While many of us are familiar with the nuances of the Tour de France, we may have to answer a number of seemingly obvious questions as we try to convert other family members to watch alongside us for hours and hours (and hours). We at The Prologue like to help: instead of having to answer your mother’s questions, you can WhatsApp her the link to this story.

How do you win the Tour de France?

The winner is the rider who takes the shortest time to finish the whole race. Each rider has a team of seven other riders to help him. These riders are often called knechten in the Low Countries, or domestiques in French — both terms basically mean “servant”. Some teams field more than one potential leader. In 2018, Team Movistar has three potential winners.

What do Tour de France riders eat?

Big breakfast and evening meal, and during the day a whole range of sugary things such as gels (glucose-packed sachets of sugar water) and energy bars (think muesli bars but with lots of extra stuff in them). Riders often complain that by the end of the day they are sick of all the sweet stuff.

Now-retired rider Jens “shut up legs” Voigt grabs for a musette in a feeding zone

They receive their food at “feeding zones” when riders slow down and receive a little bag (musette in French) filled with goodies. In a recent podcast, Dutch rider Nikki Terpstra said that this outdated practice should be banned, as there are always bad crashes in the feeding zones and riders could get the necessary nourishment from their team cars.

How do Tour de France riders pee?

While they are riding their bikes! They ride to the back of the peloton (the big group of riders) and do their business. Euw! Yes, this is something only serious riders can do and have to. But some of us have witnessed riders during cyclos (large-scale rides which are not races) doing this. It is not pleasant and if the wind goes the wrong way, the bike and rider will get an unscheduled shower.

A domestique helps German rider Tony “Der Panzerwagen” Martin visit the Tour men’s room

Do Tour de France riders have to wear helmets?


Do Tour de France riders sleep?

Yes. But often rather badly in hotels arranged by the Tour organisation. Team Sky got sick of unpredictable quality accommodation and in the 2015 Giro d’Italia they created a special rider cocoon in the team bus, together with a bed sponsor, so that riders were guaranteed a good night’s sleep. Rest being vital to recovery, this was considered a very clever marginal gain to improve the team’s chances of winning the Tour when first introduced. But that was since banned and the Team Sky riders now have to use the same hotels as the rest.

Team Sky’s bus also has a nickname: The Death Star

What does Tour de France GC mean?

General Classification: this is the overall scoreboard that ranks the riders based on the total time they have taken to ride all the stages so far. Every day there is a stage to win, which by itself is a huge moment in a rider’s career, but the winner overall is the GC winner. This chosen one wears the yellow jersey in Paris.

What do the Tour de France jerseys mean?

The famous yellow jersey is the overall leader (the rider who has completed the Tour, so far, in the shortest time). The person wearing yellow in Paris is the GC winner of the race, and overall victor. The red and white polkadot jersey is awarded to the best climber. Points for this are won by ranking highest in all the significant climbs in the race. The green jersey (see below) is the sprinters jersey. Points are won during final sprints (at the end of the stage) and also with a number of bonus sprints along the route. The white jersey is awarded to the best young (under 25) rider overall, with the ranking being the same as the yellow jersey.

Why do Tour de France riders drink champagne while riding?

They only ever do this on the final stage. The very last stage of the Tour de France has two parts: the formal winners’ celebration on the bike, and the criterium race on the Champs Élysées in Paris. The ride into Paris is a formality, the winner is already known, and nobody races during this ride. It is a ritual celebration among all the riders of the peloton who have made it that far, celebrating that they have indeed made it. The members of the winning team traditionally drink champagne from the bikes to celebrate the team’s winning effort.

Team Sunweb’s Michael “Bling” Matthews won the green sprinters jersey in 2017, something worth celebrating!

Once the riders arrive in Paris, the criterium race begins in earnest over the cobbles of the Champs Élysées. Speeds regularly get up to 60 kilometres an hour and this is suddenly full-gas racing. In 2017, Dutch rider Dylan Groenewegen won this prize. The yellow jersey rider’s only goal during this part is to make sure he doesn’t crash. He has then won: Vive le Tour!