By Azzurra and Tick of Cycling4Fans
Just what is pro cycling?
Exactly what it sounds like: these guys get paid for riding their
bikes. They race against each other and the fastest wins. Sort of like
we all did when we were kids, except, as I said, these guys get paid.
The most famous of these races is the Tour de France.
Very young guns at Paris-Nice 2003. Photo by Fabio.
Just what is the Tour de France?
A three-week cycling tour of France. (Almost) every day for three
weeks, our skinny heroes sit on their bikes for about six hours and pedal
their way steadily up hill and down, along the seaside, through the
forests and cities and fields of sunflowers until they finally arrive in
The guy who wins the most stages wins the whole shebang, right?
Heavens, no, that would be much too easy, wouldn't it? Our French
friends decided to make it much more complicated: Every day they
measure the time for each and every rider and add it together. At the
end, the rider with the lowest total time wins.
What do the riders do when they have to go?
In the early part of the race it is quite easy. Since the riders are
extremely social, they all pull over to the side of the road and answer the call
of nature in a group (a form of behavior usually seen in the female of the
species.) Later during the race it is a little more difficult, and let's just
say, you don't want to be standing on the side of the road when a rider goes
For number two, there is no alternative - for some reason, the Tour
management doesn't place Porta-Johns along the route. The riders have
to pick a nice tree to hide behind and hope that the SD remembered to
bring a roll of toilet paper.
Team Time Trial, Tour de France 2004. Photo by
Why the Tour de France? Why not the Tour de Somewhere Else?
That's easy - the French were the first to have the idea.
Why do all the pros want to go to this race in France, where they only
complain about the cheap hotels and cruddy food?
That's simple: Pro cyclist are masochists. They sit on those narrow,
uncomfortable saddles and ride for hours through cold, rain and snow.
They enjoy staying in dark dirty hotels and eating overcooked pasta -
it just proves that they are "Real Men."
Bobby Julich, Tour de France 2001. Photo by The Daily Peloton.
Fred Rodriguez, Tour de France 2001. Photo by The Daily Peloton.
2004 T-Mobile International. Photo by
Why don't the riders stop for red lights during a race?
Because they are all thoughtless, hardened criminals - and arrogant,
too. They automatically assume they have the right-of-way.
What happens when the police radar catches them going over the allowed
speed limit during a race?
You think the riders care? We just pointed out that they are arrogant,
Tour de France 2001. Photo by The Daily Peloton.
Why do the "counters" at the begin of the time trials always have such
fat fingers that they wave in the riders' faces?
Believe it or not, the race organizers spend months searching for men
with such fat fingers. The riders are so concentrated that they
wouldn't be able to see skinny fingers.
Cipollini sees two fingers at the 2004 Giro d'Italia. Photo by
Frank Van Dulmen sees nothing. 2004 Dutch National Time
Anita van Crey.
Another time trial question: why do the photographers lie on the ground
at the start ramp?
It's so much easier that way for the riders to find a photographer they don't
like and "accidentally" run over him...
Tour de France 2004. Photo by
Why do so many riders crash at one time?
We have already established that the riders are extremely social. They like
doing things in groups: Group pees, group crashes...
First Union Classic 2002. Photo by Scott Schaffrick.
Who are the riders Peloton, Tete de la Cours and Poursivants, whose
names so often appear on the tv screen during a race?
Laurent Peloton, Pierre Tete de la Cours and Jean-Jacques Poursivants
rode in the 1960s and were well known for the aggressive riding styles
and many breakaways (think of Jacky Durand!). The French public loved
them, although they never won anything. Their names are shown at
various times during every broadcast to honor them and to keep them from
Why isn't every rider who finishes ahead of Lance Armstrong in a stage
Because - believe it or not - the other riders have fans, too, who
want to see their favorites win!
Tour de France 2001. Photo by the Daily Peloton.
At the 2004 Tour de France. Photo by