Pedal Pushers - A Beginner's Guide To The Tour de France
It’s time to leap into your lycra and grab your energy gels – the world’s most iconic cycling race is upon us once again. This Saturday will see the 106th renewal of the Tour de France get underway; a 21-stage marathon covering more than 2,000 miles.
Coverage of the entire race will run on TG4 (Virgin TV 104) and Eurosport (Virgin TV 423) from this weekend until the climax on July 28th – but if you’re not accustomed to life in the saddle, what do you need to know to follow the action? Well, we’ve got a crash course right here; read up and enjoy the ride!
OK, SO WHERE DO WE START?
Er…Belgium. The Grand Départ, as the natives call it, will be in Brussels, with the race only reaching France by Stage 3. Mind, these cross-boundary beginnings are no rarity – two years ago the race kicked off in Germany, and in Holland two years before that. Sure, in 1998 they even started in Dublin!
TWO COUNTRIES TICKED OFF, THEN – ARE WE THERE YET?
No – and we’re not even close. The race will cover some 2,150 miles (3.460km in new money) and include five monstrous mountain-top finishes. There’s only two rest days thrown in there, too; there’s a reason that even those towards the back of the peleton deserve the upmost respect…
SLOW DOWN ON YOUR FANCY TALK – ‘THE PELETON’?
The peleton is the term to describe the main bunch of riders. Along the route, there’ll be breakaway groups and riders who pull clear – especially in the mountains, wheich really sorts the wheat from the chaff. Flat routes, on the other hand, often see the field finishing together – and deliver sprint finishes that are breathless in possible way!
WHO SHOULD WE BE WATCHING OUT FOR?
Perhaps the best-known name in racing, Britain’s Chris Froome, was ruled out of the race after a horrific crash during preparations last month; his teammate (and reigning champ) Geraint Thomas had to shrug off a nasty tumble too. He leads the betting, though, ahead of Team Ineos colleague Egan Bernal. Jakob Fuglsang, Tom Dumoulin and Adam Yates are some of the other leading contenders.
HOW CAN WE TELL WHO’S IN THE LEAD?
There are a few sartorial identifiers worth watching for, including a green jersey worn by the Points Leader – earned for sprints throughout the race – and an altogether natty polka dot number worn by the King of the Mountains, the top climber in the field. For the overall leader, though, it’s one of the best-known garments in all of sport; the iconic yellow jersey.
ALL THAT FOR A JERSEY? SEEMS HARSH…
Well, not quite. A prize fund of €2.3m is up for grabs – including a cool €500,000 for the winner. That would buy a fair few jerseys, now wouldn’t it?!
Get on your bike for a red-hot bundle from Virgin Media including superfast broadband, TV and home phone – click here to find out more!