrong was not supposed to build quite such a gap on his rivals on the prolog.

This thread in Cafe Soc. should really help you out

In American media, it is frequently stated that Lance Armstrong has been winning the mountain stages handily in all of his TDF victories. Has he, in fact, not been winning the “king of he mountains” jerseys?

The race, should you care, is over 100 years old and was originally started as an advertising method for a new craze that was sweeping the world, bicycles.

The riders had to carry all their own gear with them. Cheating was rampant with riders taking trains or getting pulled the back of a motorcycle.

The KotM competition is based not on who wins the big mountain stages, but on points gained on every categorised climb on the whole tour. Even on the stages he has won, Armstrong may not have gained the most KotM points that day because there will have been several notable climbs that day, and he will not be interested in racing to the top of every one.