Tour de France: C'est quoi, alors?
(this is taken from Yahoo! Sport UK and Ireland: http://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/22062007/58/tour-de-france-tour-de-france-q-amp.html )
Tour de France – Tour de France: Q&A
Eurosport – Fri, 22 Jun 09:37:00 2007
Tour de France – With the Tour de France starting in London in just two weeks, eurosport.yahoo.com answers some of your questions on cycling's most prestigious event.
How long is the race?
The race is comprised of a short prologue and 20 stages, over 23 days, with just two rest days. By the time the riders reach the finish of the race on the Champs Elysees, they will have covered 3570 kilometres.
Is it the same route every year?
No. In recent years the race has alternated between clockwise and anti-clockwise routes around France. This year, the peloton will tackle the Alps before the Pyrenees. The race has finished on the Champs Elysees every year since 1975, though for the first time this year the race will have stage finishes in Canterbury, Waregem and TIgnes, among other towns.
Where can I watch the Tour de France on TV?
Are the riders in national teams?
No, riders can belong to any team, regardless of which country the team is registered in.
Who won the Tour de France last year?
Floyd Landis is still the official winner, though after the finish of the race it was revealed he tested positive for testosterone on stage 17. Legal proceedings are still taking place over the matter, though it is unlikely to be resolved for some months yet.
Who was the best rider ever?
Lance Armstrong won seven Tours in a row between 1999 and 2005. Miguel Indurain, Eddy Merckx, Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault have five wins apiece.
What is an average rider's height and weight like?
Riders come in all shapes and sizes. Sprinters, such as Tom Boonen, Thor Hushovd and Alessandro Petacchi tend to be bulkier, while mountain specialists like Michael Rasmussen and Leonardo Piepoli are generally very lean and light.
How many calories does a rider burn in a stage?
Anywhere up to 10 000, which is why cyclists frequently take on board energy bars and gels throughout the stage, and consume pasta by the bucket-load in the evenings.
What's a domestique?
A domestique is a rider whose job is to work for his team leader. These riders pick up food and water from their team cars for their leader, protect him from crashes and even give up their bikes for him should he have technical difficulties.
How fast do they ride?
It depends on the stage. Riders can reach up to 100km/h when descending, though the average speed of riding throughout the whole race is a little over 40km/h.
How much do their bikes cost?
A state-of the art carbon road bike will set you back anything up to £4000, and even more in the case of the ultra-aerodynamic time-trial machines. Start saving now.
What are the most exciting stages?
Every stage has its attraction, though some lament the inevitability of sprint finishes during the first week. Stages which shake up the overall standings are ones not to be missed, generally mountain stages and time-trials. Anything with "hors-categorie" – climbs so tough they go beyond the scale are invariably good to watch.
How do riders answer the call of nature?
In professional racing the stakes are high. There's rarely time to stop and find a bush, never mind call in at a roadside café en route. Most of the time riders just, well, sit back and let it flow.
Why do they bother with breakaways when they always fail?
Because sometimes, on the odd occasion, they do actually succeed. Just ask Caisse d'Epargne rider Oscar Pereiro. He lost almost half an hour in the Pyrenees last year, went on a huge breakaway on stage 13, and claimed the yellow jersey. Floyd Landis' Phonak team was content to let him go, confident he would struggle in the Alps. He didn't, and finished second overall. For all those who aren't among the top sprinters and climbers, a breakaway is their only hope of winning a stage in cycling's most prestigious race.
Are teams allowed to enforce F1-style "team orders"?
Most definitely. In fact team-tactics dominate cycling far more so than in F1. While individuals may take all the glory, they would not be able to do so without the support of their team-mates, who will more often than not sacrifice their own interests to work for them. When Jan Ullrich attacked decisively in Andorra on his way to winning Tour de France in 1997, he first cycled back to his Telekom team car to ask for permission to leave Bjarne Riis, his team leader, who was struggling.
Why is the whole peloton given the same time when they don't cross the line simultaneously?
The sheer number of riders means that there is an inevitable time delay between the sprinters crossing the line, and those at the back of the peloton, though they all essentially form part of the same group, who have arrived in together.
Are you allowed to change bikes mid-stage?
Yes, and riders often do. If a rider's chain comes off during a crucial moment in a race and the team car is to hand, they will supply him with another bike instantly.
Do cyclists actually bonk in public?
Every cyclist has bonked on a mountain at some stage in his career. It is the term used when cyclists' energy levels are at rock-bottom, and they slow down dramatically. It happened to Floyd Landis in spectacular fashion on stage 16 last year. Within the space of just a few kilometres on the climb to La Toussuire, he lost over eight minutes on his rivals.
For more information and to check out information on the 2009 Tour de France, start looking at Yahoo's Eurosport pag: France/Monaco 2009 Tour de France