(BLOGGER’S NOTE: this is day 4 of a series of short essays designed for the lay fan to learn more about and perhaps enjoy the Tour de France. I will be posting one of these for every day of the Tour. Today, we explain some of the cycling terms you might not be familiar with.)
PELoTON: The main body of riders. In the early, flat stages like we’re seeing now, the peleton can contain close to 200 riders. During mountain stages, it will be considerably smaller.
GRUPPETTO: A pack of riders lagging behind the peloton. During mountain stages, you’ll find most of your sprinters in the gruppetto, just trying to get over the mountains and survive.
BREAKAWAY: A rider (or group of riders) who rides away from the peloton. Breakaways may try to win intermediate sprints of the stage itself or just get themselves some time in the spotlight. On flat stages, the peloton may let a breakaway go for a while, but will eventually work to “reel them in” (catch up).
OFF-THE-FRONT/OFF-THE-BACK: Terms used when a rider breaks away from the peloton (or the group he’s riding in) or falls behind the peloton (or group he’s riding in.)
ATTACK: When a rider ups the tempo, looking to ride away from the pack.
DROPPED: When a rider cannot keep up the pace and gets left behind.
CRACK: The moment when a rider cannot maintain the pace of his rivals.
BONK: Succumbing to tiredness, usually due to a lack of food or hydration.
HAMMER: A rider lifts the tempo and puts pressure on the people he’s riding with.
CADENCE: The tempo at which a rider is going. (You’ll hear this a lot during time trials.)
DRAFTING: Positioning yourself behind the rider (or riders) in front of you so that you can be pulled along in their slipsteam and expend less energy.
TAKING A PULL: Taking a turn at the front of a group and letting them draft off of you.
WHEEL-SUCKER: Derisive term used for someone who benefits from drafting, but rarely takes a pull of their own.
LEAD OUT: The group and/or individual rider who paces the team’s top sprinter toward the finish line. This allows the sprinter to put maximum effort into the last part of the sprint.
DOMESTIQUE: The members of the team who work in support of the team leader. We covered some of the domestiques’ duties in the first column.
SUPER-DOMESTIQUE: A domestique who establishes himself as a GC contender in his own right.
MUSETTE: A bag of food and drinks that are handed off to the riders as they pass the designated feed zone.
A NATURAL BREAK: Um…well, you don’t expect these guys to go a hundred miles without nature calling, right? So it’s quick pit stop. Thankfully, you usually don’t see it on TV.
KIT: The team jersey and shorts that cyclists wear.
SADDLE: A bike seat. Easy-peasy.
DANCING ON THE PEDALS: When a rider stands up out of the saddle to get some added oomph. Alberto Contador has one of the most distinctive styles of “dancing on the pedals.”
AERODYNAMIC POSITION: Generally used in a time trial, it’s when the rider leans forward on the bike to reduce wind resistance and pick up speed. Time trial bikes are designed specifically to allow riders to easily assume an aerodynamic position. Sometimes on a descent, you’ll see riders crouch into something resembling this position in order to speed up their descent and use less energy.
OVERCOOKED: When a rider goes into a turn too quickly and either crashes or winds up in the ditch, it’s said they’ve “overcooked the turn.”
HITTING THE DECK: A crash that results in the rider winding up on the pavement.
ROAD RASH: The painful scrape that’s seen after someone has hit the deck. Usually visible through a tear in the rider’s kit.
A MECHANICAL: An issue with the bike that causes the rider to stop. Usually results in the rider needing to quickly switch bikes.
Okay, that covers a lot of them. Now you’ll know what those announcers or the internet commentators are talking about, right?
JOE DAVIS is the main character in a series of mystery novels by Randall J. Funk. Mr. Davis and Mr. Funk are delighted by the shocking similarities in their opinions and writing styles.