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Learn the Lingo Part II: The Language of the Tour de France

By Sarah Bonner

Tour-de-France-2013The Tour de France has a language all its own. With three weeks-worth of French terms and racing lingo, it’s easy to get lost in translation. To keep up with the race as well as the commentators, here are a few terms to get you in on the action.

Parcours: Directly translates from French as “course” and refers to the race route.

General Classification: The General Classification, or GC, refers to the overall leaders’ competition for the yellow jersey, which is determined by whoever completes the race in the least amount of accumulated time.

Maillot Jaune: The French term you will most often hear that translates as yellow jersey, the jersey worn by the leader of the general classification.

KOM: Stands for King of the Mountains, or the leader in the climbing classification. The KOM wears the polka-dot jersey in the peloton and wins points by being one of the first riders over specific climbs.

Hors Category, Category 1-4: Classification system to rate the difficulty of climbs based on length and gradient. Hors Category, or “HC,” is the most difficult followed by Category 1–4, 4 being the easiest.

Grupetto/ Autobus: Refers to the last group on the road made up of riders who have been dropped,and ride together in order to make the time cut-off.

Arrière du peloton: The back end of the peloton.

Tête de la course: The first rider or riders on the road.

Prime/Hot Spot: A sprint point along the course where sprinting points are available. Sprinting points are also earned at the finish. The rider with the most sprint points overall wears the green jersey.

2013 Tour-De-FranceSoigneur: A team helper who is responsible for rider care. Their duties include massage, handing out musettes, equipment transfer and set up between stages.

Musette: A small cloth bag full of food that riders grab from soigneurs while on the move from designated feeding points on route.

Biddon: French for water bottle.

Poursuivant: French for pursuer and refers to a rider or group of riders chasing the leaders of the race.

Domestique: Riders who provide services, such as fetching bottles and warm clothing for their team leaders. Domestiques also protect their leaders in the peloton by drafting (keeping them out of the wind), which helps the leader preserve his energy for days of gruelling mountain climbs and time trials.

Lead out: A line of riders protecting the team sprinter before a sprint, typically seen at the end of the stage. Riders in the lead-out “train” put in a maximum effort to keep the peloton speed high and position the team sprinter with a clear passage to the finish to contest the sprint.

Sarah Bonner


Sarah Bonner the author of a new e-article, The Clean Girl’s Guide to Cycling: How to Clean Everything from Bar Tape to Sports Bras, has lived and cycled in Canada, Africa, and Europe. Currently, she splits her time between the Netherlands and South Africa where she trains and competes at an amateur level. With a Masters in English and a Diploma in Sports Management, Sarah combines her love of writing and passion cycling to share honest advice and inspiring stories. Follow her at sarahkimbonner.wordpress.com

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