As the start of the Tour de France approaches this weekend, we’ve been looking at some of the things that make bicycle racing a really unique sport. And this one is a bit odd…the Tour de France is a team event…with an Individual winner???
That’s right, there are teams riding in the tour- and in most cases, those teams are working for one or two individuals on the team, in hopes that that someone on the team will win the race. That someone is referred to as the “GC” – or “General Classification” leader. The team works for the GC guy using a variety of tactics- starting with drafting.
When you watch the race, you will often see a whole row of people from the same team all in a line. If you look closely- those guys are about 2 inches apart, making that pace-line extremely dangerous, especially at the speeds that they race. The idea is, the person at the back of the line works much less than the person at the front. If they are doing things properly, the front person is constantly changing, and staying fresh. The GC guy on the team never comes to the front of the line, until the very end of the race- he’s got fresh legs, so he can then sprint to the finish.
Drafting behind just ONE other rider allows you to work about 40% less. Imagine the advantage of being behind a whole line of people.
At the Tour- while the GC leader gets to wear the Yellow Jersey and gets all the attention, there are other competitions going on as well, and the leader in each of those competitions gets to wear a special jersey as well. More on that next time…