TIME Cycling

Here’s What You Need to Know About the Tour de France

Team Garmin-Sharp is greeted by supporters as they ride through Millenium Square enroute to the Team Presentation prior to the 2014 Le Tour de France on July 3, 2014 in Leeds, United Kingdom.
Team Garmin-Sharp is greeted by supporters as they ride through Millenium Square enroute to the Team Presentation prior to the 2014 Le Tour de France on July 3, 2014 in Leeds, United Kingdom. Doug Pensinger—Getty Images

Breaking down the spokes and wheels of the world's most prestigious cycling event, which begins Saturday

Here’s all the information you need on cycling’s most prestigious race.

When and where is the Tour de France?

The 2014 Tour de France will kick off in Leeds, England on Saturday, July 5. Three stages will take place in the U.K. over the course of three days before the race continues on the mainland. The race will move to Belgium, Spain and France, making it one of the most geographically diverse races in years. The race lasts a total of 23 days, including two rest days (i.e. 21 days of actual cycling). It will end on July 27 in Paris. The entire race will play live on NBC.

How do the teams work?

The teams have nine members. The team includes a leader, sprinters, climbers and domestiques—members who get water from the team car and protect the leader by chasing down breakaways and riding in front of him to create draft in which the leader can ride. Drafting can save 20% to 40% of the team leader’s energy.

The riders take turns being at the front of the tight formation called a peloton, allowing the other cyclists to benefit from drafting. When the rider at the front—the puller—grows tired, he will drop to the back and someone else will take his place. If a rider from another team “attacks” by breaking away from the peloton to gain distance, its a few team members’ job to quicken the pace of the whole peloton to catch the opponent.

How hard are the various stages?

Traditionally the race is easier at the beginning, which contains a lot of flat stages. These stages are usually won in a sprint where the sprint specialists will compete to close out the race with a last kick, riding about 40 miles per hour. These sprinters compete for both stage wins and sprint points in intermediate springs. The first few riders to cross the “sprint line” are awarded points.

Next, the race moves into the mountains, where the climbers excel. The first riders over the the top of various climbs win climber’s points.

The third part of the race is a time trial where riders sprint for intervals of around two minutes from lowest to highest place and try to finish first, solo, at the finish line.

Who is favored to win?

Chris Froome, a Kenyan-born British cyclist won the Tour de France last year and is expected to do so again this year. Much of Froome’s success can be credited to his Team Sky teammate and number two, Richie Porte.

Froome’s biggest competition this year is Tinkoff-Saxo’s Alberto Contador, a Spanish cyclist. He has won the Tour de France twice (in 2009 and 2007). Contador recently beat Froome in the Critériumdu Dauphiné.

What do the jersey colors mean?

The yellow jersey is awarded to the rider with the fastest overall time (when the stages are added up); the green jersey to the fastest sprinter; the red polka-dotted jersey to the best climber; and the white jersey to the best young rider. Whoever wins the race gets to don the yellow.

Is there a women’s race?

For the first time this year, there is a women’s race called La Course by Le Tour de France. It will coincide with the final stage of the 2014 Tour de France on July 27. The race will be a circuit in Paris.

For the curious, here’s the full schedule of the Tour de France:

Stage Date Start Finish Distance Profile
1 July 5 Leeds Harrogate 190.5 km Flat
2 July 6 York Sheffield 201 km Hill
3 July 7 Cambridge London 155 km Flat
4 July 8 Le Touquet-Paris-Plage Lille 163.5 km Hill
5 July 9 Ypres Arenberg Porte du Hainaut 155.5 km Flat
6 July 10 Arras Reims 194 km Flat
7 July 11 Epernay Nancy 234.5 km Flat
8 July 12 Tomblaine Gerardmer La Mauselaine 161 km Hill
9 July 13 Gerardmer Mulhouse 170 km Hill
10 July 14 Mulhouse Planche des Belles Filles 161.5 km Mountain
/ July 15 Rest Day
11 July 16 Besancon Oyonnax 187.5 km Flat
12 July 17 Bourg-en-Bresse Saint-Etienne 185.5 km Hill
13 July 18 Saint-Etienne Chamrousse 197.5 km Mountain
14 July 19 Grenoble Risoul 177 km Mountain
15 July 20 Tallard Nimes 222 km Flat
/ July 21 Rest Day
16 July 22 Carcassonne Bagneres-de-Luchon 237.5 km Mountain
17 July 23 Saint-Gaudens Pla d’Adet 124.5 km Mountain
18 July 24 Pau Hautacam 145.5 km Mountain
19 July 25 Maubourguet Pays du Val d’Adour Bergerac 208.5 km Flat
20 July 26 Bergerac Perigueux 54 km Time Trial
21 July 27 Evry Paris 137.5 km Flat

 

 

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