Road bicycle racing is the cycle sport discipline of road cycling, held on paved roads. The two most common competition formats are mass start events, where riders start simultaneously and race to set a finish point. Stage races or “tours” take multiple days. and consist of several mass-start or time -trial stages ridden consecutively.
Professional racing has been most popular in Western Europe, centered historically on France, Spain, Italy and the Low Countries. Since the mid-1980s the sport has diversified with professional races now held on all continents of the globe. Semi-professional and amateur races are also held in many countries. The sport is governed by the (UCI). One of the biggest platforms, where international bicyclists meet and compete is the “TOUR DE FRANCE”.
Over 500000 roadside supporters a day adds up to making this an enormous event. Unlike other sports there is quite a fascinating story behind the emergence of TOUR DE FRANCE. The race was first organised in 1903 to increase sales for the newspaper L’Auto, which is currently run by the Amaury Sport Organisation. The race since then has been held annually except during the two World Wars. As the race gathered attention and became popular its duration and the length was also increased. Initially the participation being open to only French field, was later extended across the globe as riders began to show great interest.
The race is primarily held in the month of July (fluctuates sometimes), but the theme always remains the same. It will always include mountain roads to test the stamina of the riders and it will always finish in the Champs-Elysees in Paris amidst much jubilation and fanfare. Now, this is not the kind of a sport which you can happily watch over while munching some cheese nachos and popcorn, because it is going to take close to 3 weeks for the riders to reach the finish line. It takes a toll not only the body but also on the mind. Rigorous training and years of hard work is what prepares the riders to be able to just make sure that they complete the race.
There are usually between 20 and 22 teams, with nine riders in each. All of the stages are timed to the finish; the riders’ times are compounded with their previous stage times. The rider with the lowest finish time is the leader and gets to wear the Yellow Jersey.The oldest and main competition in the Tour de France is known as the “general classification”, for which the yellow jersey is awarded: the winner of this is said to have won the race. A few riders from each team aim to win overall but there are three further competitions to draw riders of all specialties: points, mountains, and a classification for young riders with general classification aspirations,
The leader of each of the aforementioned classifications wears a distinctive jersey, with riders leading multiple classifications wearing the jersey of the most prestigious that he leads. In addition to these four classifications, there are several minor and discontinued classifications that are competed for during the race:-
General Classification -The oldest and most sought after classification in the Tour de France is the general classification. All of the stages are timed to the finish. The riders’ times are compounded with their previous stage times; so the rider with the lowest aggregate time is the leader of the race. The leader is determined after each stage’s conclusion: he gains the privilege to wear the yellow jersey, presented on a podium in the stage’s finishing town, for the next stage. If a rider is leading more than one classification that awards a jersey, he wears the yellow one, since the general classification is the most important one in the race. Between 1905 and 1912 inclusive, in response to concerns about rider cheating in the 1904 race, the general classification was awarded according to a point-based system based on their placings in each stage, and the rider with the lowest total of points after the Tour’s conclusion was the winner.
Mountain Classification -The mountains classification is the second oldest jersey awarding classification in the Tour de France. The mountains classification was added to the Tour de France in the 1933 edition and was first won by Vicenta Trueba. Prizes for the classification were first awarded in 1934. During stages of the race containing climbs, points are awarded to the first riders to reach the top of each categorized climb, with points available for up to the first 10 riders, depending on the classification of the climb. Climbs are classified according to the steepness and length of that particular hill, with more points available for harder climbs. The classification was preceded by the meilleur grimpeur (English: best climber) which was awarded by the organising newspaper l’Auto to a cyclist who completed each race
Points Classification – The points classification is the third oldest of the currently awarded jersey classifications.
It was introduced in the 1953 Tour de France and was first won by Fritz Schar. The classification was added to draw the participation of the sprinters as well as celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Tour. Points are given to the first 15 riders to finish a stage, with an additional set of points given to the first 15 riders to cross a pre-determined ‘sprint’ point during the route of each stage. The point classification leader green jersey is worn by the rider who at the start of each stage, has the greatest number of points.
In the first years, the cyclist received penalty points for not finishing with a high place, so the cyclist with the fewest points was awarded the green jersey. From 1959 on, the system was changed so the cyclists were awarded points for high place finishes (with first place getting the most points, and lower placings getting successively fewer points), so the cyclist with the most points was awarded the green jersey. The number of points awarded varies depending on the type of stage, with flat stages awarding the most points at the finish and time trials and high mountain stages awarding the fewest number of points at the finish. This increases the likelihood of a sprinter winning the points classification, though other riders can be competitive for the classification if they have a sufficient number of high-place finishes.