DAY 10 - Cycling terms and catchphrases


Have you ever listened to some cyclists talking about their club run or ride, and not understood half of the words they are using?!!  Even in the current Tour de France there are terms branded about that seem completely alien to the un-trained ear

As our name Bon Courage comes from one of these cycling phrases, we thought it would be good to delve deeper into what some of words that you hear thrown into conversations mean.

'Bon Courage' Good Luck, don’t give up, keep on going, have heart and courage.

'The Autobus' During mountain stages riders with poor climbing skills often group together hoping to finish in time to beat the time limit cutoff. By staying together in a group they hope that if they don't finish in time they can persuade the officials to let them stay in the race because so many riders would otherwise be eliminated.

‘To bonk’ or to hit the wall: To completely run out of energy. Sometimes a rider will forget to eat or think he has had enough food to make it to the finish without stopping to get food. This can have catastrophic results: in the 1974 Giro famously José-Manuel Fuente didn't eat during the long stage 14 and slowed to a near halt as his body's ability to produce energy came to a crashing halt. Eddy Merckx then sped on and took the Pink Jersey from the Spaniard.

The Broom Wagon: When Desgrange added high Pyrenean climbs to his 1910 Tour he thought it would be necessary to have a rescue wagon follow the riders in case the mountain roads were beyond their ability to ascend, hence the Broom Wagon to sweep up the exhausted racers. It is still in use, following the last rider in a stage. Today when a rider abandons he usually prefers to get into one of his team cars to avoid embarrassment!  And yes years ago the Broom Wagon did have an actual broom bolted to it.

'Chapeux' Hats off. To show approval or respect to a rider by tipping your hat. Probably not so practical anymore when wearing a helmet! But still the phrase has stayed

'Chapatte's Law' Formulated by former racer and Tour commentator Robert Chapatte, it states that in the closing stages of a race a determined peloton will chase down a break and close in at the rate of 1 minute per 10 kilometers traveled. If a break is 3 minutes up the road the peloton will need to work hard for 30 kilometers to catch it. TV race commentator Paul Sherwen regularly uses Chapatte's Law to come up with his often surprisingly accurate predictions of when a break will be caught. It's now calculated by computer on French television.

'Drafting' At racing speed a rider who is only a few inches behind another bike does about 30 percent less work. Riding behind another rider in their aerodynamic slipstream is called drafting. A rider who drafts others and refuses to go to the front and do his share of the work is often known as a "wheelsucker".

'Echelon' When the riders are hit with a side wind they must ride slightly to the right or left of the rider in front in order to remain in that rider's slipstream, instead of riding nose to tail in a straight line. This staggered line puts those riders further back in the pace line in the gutter. Because they can't edge further to the side, they have to take more of the brunt of both the wind and the wind drag of their forward motion.

'Glass cranking' A rider who is trying to look like he is working very hard but is in fact taking it easy is said to be glass cranking. Often a rider in a break who wants to save his energy for later attacks will try to glass crank to keep from angering his fellow breakaway riders.

'Lanterne Rouge' The last man in the General Classification.

'Minute Man' In a time trial he is the rider who starts a minute ahead. It's always a goal in a time trial to try to catch one's minute-man.

'Musette' A cloth bag containing food and drinks handed to the rider in the feed zone. It has a long strap so the rider can slip his arm through it easily on the fly, then put the strap over his shoulder to carry it while he transfers the food to his jersey pockets.

'Pavé' French for a cobblestone road. Riding the pavé requires skill and power. Flemish riders call the cobblestones "children's heads" (kinderkopje).

'Soigneur'  The non-cycling equivalent of a domestique. He or she makes sure that the riders sleep, eat and drink well and also gives the riders their daily massage

So keep an ear out for the commentators using this on their coverage and to what the riders say about the stages at the end of the day. If you think we've missed some key ones we'd love to hear from you!