How to survive the Tour de France
AT LAST the Tour de France is about to commence.
Sure, it's starting later this year, but on August 29 cycling fans will finally get to enjoy their annual combination of the Holy Grail, Tolkien's One Ring and their favourite footy team winning the premiership.
What with COVID-19 and perennial greats Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas out of the race, how the 2020 edition is going to end is anyone's guess.
But as always, it's a chance to live vicariously through our favourite Australian riders Caleb Ewan (three stage wins in 2019) and Richard Porte, 35, making a final bid for the yellow jersey over 21 stages, more than 3,000 km and across the most challenging and often the toughest weather and terrain France has to offer.
But this is no easy task.
You must be dedicated to the Tour and there's no easy ride on the Couch Peloton.
Tips to survive the Tour de France
You must ride along with the peloton through the stages on your trainer. It. Is. The. Law. It's fun and will help keep you awake.
But ensure you are near the couch so you have somewhere to fall when you bonk.* See cycling terminology.
Ensure your bike computer is working so you can take photos and post them on social media of your speed and distance for #couchpeloton on Twitter.
Lots. Of. Coffee. Double espressos work wonders towards the end of a stage.
My tour snacks are a combination of treats from any CWA cookbook as well as the excellent Velochef by Henrik Orre - get your domestique a copy so they can whip up sensational snacks as you follow the stages.
Ensure you have total control of the biggest screen in the house, your partner / non-cycling family can watch TV somewhere else for the next three weeks.
Cycling terminology - How to bluff our way through the TdF
Aero - Short for aerodynamic, the gear (bike frames, helmets, wheels) are designed for minimal wind resistance. Important in time trials
Attack - A sudden attempt to pull ahead from a rider or group of riders, also known as a breakaway.
Autobus - Aka 'the bus', this is the group of riders at the back of the race in the mountain stages, mostly sprinters and other non-climbers, and the aim is simply to finish within the day's time limit.
Bibs - Cycling shorts that have a bib or suspenders (like overalls) instead of an elastic waistband.
Bidon - French for water bottle.
Bonk - Also known as hitting the wall. Seriously. You are out of energy due to glycogen depletion (glycogen is the fuel that's stored in your muscles). Side effects vary but can be anything from muscle cramping to mental fogginess. "Sorry boss, I forgot to come to work today because of glycogen depletion …"
Bunch sprint - The mass dash for the line at the end of a stage when the whole race is still together and is contested by specialist sprinters and their lead-out men.
Cadence - Pedalling rate or the number of revolutions per minute (RPM).
Cassette - Not a musical term, it's the set of sprockets (the pyramid shaped set of gears) on the rear wheel.
Chasers (or a chase group) - Riders, who crank away to try to catch a lead rider ahead of them.
Combativité - Literally, aggressiveness, but the award for combativité doesn't go to the rider who threatens to punch out his rivals, but to the rider who shows the most sporting aggressiveness by being involved in attacks, chasing down escapes and so on. Daily points are awarded according to how riders conduct themselves.
Cornering - Basically leaning your bike to "steer" around a curve. Scary on the nightmare downhills the TdF course designers love.
Directeur sportif - Team director who's role includes management tasks such as selecting which of a team's riders will ride a particular race; directing the day-to-day and hour-to-hour tactics and strategy on the road/
Domestique - Domestiques are the worker bees of a team, responsible for looking after the team leader and the other stars, ferry food and water to their team leaders, provide a wheel for the leader to follow and in extreme cases even surrender their bikes if the leader has a mechanical problem.
Drafting - Cycling behind another rider so they block the wind and you save heaps of energy.
Grand Tour - The Tour de France Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España are the three European Grand Tours. GT's involve three weeks of riding, time-trials, climbs, sprints over 3,000 km.
Hammering - Pedalling hard in the big gears, which have the greatest resistance and pack the most power.
Jersey - In the Tdf riders wear a team jersey. But the best riders are after the coveted yellow jersey (for the overall race leader), polka dot (for the best climber, or King of the Mountains), green (for the rider with greatest number of stage points for sprinting) or white (for the best young rider under 25 years old). The rainbow jersey is worn by the reigning world champion.
King of the mountain - see jersey polka-dot. The Sir Ernest Hilary of the peloton.
Lanterne rouge - The last rider on GC. The term means 'red light'. There's no dishonour in being the lanterne rouge. Let's face it, just being able to be selected to start the Tour is a substantial achievement, and to finish it, something to celebrate.
Lead-out man - A rider who specialises in providing a wheel for a sprinter to follow in the final stages of a race. Nestled in the lead-out man's slipstream, the sprinter waits for the final possible moment, then accelerates for the line as the lead-out man pulls to one side.
Musette - The little cloth shoulder bag handed up to riders at feeding stations, containing food and water bottles.
Peloton - The largest pack of riders in a road race, also called a bunch or pack. They ride together to allows cyclists to take advantage of drafting, saving them energy during long races.
Piano - Riding at a gentle pace, this phrase can be heard on grand tours, aimed at a rider who is going hard for no good reason - "hey mate, piano!"
Pull - Riding on the front of a paceline or peloton. If you are the pull, you're working the hardest since you're not benefiting from drafting.
Rouleur - A rider who specialises in steady, consistent riding, often 'super-domestiques' able to provide a wheel for the team leader for hours at a time.
Seigneur - A member of team staff who looks after the riders, performing duties such as giving massages, handing up food and water bottles, basically the den mother.
Sprinter - A rider who is capable of accelerating very quickly at the end of a race. Sprinters need a high proportion of 'fast-twitch' muscle and steely nerve to go shoulder-to-shoulder with a dozen similarly gifted riders at 70km/h.
Team car - The car carrying the team's directeur sportif, a seigneur and a mechanic.
Team captain - Sometimes but not always the team leader, is in charge of what happens out on the road, relaying information and instructions to and from the directeur sportif.
Team leader - The team's best rider, for whom the rest of the team is working to achieve a goal like the overall victory, or the points jersey.
Tempo - Riding tempo means setting the pace for the peloton.
Time bonus - Awarded in some stages for the top finish positions, and for intermediate bonification sprints in stages. .
Time limit - Riders in each day's stage must finish with a certain percentage of the winner's time or they are eliminated from the race and not allowed to start the next day.
Time trial - A race against the clock, either solo or in teams. Known as the "race of truth".
UCI - Union Cycliste Internationale - the world governing body of bike racing, based in Switzerland.