BBC SPORT Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese

BBC Sport
 You are in: Special Events: 2001: Tour de France  
Sport Front Page
Rugby Union
Rugby League
Other Sports
Special Events
Sports Talk
BBC Pundits
TV & Radio
Question of Sport
Photo Galleries
Funny Old Game
Around The UK: 
N Ireland

BBC Sport Academy
BBC News
BBC Weather

Tuesday, 3 July, 2001, 14:15 GMT 15:15 UK
A-Z of Le Tour
Green, yellow and polka dot: The three Tour jerseys
Click here for a full A-Z guide

Three major prizes are on offer at the Tour de France, but understanding the trio of jerseys is only the start of a sport full of jargon, much of it in French or Italian.

So read on, and make sure you never confuse bonking with honking, or the autobus with the broom wagon.

Or simply search down the alphabetical list below to find the one that still baffles you.

If the explanation uses another weird word or phrase, it should be explained elsewhere.

And if you are still confused, relax. Let the riders do all the work and gaze at the glorious countryside.

The Tour's jerseys

Maillot jaune, yellow jersey

Cycling's highest honour. Awarded to the man who completes the race in shortest time. First handed out in the 1910s, but nobody is sure exactly when.

Often copied by lesser races, but the Tour yellow is the true golden fleece.

Maillot vert, green jersey

Goes to the most consistent finisher of Tour stages and is usually taken by a sprinter, who can finish relatively high on mountain stages and time trials.

Points are awarded for each stage position to calculate the leader.

Maillot a pois, polka-dot jersey

Awarded to the King of the Mountains. Each climb in the Tour has a category of fourth (easiest) to first, and then hors categorie, without category - the real monsters like Alpe d'Huez.

More points are awarded according to the climb's difficulty.

Maillot blanc, white jersey

Awarded to the best rider under-25 on the general classification.

Although the competition has always been run this year sees the welcome return of the official jersey.

Other prizes

The individual combativite prize goes to the rider most prepared to stir things up with attacks each day.

A red number label is worn by the overall leader on this classification, which is judged each day by a panel of former riders.

There is also a team prize awarded to the squad which has the best overall time on the classification.

A-Z guide: Click on a letter



  • Abandon French term used when rider gives up and gets into the broom wagon
  • Arrivee The finish of a race/stage
  • Attacquer French verb, to attack - an aggressive ride away from other riders. A phrase heard frequently on Radio Tour
  • Autobus Not the big team coaches which ferry competitors to hotels, but a group of riders, often sprinters and rouleurs, who are unable to climb the mountains well. They all stick together and ensure they are just quick enough to make the time limit. The "bus driver" is the rider who does the calculations but it sometimes goes wrong and they all get thrown out


  • Bidon French for water bottle
  • Big ring The bigger front chain ring on a bike is the harder to push. It also gives the most speed, so is used during a sprint or a mountain descent - the opposite (for mountain bikers) is the tiny "granny ring" for riding steep trails
  • Break or breakaway Group who have attacked and ridden away, will often work together knowing each has some chance of winning
  • Blocking Legally stopping a rival so that a team-mate can make progress - you just ride in front of him
  • Blow up Sudden exhaustion due to overexertion
  • Bonification French for time bonus, sometimes called a prime
  • Bonk Not rude, but what happens when a rider does not eat or drink enough - the same reaction diabetic people suffer when blood sugar levels fall
  • Bunch sprint The high-speed dash for the line when the peloton stays together until the end of a race - not for the faint-hearted with speeds of up to 40mph possible


  • Cadence The rate of pedalling - higher rate is usually more efficient but also more tiring
  • Caravane publicitaire French for publicity cavalcade where sponsors promote goods and hand out free samples
  • Carte French for map
  • Chasing down Riders do this when a break is up the road but their team is not represented there
  • Chute French for fall or crash
  • Classic Name given to the top class one day races
  • Contre-la-montre French for "against the watch" - time trial
  • Col French for mountain pass
  • Commissaires The referees who travel in their own car and watch riders and their portable televisions to spot wrongdoing on the road
  • Control dopage Drug test
  • Côte French for any climb or hill
  • Coureur French for bike rider
  • Crevaison French for puncture - Radio Tour will shout this to tell mechanics and service vehicles as well as the television cameras that someone has a common problem


  • Derailleur Also called rear and front mechs, these are the gearing systems used in pro cycling
  • Depart French for start
  • Directeur sportif Team manager
  • Domestique French for servant - these are the lesser riders who fetch and carry for the team leaders, plus shelter him from the wind. Sometimes they are called water carriers - a phrase once used by footballer Eric Cantona to insult World Cup winner Didier Deschamps
  • Dossard French for a riders' number label
  • Drop When a rider is dropped, he falls off the back of the group and out of contention
  • Dopage Unfortunately cannot be ignored. French for doping or drug use of any kind. Hence use of "dope" to mean more than just the substances as it would for recreational users


  • Echappée French for breakaway
  • Echelon Caused by a cross wind on a flat stage - riders form an arrow-like shape to shelter from the storm, causing massive problems for the rider forced to ride in the gutter or lose touch on the end. Can decide races if a split occurs
  • Etape French for stage of the race - usually one a day


  • Flamme rouge French for red flame, kite-shaped object strung across road at 1km to go
  • Following a wheel The most crucial tactic in the sport is to conserve energy by riding directly behind another. Big savings in effort are made by staying in the slipstream, while riders will often share the load by circulating and each doing a turn on the front


  • General classification (GC) The overall standings in the race on time
  • Grimpeur French for climber - the riders who win the mountain prizes


  • Honking Getting out of the saddle and standing up while climbing a mountain - easier at first but then much harder


  • Inactive When the peloton is having a quiet day and nothing much is happening but when there are lost of attacks it is an active race


  • Jump Another word for attack


  • The knock More polite word for the bonk


  • Lacher French verb meaning let go or leave - when a rider loses contact with a group, Radio Tour will yell his name and then this word to signify that he is now off the back
  • Lantern Rouge French for red lantern, as in what hangs off the back of a train - the rider lowest on general classification
  • Lead-out man The top domestique responsible for bringing a sprinter within metres of the race finish, sheltering him from the wind as he does so. Top sprinters will often take a trusted lead-out man to a new team as part of their contract


  • Montagne French for mountain, either haute (high) like in Alps and Pyrenees or moyenne (medium) in Massif Central. There are no low mountains.
  • Musette French for bag of food handed out halfway through stage. Drop it and you could get the bonk or knock


    • Neutral service car Will give any rider a spare bike or wheel if his own team car is not nearby


    • Off the back Riders who have been dropped by the main group


    • Peloton French for main group, pack or field, although peloton is used widely
    • Piano Italian/Latin term, also used in music, for slower riding
    • Poursuivants French for chaser(s), or group trying to catch leaders



    • Radio Tour Not a public station, it is broadcast from a motorbike to keep commissaires, team managers, journalists and public broadcasters informed of developments
    • Ravitaillement French for feed zone where musettes are distributed by soigneurs
    • Rouleur French word to describe a rider that has a very smooth pedalling action and who is capable of riding at a steady tempo over long distances.
    • Route French for road


    • Slipstream What a rider always wants to ride in as he follows a wheel
    • Soigneurs Riders' assistants who give massages, food and other items to competitors. Festina's former employee Willy Voet was a soigneur until he was found transporting drugs last year
    • Sprinter Fastest men in the bunch over the final few metres of a stage but usually the slowest over a mountain
    • Stage race The Tour is one - they consist of various daily tests with the winner the rider with the lowest elapsed time for all stages.


    • Team car Containing team manager, mechanic, and carrying lots of bikes and wheels on top
    • Tempo Like piano, a musical term - this time for fast riding
    • Tete de la course French for head of the course - the riders leading on the road at the time
    • Time trial Race against the clock in which individual riders start at set intervals and have to avoid riding in each other's slipstreams


    • UCI International Cycling Union, or Union Cycliste Internationale in Lausanne, Switzerland, the city it shares with the International Olympic Commission (IOC)


    • Velo French for bicycle
    • Ville étape French for town hosting stage finish or start
    • Voiture balai French for the broom wagon, which sweeps up riders unable to continue through injury or fatigue


    • Wheelsucker Unpopular rider who sits behind another and never does any work on the front of a group


  • Latest news from the world's biggest cycle race

    Latest news

    Results and standings

    Brotherton's moments

    Special features

    David Millar's Diary

    Sean Yates' view






    MAJOR RACES 2001
    Links to more Tour de France stories are at the foot of the page.

    E-mail this story to a friend

    Links to more Tour de France stories

    © BBC ^^ Back to top

    Sport Front Page | Football | Cricket | Rugby Union | Rugby League |
    Tennis | Golf | Motorsport | Boxing | Athletics | Other Sports |
    Special Events | Sports Talk | BBC Pundits | TV & Radio | Question of Sport |
    Photo Galleries | Funny Old Game | N Ireland | Scotland | Wales