Here are the answers to the top questions that we are asked!
It’s been 2 years since the last Tour of Britain so we thought our readers might like a quick overview of some of the terms used in road racing. The Tour of Britain, an 8 day race starting on Sunday 5th September 2021 in Penzance, has stages in England, Wales and Scotland. It is classified as a 2.Pro event on the UCI’s international calendar.
How are UCI races classified?
The first number in the UCI ranking represents the type or style of race – a ‘1’ means it is a one-day race, and a ‘2’ means it’s a multi-day (stage) race. The second number represents the importance or difficulty. World Tour teams such as Ineos Grenadiers and Deceuninck – Quick Step Team must compete in all races classified as World Tour (WT). The next level, Pro is open to UCI World Tour Teams (max 70%), UCI Pro Tour teams, UCI Continental teams (such as Canyon dhb SunGod) and national teams. 1.1 and 2.1 races are open to UCI World Tour teams (max 50%), UCI Pro Tour teams, UCI Continental teams and national teams, while 1.2 and 2.2 races are open to UCI Pro Tour teams, UCI Continental teams, national teams plus regional and club teams. So as a 2.Pro race, the Tour of Britain is a multi-stage, Pro level race.
How are climbs categorised?
Climbs are categorised in five grades or categories according to their level of difficulty. Category 4 is the easiest level, progressing through 3, 2, 1 and HC. This years’ Tour of Britain has 10 x category 3 climbs, 8 x category 2 climbs and 3 x category 1 climbs.
There are some traditional standards on how climbs are categorised – a ‘typical’ category 4 climb has 2km at 6% for example, a category 3 has 2-3km at 8% or 4-6km at 4%, a category 2 has 5-10km at 5-7% , a category 1 has 5-10km at more than 8% and an HC climb is the most difficult – think Alpe D’Huez which is 1,860m high at the top of the 13.8km climb, has an average gradient of 8.1% and a maximum gradient of 13%. In many races, however, climbs are usually ranked subjectively based on things like the race’s location, steepness of the available climbs and their length. Selected climbs in a race are nominated for ‘King of the Mountains’ (KoM) points and the leader wears the King of the Mountains jersey.
The Tour of Britain has 4 race jerseys for riders to aim for:
- Leader’s Jersey- Awarded to the rider leading the Tour of Britain General Classification (GC) (who has completed all stages up to that point in the shortest time possible – not the person who has won the most stages)
- Sportsbreaks.com Points Jersey – The consistency jersey. The first 15 riders across each day’s finish line are awarded points on a 15 down to one basis, with the rider who has accumulated the most points so far wears this jersey
- Skoda King of the Mountains jersey – Awarded to the best climber in the Tour of Britain, riders win points at designated SKODA King of the Mountains climbs on each stage (apart from time trial stages). KoM points at the Tour of Britain are awarded to between the 1st 10 and 1st 3 riders over a KoM climb depending up the climb’s category. Jacob Scott of Canyon dhb SunGod won this jersey when the race was last held in 2019 (when riding for SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling).
Jacob Scott wins the Tour of Britain KoM Jersey in 2019
- Eisberg Sprints jersey – Each road stage of the Tour of Britain features three Eisberg intermediate sprints, where points (3,2,1 for the 1st 3 riders across the line) are awarded towards the Eisberg sprints jersey. In addition, the riders have bonus seconds (3,2,1) taken off their overall race time. Both Alex Paton (2018) and Rory Townsend (2019) have won the Sprints jersey riding for previous Canyon teams.
Picture by Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com – 14/09/2019 – Cycling – OVO Energy Tour of Britain – Stage 8: Altrincham to Manchester, England – Rory Townsend of Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes on the podium in the Eisberg sprints jersey.
Here are the answers to some of the questions that people ask us about road racing!
Why are all the terms used French?
No one is really sure but it might be because the first official bicycle race (won by a Brit) is believed to have been held in 1868 over 1,200m in Paris. Or maybe because the Union Cycliste Internationale (the world governing body for the sport of cycling), founded in 1900 is based in Switzerland. Whatever the reason, here’s an outline of the some of key facts about cycle racing and some of the terms you’ll hear commentators talking about during road races such as The Tour of Britain.
How come all the riders don’t try to win?
Cycling is a team sport, unlike most others that involve a race. It’s not every man (or woman) for themselves and it’s not always the best or fastest rider who wins. In any race, one member of the team is usually nominated as the leader (for the overall race or for the stage on the day) and the others do everything they can to help their leader win. In major races or on selected stages, the role of the other team members, (historically called domestiques (which means servant in English)), is typically to protect their leader by riding in front to help them conserve energy (see peloton below). These riders are constantly watching what’s happening at the front of the race to make sure their leader has the best possible chance of winning.
If, for example, members of a rival team try to break away from the peloton, they may decide to chase if they consider them a threat. Alternatively, if the team has a rider in a break, their team-mates could attempt to block rivals from mounting a chase, for example by riding at the front of the peloton at a slow speed. Teams can also mount group attacks. One domestique will surge ahead and force a rival team to chase. As soon as the pack catches up, another domestique will ride off the front again. The goal of this tactic is to tire out the opposing teams by making them work hard.
Teams usually include specialists, who will take the leadership role according to the type of parcours (see below). For example, climbing specialists will focus on the hilly stages, while sprinters will save their energy for sprints for points or finishes. To be fair to the other riders who do much of the work but get little of the glory, prize money is usually divided equally among all team members.
Managing the front of the peloton
What is the Parcours?
The route and profile of the race from the start to the finish – the English translation is the course.
Parcours Stage 2 Tour of Britain 2021
What is the Peloton?
The main group of riders riding together in the race, also known as the bunch. Riding in a pack allows cyclists to save energy by drafting (riding in another’s slipstream). A rider who is drafting uses between 20 per cent and 40 per cent less energy than a rider on the front of the group. The term peloton (little ball) was first used to refer to a small group of soldiers, who – like cyclists – travel in tight formation.
The front of the peloton
Why do riders have a ‘Lead Out’ for a sprint finish?
In a sprint to the line, a rider trying to win will often ride behind a team-mate for as long as possible to benefit from the drafting effect. Sometimes, several riders from the same team will form a “train”, taking over, one by one, until finally the fastest sprinter is left to fight for the win. Provision of that aerodynamic shelter is called giving a lead-out.
What is a break or breakaway?
This is when a rider or small group of riders ride away in front of the peloton. They do this to try and win KoM or sprint points, to force other teams to chase and use up valuable energy, to gain valuable publicity for their team and it’s partners and also to try and get such a big gap in front of the peloton that they can’t be caught and have a chance of winning the stage or race.
Max Stedman leads the breakaway at Ryedale
Where do the chasers or chasing group fit in?
Chasers are cyclists (typically between the peloton and the breakaway) who are trying to catch a lead rider(s) ahead of them (bridge across the gap to the break).
Some of these races go on for hours and riders seem to drink a lot of fluids – don’t they want to go to the loo?
In many cases, there are usually quite a few riders who want to go, and the peloton will agree to stop by the side of the road in a discreet, quiet place where there aren’t many spectators. If the race is being filmed, the cameras will artfully show viewers some lovely scenery or some interesting local architecture.
What happens to riders who get left behind in a Stage Race?
When competing in any sort of stage race, riders have to complete the previous day’s stage in order to start the race again the next day. While roads are usually closed to traffic on a rolling basis, time limits are set for stages to ensure the safety of the riders and allow each stage to finish in a reasonable time. The cut-off time depends on the difficulty of the stage (usually calculated by adding 10% to 20% on top of the winner’s time). Any rider taking longer than that will not be allowed to start the race the next day (although the Race Director has the discretion to increase the cut-off time in exceptional circumstances e.g. very hot conditions). Riders outside the time limit are classified as OTL (Outside Time Limit) or HD in the results (hors delai in French meaning ‘out of time’).
Riders who get left behind or are involved in crashes and unable to continue may be picked up by the ‘broom wagon’ (the Camion/Voiture Balai). The ‘Broom Wagon’ has been used in long races since 1910, following the last rider in a stage to ‘sweep up’ these riders (although riders that abandon during a stage may prefer to get into their team car).
Riders who abandon during a stage will be marked as ‘DNF’ (Did Not Finish) in the results and those that do not line up to start a stage will be marked as ‘DNS’ (Did Not Start).
Who keeps the riders going behind the scenes?
While most of the focus before and during a race is on the riders, teams of people work behind the scenes to manage the team and set the strategy, organise race entries, travel and accommodation, ensure both riders and their bikes are ready and keep them going during the races. The main support team members are:
The Directeur Sportive (DS) – Sporting Director
A DS is the person who manages the cycling team. This includes finding, recruiting and hosting team sponsors, liaising with the media, recruiting and signing-up team members before the season starts, picking the riders to participate in each race, setting the strategy for the team and for each race and following the team in the team car during the races to communicate with riders (for example to update the team on the situation in the race and set tactics), with other team members and race officials (sometimes by radio).
Tim Elverson is the Canyon dhb SunGod team owner and overall manager and Simon Holt is the DS.
Simon Holt and Tim Elverson
The Soigneurs ‘swannys’ (healer)
A key support role, before, during and after each race. The swanny organises supplies, prepares drinks and food, provides pre and post-ride massages and personal encouragement. Swannys are also often responsible for manning the feeding stations/feed zones during races. A feed zone is a specified location on the course of a long race where team personnel are allowed to hand out bottles, food, gels etc to their team’s riders as they pass by.
Each rider usually starts a race with two bottles, but they can quickly get through their contents, especially in hot weather. Handing out bottles (bidons) when riders pass by at speeds of 30 miles an hour or more is tricky and requires concentration and skill (from both the soigneur and the rider), but if the handover isn’t successful, the rider may have to ride for another hour or more until the next feed zone comes around (unless he can get a bidon from the team car.
You may have heard people talking about the term ‘sticky bottle’ and wondered what it is. It’s when a rider who has gone back to get food and water from the team car during a race, holds on to the bottle for a bit longer than necessary to get a free tow by the team car. The race commissaire (race official, similar to a referee in football) will often ignore the tow if the bottle is held for only a few seconds but may give a sanction (fine or time penalty) if a blatant advantage is gained.
Bottles, food, gels etc are also often handed out to riders in ‘musettes’. These are small lightweight cotton shoulder bags, designed to be easily grabbed by a moving rider passing through the feed zone. The rider grabs the musette, places the shoulder strap over the head and one shoulder, removes the contents (sharing them out with other team members) and then discards the empty bag.
These days, race organisers are much stricter about litter than they used to be, and there will usually be a ‘litter zone’ at the end of the feed zone, where riders are allowed to discard empty musettes, food and gel wrappers etc in the knowledge that their rubbish will be picked up. Commissaires can give out fines or time penalties to riders who break littering rules or who take bottles and food outside feeding zones.
The Canyon dhb SunGod swannys are Marie Lynn and Russell Kingston.
- The mechanics
The team mechanic(s) is/are responsible for maintaining the team bicycles before and after races and also for travelling in the team car during races along with the spare bikes, wheels and parts in case of crashes, punctures or mechanical failures. The ‘magic spanner’ that riders will hold onto is another trick that riders use to get a tow from the team car, for example if they have had a mechanical issue with their bike or a puncture and need a bit of help to get back to the peloton.
The Canyon dhb SunGod mechanics are Eoin O’Donohoe and Jacob Rubio.