This page provides helpful information for following road cycle races. Here is adescription of major tactics, discussed, and illustrated as needed. There are also definitions of the more obscure terms used by the riders and race commentators.
The first two sections
mostly refer to the Tour de France, though other extended
road races have similar prizes, while much of the glossary
contents is, in general terms, universal. Often there
is just a change in detail, such as a jersey colour.
There are three major tours, which vie for publicity,
star entrants and money. These events also jockey for
position in the annual calendar. Currently, in order through
the season, comes the Giro
d’Italia in May, the supremely dominant French
Tour de France in July, and the Vuelta
a España in September.
Much to the annoyance of the Italians, top riders will
use the Giro as a training run for the Tour de France.
They will drop out of the Giro, rather than disturb their
training schedule, as they aim to reach peak fitness to
coincide exactly with the TDF. Previously, the Vuelta
was early in the season and suffered the same annoyances.
Nowadays, the Vuelta being at the end of the season,
the stars will treat the Vuelta as winding down and demand
high appearance fees. But the Vuelta now tends to be dominated
by Spanish riders, often famed for their climbing
Another irritation is the sprint specialist who will
go for stage wins early in a Tour, and drop out as soon
as they hit the mountains - Mario Cipollini was famous
for this. Cipollini was a wild man and one of the greatest sprinters of all time. He was
constantly being fined for breaches of Tour rules such
as riding in fancy clothes, such as a lion suit (he being
known as the Lion King), or other imaginative cycling
[Note that this example gives prizes for the Tour de
The winner of a day’s stage wins 8,000 euro
The yellow jersey winner
- fastest time overall in the general time classification:
The green jersey winner
- winning the most points. Points are given to winners
of intermediate and final sprint on each stage: 25,000
The spotted jersey winner
- best mountain climber, winning mountain points when
going over summits and intermediate difficulties: 25,000
The white jersey winner
- best under 25 y.o. in the general time classification:
Combativity prize - chosen by a specialist cycling
jury: 20,000 euro
Best team by time - lowest time after adding together
the times of the three best members of each team at
each stage: 50,000 euro.]
For the mountain stages,
if the last climb is classed as 2nd or 1st difficulty,
or out of classification [hors catégorie]
the points for that last ascent are doubled.
For every stage except the individual against-the-clocks,
the three first riders of the intermediary sprints gain
6,4 and 2 seconds respectively, while the first three
arrivals for each stage gain 20,12 and 8 seconds respectively.
[There are three intermediate sprints on flat stages,
2 sprints on other stages.]
Jerseys of the Tour de France, and other Grand Tours the yellow
jersey [le maillot jaune]
worn by the overall leader. The colour yellow was chosen because the sports newspaper, L'Auto (forerunner of L'Equipe) that first sponsored the Tour de France was printed on yellow paper.
jersey [le maillot blanc à pois rouges]
worn by the climber ahead on points ( there are sprints
during the day to reach the top of rises and the first
three get the points)
jersey [le maillot vert]
similar to the spotty jersey, but for sprints
jersey [le maillot blanc]
the under-25 y.o. currently leading. This is no teenager’s
game. It takes a long time to build up the strength
and stamina to become a top rider.
Roman Kreuziger, 2009 Tour de
France winner of best young rider (maillot blanc) holding
his Skoda yeti peluche.
Notice that the bouquet is composed of white flowers,
this is also done with the other coloured jerseys.
the pink jersey [il maglia rosa]
The race leader’s pink jersey in the Giro d’Italia. [So named because La Gazzetta, the Italian sports paper that runs the Giro, is printed on pink paper.]
The colour of leader’s jersey for the Spanish Vuelta has varied, and is currently red.
lanterne rouge [Tour de France]
the competitor who actually finished the Tour last;
named after the red lamp at the back of a train (no
lantern for dropping out).
maglia nera [black jersey]
In the late 1940s, in the Italian Giro, Italy's grand tour, a prize was instigated for coming last, equivalent to the red lantern in the Tour de France. This is not so easy as might be imagined. There was a time limit after which riders are eliminated from the race, a time which was related to the time of the stage leader. (A similar rule still applies today.)
There was prize money for the maglia nera and Italy was exceedingly poor, so this prize became of serious interest. The prize had been started to stop fans from pushing off as soon as the leaders had finished.
There were no radio communications, so riders had to rely on fans and supporters to make the timing right. The main challengers would hide by the roadside in order to fool rivals into thinking they were still ahead. The winner/loser would wear a black jersey.
The black jersey had recently associated with the Fascists. There was much interest in who was black jersey, as well as the maglia rosa. Eventually, the organisers got fed up with waiting for hours for the last cyclist, and interest waned as the war and poverty gradually receded when the '40s gave way to the '50s.
[Summarised from Pedalare!
the sweep car (or sweeper van)
right at the back of each stage, you will see an anonymous
car of shame that picks up the fallen soldiers who could
ride no more
[le balai = the broom]
These originate from the Union de Cyxlisme International (International Cycling Union, UCI), with a new set produced for every race. However, they are usually pretty similar, particualarly the second section, the "technical sports regulation handbook". This part gives information, with diagrams on how car and motor bike drivers, reporters, photographers and other support technicians must proceed at the start of, during and at the end of each stage. In this linked Race regulations from the 2016 Vuelta d'Espagna, the technical section starts from page 53. Full race rules for the 2016 Vuelta, in 22-page pdf form. Fascinating reading.
[from the French: un/une domestique - a servant]
These are ordinary team members supporting their star
rider. Their job is to put him into the best position
to win, and to protect him from being worn down. (The
teams also vie for a category win).
The peloton is regularly moving at about 30 mph/48 kmph,
which sets up considerable wind resistance, even on
a still day. It is the job of the domestiques to lead
out and protect their leader.
In among the peleton, various teams are jockeying to
make opposing teams do the hard work up front. Nor do
you want your leader right in the middle of the peloton,
risking domino crashes. So you keep him up near the
front, surrounded by his guards.
And pace your leader until you run out of energy, in
order that he can use his greater strength to finish
ahead. You will often see this on flatter stages, where
the specialist riders (sprinters) are being led out until the last
hundred metres or so.
You don’t want your leader burning energy and
going back to the supply cars, or dealing with the feeding
stations with the attendant possibility of accidents
in the melée.
If your leader has already built up an individual lead
in the Tour, then why go to the front? Let the others
do the work. On the other hand, your leader has a chance
of taking some of the stuffing out of the recent leaders,
and maybe you can break away and carry him over the
line, so altering the situation. Naturally, domestiques are not also-rans, but are vital to the success of the
leader and the team so, of course, they share in the
prize money. If your leader is fortunate enough to win
an extra [Crédit Lyonnais] lion or two, he may give you one as a valued
Not all cyclists have the same skill set, but no real
contender can be a slouch in any department.
You just about cannot win the Grand Tour unless you are
a top climber or time trialist, and damn good at both.
Among the ever-present discussions, more like arguments,
about whether this year’s Tour, or last year’s,
or next year’s, is ‘fair’.
be claims that the hills are too steep and too many of
them, in order to attract and favour a great climber,
or perhaps the great home climbers among the Basques.
Or the reverse: the climbs are too easy but the time trials
are so highly represented that the climbers cannot win.
Be aware that modern Tours, despite thousands of kilometres,
are usually won or lost by a very few minutes.
Remember, in the Grand Tours, the cyclists ride in teams
of about ten riders.
sprinters [Fr.: sprinteur]
Sprinters will tend to win flat stages with a final
burst of incredible speed on the final two or three
hundred metres, in the midst of bumping and barging
in a dangerous melee. These are often big riders with
Much of this is about style and technique. It is essentially
flat out riding for an hour, or fifty plus kilometres
with highest of high-tech equipment and clothing. It
costs millions to put a major cycling team on the road.
Team trial space
There are two categories of time trial : team trials, as illustrated here, and individual time trials.
climbers [Fr.: grimpeur]
These are often light and all muscle and with tremendous,
everlasting stamina, to drive their weight up the mountain
sides. They gradually wear down the big boys to a state
You may also see the following terms:
rouleur - a fellow with stamina who can keep going all day polyvalent - all-rounder puncheur - strong man able to turn up the amps leader - top star around whom the teams are built directeur sportif - team manager
Sports training is becoming ever more complicated and
Sports cycling training includes mileage, intervals,
nutrition and post-ride recovery. Fatigue is also a significant
factor in race cycling, and may be one of four types:
The bonk, hitting the wall, resulting
from muscle glycogen depletion. Developing one or two
hours into a ride, i t is more likely to occur if glucose
supplements are not taken during the ride to reinforce
internal glycogen stores.
Post-ride fatigue, the tiredness after several hours
of vigorous riding. A sign of approaching training limits,
it can lead to better performance on the next outing.
Over-reaching is tiredness after a week of hard training.
Recovery may lead to increased speed and strength.
Overtraining - this is not good, and can take weeks,
or even months of recovery.
Training often includes participating in lesser competitions
in preparation for a more important one. Thus, riders
will cycle in the Italian Giro (and/or the Spanish Vuelta
when it used to be scheduled earlier in the year) to prepare
for the premium race of the Tour
de France. This has caused annoyance to the organisers
of the Giro and the Vuelta,
when big names participate for enough days to tune their
bodies, then drop out so as not to overtrain before the
Tour de France.
You will see this behaviour during the big, flat stages
with side winds blowing across the plains. It also occurs
when the peloton is riding along the seaside. Of course,
the number of steps in an echelon is limited by the width
of the road.
This can result in breaking up a peloton. If you cannot get on the first echelon, you are stuck with having to form or join a second or third one. With a group of strong riders in the first echelon, peloton break-ups are quite likely.
Rotating: the cyclists peel
off the front and drift to the back of the peloton, giving
the next in line a turn at withstanding the brunt of the
Shielding yourself behind another rider can save up to
20 to 30% of energy on the flat. This varies by cycling
speed, wind speed and wind direction. Obviously, this
does not apply to a following wind, and is much reduced
in uphill sections.
being in the front
Do you want to be right at the front of the peleton, or the race?
If you are not, and someone crashes in front of you, you risk going down like nine-pins, or should that be 20-30 pins?
Tour de France 2015, stage 3 mass crash. Source: NBCSN [continuously repeating clip]
And, as part of the team, you may be guarding your leader, almost as a discardable shield, to be sacrificed so he can reach the final sprint and the stage finish in safety, having conserved sufficient energy.
But being near the front, but not the actual front runner, can enable a rider to keep out of trouble, from being jostled in the peleton, or clipping a wheel (as in the video above). Thus, the better riders will position themselves near the front of the race, or the peleton, with team mates to protect them from the oncoming wind and from being blocked by members of other teams.
(This section applies mainly to non-mountain stages.)
There is always a lot of camaraderie on the road with
this roughest and hardest of all sports.
It’s very difficult for individual riders, or even
half a dozen, to break away from the main peloton, for
the main peloton can move considerably faster, with its wind-breaking advantages as the
leaders change and change about.
So why do you so often see breakaways?
Well, what’s wrong with a bit of ambition? More
seriously, it means your sponsors will have a lot of camera
time, which is, after all, for what they are paying. It
is also a good way of upping your personal visibility
Who will be involved in breakaways?
It won’t be the top stars. After all, this is a
risky gambit. Furthermore, all the top riders watch each
other like hawks, and there is no way that they are going
to allow a serious rival to gain several minutes on the
road. This is so much the case that riders trying to establish a breakaway and finding a serious contender amongst their numbers will tell him to get lost and go back to the main peleton. Why? Because they know full well that the big guns will chase him down, whereas without him, the big guns are much less likely to make the effort.
Remember there are team prizes, and a top team will not
want to let a seriously competing team escape without
inserting one of their own riders in the breakaway. They
may even try to sneak in a second rider. If a strong team
has managed to get one of its riders away, thereafter
it will steadfastly refuse to work at the head of the
peloton and chase down the breakaway.
There will be other riders going for more minor prizes, such as those for sprint or hill climbing, who will jump out of the peleton to make a dash for a sprint point or a hill crest to grab extra points. Again, they will not be chased down with so much determination as long as they are not treatening the serious contenders.
Who else will break away?
It’s the fellow who isn’t very high up in
the rankings but it’s his birthday, or the race
is about to go through, or finish at, his home town; and
then there’s always a bit of extra prize money.
But do you really want to win a stage? After all, it can make you a target for rival teams. Thus a hot favourite may well prefer to hang back a little for the first few days of a Grand Tour race.
How to break away
Sometimes the peleton becomes stretched out at the front end, with one or several riders cycling faster, the riders becoming strung out in a line. But it is as if they are attached by an invisible elastic line to the main grouping of the peleton. The front cyclists move ahead, and then are 'pulled' back towards the main pack. In due course, the elastic can be stretched so much, the riders are so far ahead, that the elastic breaks and they have become a breakaway.
cycling slang/dictionary - a glossary
[French, un bidon, for a container for liquid - a can, tin, flask for water, milk, petrol.] [See sticky bottle]
The highly decorated plastic water bottles used by cycle race riders. The empty bidons are discarded by being thrown to the side of the road, where they are eagerly picked up as souvenirs by spectators or fans.
Domestiques returning to their team car at the back of the peloton will load up with eight or more bidons shoved down and up their maillots. They may use a bidon gilet [waistcoat] instead, that has rows of pockets on the back into which to easily slot and remove bidons. However, the gilets do hold less than the traditional method. The bidons are distributed amongst team members when the domestique returns towards the top of the peloton.
A bibon contains about 50 cl (½ litre). On a long, hot stage of about five hours, a rider can consume 20 bidons, or ten litres!
big or small ring :
The front cogs on the pedal shaft.
New, asymmetric or elliptical front rings are coming into practice as an alternative to the traditional, circular variety. Asymmetric/elliptical rings are intended to minimise the 'dead spot' as a pedal rises, a rider's thrust on the pedals being strongest when the foot is pressing down. There are dubious claims made that these asymmetric/elliptical rings can increase energy transmission. While it is likely that they may reduce fatigue by smoother transmission, increasing energy is another matter. you may find all manner of technical sites discussing these topics.
Electronic gear changing is also spreading for its greater speed and efficiency.
Hitting the wall, resulting from muscle glycogen depletion.
Developing one or two hours into a ride, it is more
likely to occur if glucose supplements are not taken
during the ride to reinforce internal glycogen stores.
Some times called the 'hunger knock'.
When a rider jumps his bike as he is going forward, in order to surmount a small obstacle in the road such as a ledge or a kerb.
capitaine de route :
Typically an an older, wiser rider within the team who acts as manager on the road, ensuring all his team's riders are working for their stated goal that day, and setting an example to the younger ones. They will be there in the finishing kilometres of the race.
category climbs :
It is unreliably said that, originally, the difficulty of a climb up a slope/hill/mountain was determined by which gear was needed when driving a 35 h.p. car (possibly a 2 CV) up that slope. If it could be driven up the slope in 4th gear, the climb was fourth category; if the car could only go up in 3rd gear, it was a 3rd category climb; second gear made a climb 2nd category, while only being able to climb in 1st gear was categrised as a first category climb. Hors catégorie was used for slopes unaccessible by the car (hors means outside in French).
Even today the categorisation of climbs is pretty subjective, as much an art as a science. Gradient still has some bearing on the classification, while if a climb is near near the stage's end, the climb's category may be increased to add more excitement.
As a very general rule, climbs are classified as follows:
4th category / catégorie 4 : the lowest category - typically less than 2 km long with about 5% gradient, or up to 5 km at a 2-3% gradient,
the climb rising 100 to 200 m
3rd category / catégorie 3 : a climb as short as 1.6 km with a very steep gradient, perhaps 10%, or as long as 10 km with a gradient less than 5%, giving an overall rise of 300 to 500 m
2nd category / catégorie 2: a climb as short as 5 km at 8%, or as long as 15 km at 4%, overall rising from 400 to 1100 m
1st category / catégorie 1: originally the highest category, a hard climb that ranges from 8 km at 8% to 20 km at 5%, rising overall from 1000 to 1500 m
hors catégorie [HC] : the hardest climbs, which could be a 1st category climb where the stage finish is at its summit, or a climb more than 10 km long with an average gradient of at least 7.5%, or up to 25 km
miles long at 6% or steeper. The climb rises at least 1500 m.
A mountain pass (from the French)
départ fictif :
Before the actual start of the day's race, the riders can ride without racing to the actual starting point. This ride is called a processional start.
The first stage of the 2014 TDF had a départ fictif in York, with a processional start until the real start, officiated by younger members of the Royal family at Harewood House.
A sudden acceleration to put pressure on rivals, often
directeur sportif (DS) :
French for sporting director. A sporting director manages a sports team, while being
the link between the management structure (president, vice-presidents, treasurers), coaches, and practitioners, as well as the race organisers and sponsors.
The cycling regulations of the International Cycling Union (UCI) provides that "each team, with the exception of regional teams and club teams must designate a single official appointed sporting director." This designation is a prerequisite to a team registered with the UCI and its participation in competitions on the international calendar.
The sporting director is "responsible for the organization of sport riders as well as social and human conditions in which they practice the sport in the team," and establishes the "division of labor" within the management team.
French daily sports paper, with four plus pages containing more statistics and comment on the Tours than you could possibly take in, costing a little over a euro.
From the French for ‘stage’: race stage
flamme rouge :
The flamme rouge is the red pennant at the centre of the archway (l'arche) marking the start of the final kilometre of a stage. (It is also known as the red kite.) In Italy; it is known as l'ultimo chilometro. The flamme rouge has probably been included in the TDF since early days, the 1906 Tour being quoted.
The flamme rouge suspended from inflatable arch
In modern, fairly flat stages,
because of the melée with its common crashes, the three-kilometre mark is also used as a marker. After the 3 km marker, if there is a crash, any part of a group that is held up by the crash is allocated the same time as the part of the group that was not held up. This rule does not apply for high climb finishes.
gear, bigger or smaller :
A bigger gear is obtained by either or both a larger
front cog (ring), or a smaller back cog (sprocket).
grand départ :
French for the Big Start - the celebratory start as the circus gets under way on the eve of the first day and the first day itself of the race. This is a big deal for the town and the country concerned, who do as much as they can to encourage enthusiasm, spectators, associated visitors and tourism, as well as revenue.
[Italian] a small group of riders.
When one rider helps another rider to speed up by holding hands, pulling the helped rider forward.
This is against cycling race rules. It used to be common, even a pushing a leader up a hill. However, such assistance is increasingly frowned upon. A minor infraction may draw a small fine, bigger ones like Nibali hanging onto a car for 150 metres can get the rider disqualified (Nibali: 2015 Vuelta d'España).
This manoeuvre was developed, at the end of the 19th century in the United States, as part of the 6-day races called Madisons. Thus, in France, a handsling is often called an American.
hot dog turn :
Australian term for a U-turn, or a very tight turn.
lead out :
The chap or chaps pacing a team leader, especially on a sprint,
protecting his fastest sprinter to the last possible
line out :
Extended line as the pace is increased.
long cage and Deraillier :
Alternative mechanisms for switching cogs - this is
technical, look it up on a specialist page.
magic spanner and the sticky bottle [Fr.: la bouteille collante] :
A cyclist gets a puncture, or falls in a peloton crash.
Well, of course, he needs a bit of medical attention,
and surely his brakes will need a bit of adjustment.
So, his arm receives careful attention while
the rider holds onto the car.
Or, the mechanic has to lean out of the car, holding onto the bike, while he
uses his magic spanner to do some adjustments. This is very helpful in giving the cyclist a bit of assistance
to regain his place.
Another useful device is the sticky bottle.
The guy in the car handing it over finds it a bit difficult to let go. If necessary, the commisionnaire's car will toot to remind those concerned not to linger.
French for a jersey; the close-fitting jerseys worn by cyclists. The overall leader and leaders of other classifications wear specific colour maillots, while team members wear maillots that, essentially, advertise the team’s sponsors.
Sports clothing is now a vast and technically sophisticated business, far too complex to go into here.
Bag for on-the-race food and drink. Held out by team assistant and grabbed by the riders as they go past. The emptied bag is discarded to become a spectator trophy. (From the French for a small basket often used for hunting .)
not much left in the tank :
Running out of energy.
on the rivet :
Flat out. When cycling flat out, if sitting, a cyclist may sit right forward on the edge of the saddle. In the old days of leather saddles, the leather was held in place by rivets at the front (and the back) of the saddle.
Personal list of racing sucesses,
such as stage wins, 1st on La Vuelta, 1988.
is the day’s route
pedalling squares :
The sensation a rider feels when he is so tired that he loses pedalling rhythm, he can no longer pedal smoothly and each downstroke jerks. This can also occur when cycling on too small a gear - for instance, when going downhill.
Literally, plush, as in a textile having a similar touch to down or fur, such as used for the ‘fur’ of soft toys. In French, a soft toy such as a teddy bear, or a yeti, is known generally as une peluche. (A teddy bear is un ours en peluche.)
The main, often compact, group of riders, sometimes written as ‘peloton’ in English. Derived from pelote - a small, compact ball of silk, wool or rubber, also an army platoon. (The Basque game of pelote uses a small rubber ball.) Also related to the English word ‘pellet’.
processional start :
Riding without racing from the nominal stage start, the départ fictif, to the
definitive start of the day's race.
Grazes resulting from sliding along the road surface during a fall.
rooster plume :
Heavy spray of rainwater kicked up by the bikes rear wheel in very wet conditions. Not much fun to ride behind.
service course :
is the team bus base.
in Spanish :
• domestiques are called gregarios.
• The hardest day’s cycling is called la
etapa reina - the queen stage.
• An uphill time trial is el chrono-escalada.
• cola de peleton - tail of the peleton.
• Bonk in Spanish is pájara.
There is also a Vuelta climb known as Pajares between León and Ovedo.
• a chuparruedas is a wheel
• Especial (ES) is the Spanish equivalent of a Hors Categorie (HC) climb.
• Perseguidor is the follower for a pursuer, or chaser.
For example, the people who hand out the musettes of food and drink (from the French for carer). Soigneurs also look after the riders at the team buses and during their stays in hotels.
Italian word, describing a group of fans or supporters.
From 2015, each rider has a GPS transponder allocated to them, attached behind the saddle. These 'fox tails' are used by every rider, during every stage of the Tour. Data recorded is streamed live to the organisers and TV companies, and is used to determine, amongst other stats,
the stage winner’s top speed, average speed, and time per kilometre
the fastest riders up key climbs
the speed of the winner at the finish line
the top speed achieved by a rider on the day
average speed across all riders.
If a rider changes bike during a stage, the team must notify the organisers because
the transponder probably will not be transferred to a replacement as that would take too much time.
Previously, a boxed magnetic timing chip (placed exactly 1.2m behind the lead edge of the front tyre) enabled the verification and scoring of each rider's arrival at a stage's finish. However, the box could cause problems when changing a rear wheel.
wheel sucker :
Rider who rides in other riders’ slipstream,
making little effort themselves.
The following is an exceeding boring book, almost like
reading a telephone directory. It has notes on all previous
runnings of the Vuelta. However, in among the addresses
and telephone numbers you will discover all manner of
hints on cycling road race tactics, with interposed examples of
dubious practice and cheating. You will also find snippets
on the disturbed political background of Spain, from right
back to the Civil War and the Franco regime, and going
up until modern times, against which times the Vuelta
has been held, or not held.
Viva La Vuelta!:
The Story of Spain's Great Bike Race by Lucy
Fallon and Adrian Bell (foreword by Sean Kelly)
Pedalare! is very similar to Viva La Vuelta!, but relating to Italian cycling and the Giro. This book is less of a telephone directory. It gives less background on the actual race, but more on the culture of cycling from the days when cycles were an essential part of the slow modernisation of Italy. Pedalare!
Pedalare! is generally rather shallow and a bit romantic. There is a useful section towards the end about doping, which amounts to “It’s always with us, and always has been”.
“But the socialists remained, on the whole, firmly
critical of the sport itself, as opposed to the practice
of cycling. the first 'red' cycling' convention passed
a motion which saw sport as 'a very serious problem
… a powerful way of diverting the attention of
workers, and of young people in general, from an understanding
of social problems and the importance of political and
economic organisation'. In a similar vein, in 1912 another
socialist condemned 'young people' who were 'more interested
in reading La Gazzetta dello Sport as opposed
to Avanti!?' (the socialist daily newspaper)
and 'only concerned with making love or racing their
bikes'. Sport was seen as inspiring 'localistic and
militaristic' attitudes. Cycling was good, the sport
of cycling was bad. Despite these trenchant statements,
the sport soon became immensely popular among peasants
and workers all over Italy. If cycling was Italy's 'opium
of the people', it was indeed a potent drug." [Quoted
from Pedalare! Pedalare!,
Part 1, chapter 1]
La Gazzetta is the sports paper of Italy,
and the founder and still the organiser of the Giro
Pedalare!: A History of Italian Cycling
by John Foot
The Bonk describes the
disastrous moment when suddenly there is nothing left
in the tank. Legs become as jelly, and to reach the
finish line requires enormous will power to keep going
to the end.
The body’s glycogen store produces the energy
needed to perform effectively. During long-endurance
exercise, the body’s store of glycogen is depleted.
When the glycogen is completely depleted, the body has
no more fuel. Instead it burns fat which results in
a rush of exhaustion and the accompanying collapse in
To counter this problem, generally riders will use a
sports drink, together with supplements to replenish
glycogen stores during the ride. The drink has the additional
benefit of hydration. Tour de France participants are
estimated to receive half their daily calorie intake
from on-bike supplements. Obviously, choosing the right
carbohydrate sports drink is vital.
The sports drink choice requires balancing glycogen
replenishment and rehydration, as the two interact.
Greater carbohydrate in the drink detracts from rehydration,
while causing digestion problems. Thus, generally
riders choose an isotonic drink with 6-7 per cent
carbohydrate. This appears to give a good balance
between hydration and glycogen replenishment.