Daily BulletinHoliday Centre

The Conversation

  • Written by The Conversation
imageGood on the flat, good on the hills, good on the mountains.Jean-Michel SANGLERAT/Flickr, CC BY-ND

The Tour de France is the world’s most famous cycling competition not only for its sheer length or stunningly picturesque vistas. The Tour captures our attention because the diversity among its 21 gruelling stages pushes its participants to their very limits in ways to their very limits in ways other cycling competitions do not.

To win the Tour, the competitor has to be a rare breed indeed: a cyclist who can excel in multiple areas, not just a specialist in straight line speed or climbing hills.

This year’s Tour starts in Utrecht, Netherlands, on Saturday July 4, which is Bastille Day, a date of particular significance in France’s history. It rolls to an end three weeks later in Paris, on the Champs-Élysées.

In between are 21 stages, including nine flat, three hilly and seven mountainous, with five summit finishes. Each competitor also takes part in two time trials: an individual and a team time trial.

imageThe 2015 Tour de France ranges across a wide variety of terrain.Nuÿ/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

Lifting that bike

The physical demands placed on athletes during the Tour are extremely complicated and influenced by many factors beyond just the average race speed. One crucial factor that influences race tactics, and the likelihood of a particular cyclists performing well in a stage of the Tour, is the change in elevation during the race.

It’s important to note that elevation gain simply describes the distance travelled in a vertical plane. It is not related to the steepness or length of the climbs. This is important because, when considering climbing, the most important use of energy is used moving the rider’s mass (and that of their bike) vertically against gravity.


We recently conducted a study that found the amount of uphill climbing within a stage influences the number of cyclists reaching the finish line in a group. Flatter stages, with a change in elevation of less than 1 km, often end with more than 100 cyclists in final group of the stage. Meanwhile, a change in elevation of more than 2 km typically results in only 15 to 20 cyclists together at the finish line.

This may seem intuitive, yet it is important to outline the precise elevation changes that begin to influence race outcomes. This is especially the case when you consider that a change in elevation of 1 km is equivalent to moving the mass of the cyclist and bike up the Eiffel Tower approximately three times.

Stages with more than 3 km of elevation almost always see only one or two cyclists approaching the finish line together. Some stages in Tour races have an elevation change greater than 5 km, which is the equivalent of going from sea level to the base camp of Mt Everest.

This research could help riders and teams choose the best possible strategy for success during each individual stage of the Tour.

Green and red polka dots

Due to the differing demands of each of these races, cyclists can be categorised into different specialisations. Interestingly, we have shown that cyclists specialise into these groups early in their career, even while still teenagers.

There are generally conceived to be five speciality groups among cyclists. Sprinters and flat terrain cyclists usually achieve their best results in flat stages, and may be able to compete for the sprinter’s green jersey. But they are unlikely to win the overall event.

Time trialists are often slightly heavier than all terrain and climbers, who perform best in mountainous stages. Time trial specialists are able to produce high power output for prolonged periods, requiring high aerobic fitness. However, there are few stages within the Tour de France specifically designed for such riders.

Climbers also have extremely high cardiovascular fitness and compete for the red polka dot jersey. Yet, these climbers are generally lighter than other specialties, given they have to excel in mountainous stages.

Overall there are four possible jerseys in the Tour de France. The green jersey is given to the cyclist who wins the most points for the various sprints in the tour. The red polka dot jersey is given to the best climber, while the white jersey is given to the best placed cyclists under 25 year old in the overall standings. The the important and iconic yellow jersey is given to the cyclists leading the overall event.

So every stage of the Tour de France has its own winner and classification. However, it takes a rare athlete to be able to win the Tour de France as they are required to excel in each and every different stage type.

Chris Abbiss has received funding from Cycling Australia and the Australian Institute of Sport

Paolo Menaspà does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

Authors: The Conversation

Read more http://theconversation.com/it-takes-a-special-kind-of-cyclist-to-win-the-tour-de-france-44078


The Conversation


Scott Morrison Virus Announcement

PRIME MINISTER: Good afternoon. Keeping Australians safe - that is the priority of our Government as we deal with what has been an emerging situation with the coronavirus. Each and every day there a...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Closing the Gap Statement to Parliament

Mr Speaker, when we meet in this place, we are on Ngunnawal country. I give my thanks and pay my respects to our Ngunnawal elders, past, present and importantly emerging for our future. I honour...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Alan Jones

ALAN JONES: Prime Minister, good morning.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Alan.    JONES: I was just thinking last night when we're going to talk to you today, you must feel as though you've ...

News Company - avatar News Company

Business News

Having a mentor is a must to take your business to the next level

Kerstyn Walsh will have the chance to meet her business mentor, LA-based wedding planner to the stars, Lisa Vorce, which will be game-changing for growing Kerstyn’s business Kerstyn Walsh, a self-emp...

Media Release - avatar Media Release

Is Hiring a Corporate Lawyer for Your Company Necessary?

Alternative online legal services like LegalZoom, Incfile, and Rocket Lawyer provides young and budding entrepreneurs access to legal help at a much affordable price without having to hire or meet a l...

Joe Curmi - avatar Joe Curmi

Top 5 Green Marketing Ideas for Your Eco-Friendly Small Business

According to studies, about 33 percent of consumers prefer buying from brands that care about their impact on the environment. This is good news for anyone running an eco-friendly business. It’s a...

Diana Smith - avatar Diana Smith


Travelling With Pets? Here Is What You Should Know

Only a pet parent can understand the dilemma one experiences while planning a vacation. Do you leave your pets at home?  Will you get a pet sitter or someone to take care of them while you are away?...

News Company - avatar News Company

How to Be a Smart Frugal Traveller

You are looking through Instagram, watching story after story of your followers overseas at a beach in Santorini, walking through the piazza in Italy, and eating a baguette in front of the Eiffel ...

News Company - avatar News Company


Graduation is the stage of life when a student receives the rewards of hard work of years. It must have taken sleepless nights and tiring days to achieve the task. Now, as you have received your cov...

News Company - avatar News Company