University of Toronto
Please note that this course will be offered again from May 10, 2004 - June 14th, 2004. For registration information visit the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies.
France’s national obsession for over 100 years has been the celebrated cycling tournament called the Tour de France. This lecture survey course examines the history of the world’s toughest endurance race through the twin lenses of French culture and athletic competition.
Knowledge of the logistics of the race, heroes of the tour, classic races, innovation and the role of technology in cycling, cheating and sports ethics.
Telephone (after 8 pm is best): (416) 239-7181
Our class will be held on Monday evenings, May 10 to June 14, from 6:30-8:30 in the Bahen Centre at 40 St. George Street - Room 3004. Only validly registered students may attend the lectures.
On this page you will find:
Suggested Readings and Links
A Tour de France Glossary
Some Frequently Asked Questions: The Race in a Nutshell
A Tentative Course Outline
Please check back as we will be adding to this page over the duration of the course.
• www.letour.fr – The official website of Le Tour de France. Follow links to race rules and statistics. One link takes you to archived copies of the Tour’s official sites since 1995. The 1999 site in particular includes the complete rule book for the Tour that year. The rules are substantially the same today.
• http://homepage.ntlworld.com/veloarchive/ - A compilation of the winners of each stage and full tour from 1903 to 1952 together with a brief narrative about each year’s Tour. Also includes articles and interviews about some of the most interesting Tours and riders.
• www.frankieandreu.com – follow links to his race diaries. Frankie Andreu is an American who completed 9 tours, most recently in 2000 riding as road captain for Lance Armstrong’s USPS team. In his race diaries, Andreau writes informative and sophisticated analyses of each tour stage interspersed with interesting anecdotes about life of a rider in the Tour.
• The following sites include daily news from the world of professional cycling:
• There are many good books written on the history of the Tour. Some publishers put out a new book each year on that year’s tour (the most widely available in Canada are from Velo Press in Boulder, Colorado). Some of the more interesting histories include:
o Graeme Fife, Tour De France – The History, the Legend, the Riders (Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing Co., 1999)
o Svend Novrup, A Moustache, Poison and Blue Glasses! (London: Bromley Books, 1999)
o Les Woodland, The Unknown Tour de France (San Fransisco: Van der Plas Publications, 2000). Van der Plas publishes the acts of an annual international conference on the history of bicycles and cycling with a particular emphasis on technology and engineering. If you find this type of thing interesting, check out their website at www.cyclepublishing.com.
o Jean-Paul Ollivier, Maillot Jaune – The Tour de France Yellow Jersey (Boulder, Colorado: Velo Press, 1999). A glossy coffee table book with lots of great pictures.
• There is not very much good information on cycling tactics available on the web. There is some good race analysis at www.frankieandreau.com – follow links to race diaries. Other than that, some information can be gleaned from:
o Edward Borysewicz, Bicycle Road Racing (Brattleboro, Vermont: Vitesse Press, 1985)
o Tim Krabbe, The Rider (New York: Bloomsbury, 1978; English trans. 2002) – A fictionalized account of an amateur one day race.
o Matt Seaton, The Escape Artist – Life From the Saddle (London: Fourth Estate, 2002) – The story of an amateur racer in England.
• www.bicyclesports.com – a commercial site operated by John Cobb, the designer and tester of much of the innovative aerodynamic equipment used by Lance Armstrong in the Tour. Many interesting essays on wind tunnel testing of various pieces of equipment and rider positions.
• www.cervelo.com – a commercial site with lots of historical and up to the minute information on the aerodynamics and technology of bicycles by the Canadian company that supplies the bikes to the CSC Team. Check out in particular the “History” and the “Tech Articles” sections.
• www.analyticcycling.com – How much faster would you climb the Alpe d’Huez if you lost another 5 kg? What affect would using a low spoke count front wheel have on your time in the prologue? How many more watts would Jan Ulrich have to generate that Lance to drop Lance on Mont Ventoux?
• www.cyclepublishing.com – See the note on Van der Plas Publishing, above.
• www.harriscyclery.com – The legendary Sheldon Brown fixes your old bike – Not really a Tour site but you can’t have a list of cycling links and leave out Sheldon Brown.
• Interesting books include:
o Frank Rowland Whitt and David Gordon Wilson, Bicycling Science 2nd ed. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1982)
o Frank Berto et al., The Dancing Chain: History and Development of the Derailleur Bicycle (San Fransisco: Van der Plas Publications, 2000)
o Jim McGurn, On Your Bicycle: The Illustrated Story of Cycling (York, U.K.: Open Road Publishers, 1987)
o Jobst Brandt, The Bicycle Wheel 3rd ed. (Publishing information to follow)
• www.wada-ama.org – The website of the World Anti-Doping Agency. Sets out the Rules with respect to performance enhancing substances and methods.
• www.uci.ch – The website of the Union Cycliste Internationale, the governing body of competitive cycling. The site includes the complete rules governing all aspects of road racing, including the rules that apply to the Tour for everything from when and why riders can be penalized through how long stages can be to how many crowd control barriers have to be used.
• http://www.cyclingnews.com/riders/2004/interviews/?id=jesus_manzano04 - Jesus Manzano's Story
• http://www.cyclingnews.com/features/chain.shtml - An extract from the most infamous book about doping in the Tour by the soigneur at the center of the 1998 Festina scandal. For a variety of accounts of the events of 1998, see:
o Willy Voet, Breaking the Chain – Drugs and Cycling –The True Story (London: Yellow Jersey Press, 2001)
o Andreau et al., The 1998 Tour de France – Conquests and Crises (Boulder, Colorado : VeloPress , 1998)
o Richard Virenque and Jean Paul Vespini, Plus fort qu’avant (Paris : Editions Robert Laffont, 2002)
o Jeremy Whittle, Yellow Fever – The Dark Heart of the Tour de France (London: Headline Book Publishing, 1999)
• For some other accounts of cheating and doping in the Tour and cycling in general, see:
o Jacques Seray, 1904 – The Tour de France which was to be the last (Denver, Colorado: Buonpane Publications, 1994)
o Paul Kimmage, Rough Ride – Behind the Wheel with a Pro Cyclist (London: Yellow Jersey Press, 1998)
o Davis Phinney and Connie Carpenter, Training for Cycling – The Ultimate Guide to Improved Performance (New York: Berkley Publishing Group, 1992), pp. 27-29
• There are countless organizations and coaches dispensing training advice over the internet. Most that are any good, however, charge a fee and offer personalized training programs.
• The academic literature on cycling physiology and training is vast and very technical. There are, however, many good books on the subject written in an approachable style including:
o Ed Burke, Serious Cycling 2nd ed. (Publishing information to follow)
o Ed Burke, Cycling Health and Physiology: Using Sports Science to Improve Your Riding and Racing (College Park, Maryland: Vitesse Press, 1998)
o Joe Friel, The Cyclist’s Training Bible (Boulder, Colorado: Velo Press, 1996)
Please send us an email if you have any suggestions for additional terms.
© 2003, 2004 John Koch
We are frequently asked how the Tour de France works – what the rules are – how the standings get determined. In our course, we devote the first week to explaining the intricacies of the rules of the race. For those who can’t wait until the course is offered again, or who cannot make the commute to Toronto, here is a brief overview of how the various competitions that make up the Tour de France work.
The TDF is a 3-week bicycle race each year in July typically around the perimeter of France. With the exception of a couple of rest or transfer days, races (referred to as “stages”) are held each day over the three weeks. A win by a rider in any particular stage is usually a highlight of that rider's year, if not his career. In addition to the daily stages, there are a number of competitions that are contested over the three weeks of the Tour but the most significant is that of the overall winner of the “General Classification”. The winner of the GC is the rider with the lowest cumulative time for completing all of the stages.
Each racing day, the riders race one of the following types of race:
• A Mass Start race – most of the stages of the Tour are mass start races. The riders all start off together to cover a set route from one town to another. The stages in the first week to 10 days of the Tour are normally relatively flat. Later in the Tour, stages will involve riding up and down mountain passes. The winner of the stage is the first rider across the finish line.
• An Individual time Trial – Each year the Tour will include about 3 stages that are run as individual time trials. In an ITT, the riders start out one at a time at a set interval. Each rider is timed separately from the moment he is scheduled to start until he crosses the finish line. The rider with the lowest time for the day is the winner of the stage. In 2004, the first long ITT will be run very late in the race on a course up the Alpe d'Huez on stage 16.
• A Team Time Trial – The TDF usually includes a Team Time Trial stage. A TTT is like an ITT except that in a TTT, all members of a team start off together. If all goes well, the team rides together over the whole course and all members of the team are credited with the same time as that of the 5th team member to cross the finish line. Riders who cannot keep up with their team-mates, however, are on their own and will be timed individually. In a controversial decision, the Tour organizers have decreed that in 2004 no rider on a team that finishes within the time limit on the TTT stage will lise more than 2.5 minutes on the General Classification regardless of how far back the team finishes from the winning team.
There are a number of official and unofficial competitions that are contested in the Tour. The key competitions are:
• The General Classification – The winner of the General Classification is the rider with the lowest cumulative time over the entire race. Since 1919, the leader of the GC at the end of the previous stage wears a yellow jersey on the following day’s stage. Standings in the GC are reported with the total time of the leader and the number of minutes and seconds slower each of the other riders is than the leader. The standings for the GC are subject to two adjustments. First, riders can earn “bonus” seconds (more accurately, deductions from their cumulative time) by winning or placing highly in a mass start stage (as much as 20 seconds off for winning one of the flat stages in the first week) or by being one of the first 3 riders across pre-determined points on the course called “intermediate sprints”. The second adjustment is that, for reasons of safety, all riders who cross the finish line in a group are credited with the same time, even if it takes the group a number of seconds to get across the line. Also, if there is a crash within 1 km of the finish (as in Stage 1 of last year’s tour in which Tyler Hamilton broke his collarbone), all riders in the group that crashed who eventually cross the finish line are credited with the same time as the rest of the group. The combination of bonuses and “same time” finishes means that aggressive riders who make long break-aways (and thereby get the intermediate sprint bonuses) and strong sprinters (who typically get the stage winner’s bonuses) fight it out for the yellow jersey early on – and the gap between first place on the GC and 100th place is measured in a handful of seconds. Once the race hits the mountains (or a large break-away succeeds – as in the stage to Pontalier in 2001), gaps of many minutes open up in the GC and the tight fights for a 2 second bonus in the first few stages are soon meaningless.
• The Points Competition – In addition to the GC, there are a number of other competions within the TDF. After the GC, the next most important is the points competition. Riders earn points based on the order of finish in each stage. For example, the winner of a mass start stage earns up to 35 points with lesser points awarded to finishers down to 20th place. In addition, a handful of points are also awarded at each of the intermediate sprints. The leader in the points competition wears a green jersey. In each of the last 3 years, the final winner of the green jersey has not been decided until the very last stage finish at the end of the Tour.
• The King of the Mountains competition – The next most important competition is the climbers’ points or “King of the Mountains” competition. Over the course of 3 weeks, the Tour goes over a number of mountains and mountain passes. Key stages finish at summits in the Pyrenees or the Alps. Each of the major climbs in the Tour is categorized based on its level of difficulty from a relatively painless category 4 up to long, steep category 1. The nastiest climbs of all, like the Galibier, Mont Ventoux, the Tourmalet and the Alpe d’ Huez, are classed as “hors categorie” or “outside of the classification”. Points are awarded to the first riders over the top of each climb – the tougher the climb, the more the points. The leader in the KOM competition wears a white jersey with large red polka-dots.
• Other Competitions – Prizes are also available for the leaders of the Team Competiton – a separate GC based on the total time of the first three riders on each team (exclusive of bonuses) on each stage. The leader of the Best Young Rider competiton (the highest placed GC rider under the age of 25) wears a White Jersey. A purely subjective assessment by the race officials determines who has the honour of wearing a red race number as the leader in the Most Aggressive Rider competition – awarded to the most stubborn of the break-away specialists. There is also the unofficial “competition” not to be the Lanterne Rouge – the rider in last place on the GC.
|Week 1||May 10||
Introduction to the Course
The official and unofficial rules of the Tour de France
The spectator's experience of the Tour
The beginnings of the Tour
|Week 2||May 17||
Early heroes of the Tour
|Week 3||May 31||Ethics, Drugs and Cheating|
|Week 4||June 7||Technology and Aerodynamics|
|Week 5||June 14||
Recent heroes of the Tour
The Tour as a cultural event, in film, art, literature and music