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Jose Luis Rubiera, Roberto Heras, Lance Armstrong, Raimondas Rumsas
Rubiera takes his turn leading Lance up a climb

No rider would be able to win the Tour de France without the support of a strong team.

The idea that a team works selflessly for its leader is unique to cycling.

The other team members are traditionally called domestiques, from the French word for 'servants.'

These riders work hard in every stage to protect their team leader.

'Super' Mario Cipollini uses a lead-out man in the sprint finishes
Cipollini counts on his domestiques

If he punctures they will wait while the team mechanic changes his wheel.

He will then pace the team leader back up to the main field, letting the star man ride in his slipstream, saving him valuable energy.

If the leader crashes and breaks his bike the domestique will give him his own machine.

On hot days, domestiques are busy collecting drinks from the team cars following to ferry back to their leaders.

The team leaders keep an eye on each other while the domestiques have the job of following the rest.

They will help to pace their team leader through the mountains and endeavour to 'lead-out' their team's sprinter and place him in the best possible position in a mass sprint finish.

Portugese climber Jose Azevedo
Azevedo sacrifices his Tour ambitions

Their reward for sacrificing themselves for the good of the team leader is a share of the prize money and the associated glory of contributing to a successful team.

Some super domestiques, like Portugal's Jose Azevedo, have the ability to win the race themselves.

But Azevedo, who is an expert climber, puts his own Tour ambitions to the side to shepherd his US Postal Service team-mate Lance Armstrong through the mountains.

And he still managed to finish fifth overall in Paris!


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Introduction
Domestiques
Flat stages
Time trials
Mountain stages

Did you know?
It is easier to ride behind another rider than in front of him - you can save up to an amazing 40% of your energy riding in someone else's slipstream.


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