The world’s largest sporting event is underway for another year. The 2019 Tour De France (TDF) took off in Brussels, Belgium last week before heading to France.
This year’s Tour has been highly anticipated. Four-time winner Chris Froome had planned an assault to win his fifth Tour de France crown equalling the great Eddie Merckx, Miguel Indurain and Bernard Hinault before he crashed just weeks out from the race, causing him to withdraw.
Froome’s teammate and 2018 Tour winner Geraint Thomas got promoted to Ineos team leader as a result, while teammate and Columbian young-gun Egan Bernal is also expected to be in contention for the podium.
Aussie Richie Porte returns to the race after crashing out in stage 9 last year and having faced a similar fate the year before. Porte has this year altered his ambitions from winning to just hoping to stand on the podium under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
The TDF is a UNion Cycliste Internationale (UCI) World Tour Race and one of the three Grand Tours alongside the Giro d’Italia and La Vuelta on the World Tour calendar.
Grand Tours run over three weeks and are considered to be some of the toughest sporting events in the world.
The Tour de France has 21 stages over spanning the three weeks, including Time Trials (TT), Team Time Trials (TTT), mountain, hilly and flat stages. This year’s TDF has seven flat stages, five hilly stages, seven mountain stages, one Time Trial and one Team Time Trial, covering a total distance of 3,480 km on the route from Brussels to Paris.
There are four primary jerseys up for grabs. The jerseys change hands multiple times over the three weeks but whoever has them when the race rolls onto the Champs Élysées wins the jersey.
The white jersey is for the best young rider: the rider under the age of 23 with the quickest overall time for the race.
The best climber wears the Polka Dot jersey. To achieve ‘best climber’ status the rider must win points by being one of the first competitors to reach the summit of climbs throughout the race. The climber with the most points wins the polka dot jersey.
The green jersey is worn by the best sprinter, the rider who earns the most sprint classification points by being one of the first to cross sprint finish lines throughout the race.
And the yellow jersey or Maillot Jaune is worn by the leader of the General Classification - the rider with the fastest overall time. While many will never wear the yellow jersey, it is an honour to have someone in your team in yellow and teams work to protect the Maillot Jaune over the next stages.
Not all riders in the peloton have the goal of winning. Each team is made up of eight riders including a leader, climbers, sprinters and all-rounders known as domestiques whose job is to help conserve the leader’s energy and make sure they stay safe in the bunch. If anything goes wrong – their leader crashes or gets a puncture - domestiques are expected to sacrifice themselves and even give the leader their bike.
On the face of it cycling doesn’t look much like a team sport but here is no way one rider could make it to Paris without the work of the domestiques. In many ways, it is the ULTIMATE team sport.
We’re thirteen days into TDF 2019 and there’s already been crashes, triumphs, and losses. The riders will be resting their legs tonight our time before heading into the Pyrenees.
Australian hopeful Richie Porte has made it through the previously jinxed stage 9.