A-Z of Cycling Terms

autobus – a group of riders at the back, who ride together to complete a mountain stage
arrivée – finish line/end of the stage
attack – to sprint away from the main field, in a bid to reach the finish line first
– water-bottle
breakaway – a rider or small group of riders, who have raced ahead of the peloton and have a created a time gap, in a bid to get to the finish line ahead of the main field.
bonk – a term to describe running out of energy and being unable to continue at the pace of the peloton
bunch sprint – a large group of riders sprinting for the finish line
chapeau – a term of respect: ‘Chapeau, sir!’, as in ‘I doff my hat!’
contre la montre – against the clock (literally, ‘against the watch’); a time-trial race
col – a mountain pass
commissaire – a cycling-race judge
counter-attack – to sprint away from the peloton as the main breakaway group is loses their advantage
côte – a small hill
chute – a crash
départ fictif – the symbolic start of the race/stage
départ réel – the point when racing begins after the neutralised section
Directeur sportif – team manager
dossard – race number pinned to the jersey
dropped – a rider who is unable to ride with their group or peloton
échappé – breakaway
echelon – the shape of a peloton trying to achieve maximum draft in a crosswind; this results in the group riding in a diagonal line across the road
escapees – see breakaway
espoir – a young rider aged 19–23
étape – stage
étape Reine – Queen stage, the crucial mountain stage in the race
false flat – a low-gradient climb that occurs part of the way up a steeper climb; a false flat may look easy, but it still requires riders to put in a lot of effort to maintain their speed
flamme rouge – a red triangle that hangs above the course signalling 1 km (1093 yds) to the finish
full gas – to ride as hard as you can
GC / General Classification – the ranking of riders in the race based on their overall time they have taken to complete each stage
hors catégorie (HC) – a very difficult climb that is long, steep and tougher than most others (literally, ‘beyond categorization’); most climbs in cycling are designated from Category 1 (hardest) to Category 4 (easiest), based on steepness, length and how far into the stage they are encountered
hors délai (HD) – a rider who has finished out of time and has been eliminated from the race
tête de la course – lead group or riders in the race, also known as ‘groupe de tête’
time-trial – a race against the clock. Riders will set their time individually and are ‘set off’ at specific times, and are not allowed to draft other riders. The fastest time from A to B is the winner. Time trials usually take place over a distance of 10 miles, 25 miles or 50 miles.
palmarès – a list of a rider’s wins and other achievements
parcours – the course or route of the stage/race
peloton – a large group of riders, containing most of the race
pack – see peloton
poursuivant – literally ‘pursuing’; it refers to a rider, or group of riders, who are ahead of the peloton but riding behind the stage leaders. This usually occurs when a small number of riders attempt to attack the peloton and catch up to the break
puncheur – a rider capable of frequent attacks especially on short, sharp climbs
Prix Henri Desgrange – prize awarded to the first rider to the top of the highest mountain pass in the Tour de France
Prologue – an individual time trial of less than 8 km (almost 5miles); it is used to determine which rider wears the leader’s jersey on the first stage of the Tour de France
service course – a team’s headquarters or base
queen stage – the hardest stage of the race, often characterised by a major climb or summit finish.
soigneur – a team helper who assists with massage, carrying riders’ bags and food preparation
two-up sprint – a sprint for the line contested by only two riders
voiture balai – literally ‘broom wagon’; the last vehicle in the race, it sweeps up dropped riders and is also known as the SAG wagon (‘support and gear’ or ‘support and grub’)
voiture neutre – neutral service vehicle, if the team car is unable to reach the rider because it cannot pass the peloton the neutral service will supply a spare wheel or bike until the team is able to assist
watts –measurement of cyclists power. Power is the rate at which energy is used (energy over time) and is measured in watts. The higher the watts the fastest or further a cyclist has travelled.