Sunday, July 24, 2011

Don't be afraid to let them show, your true colours like a rainbow

Aussie Cadel Evans has won the 2011 Tour de France.  Yay, go Cadel, go Oz!

Anyone who has been watching the race over the last couple of weeks will have seen the race leader at the various stages wearing the treasured yellow jersey.  But why a yellow jersey?  And what was that strange polka dot job won by Samuel Sanchez, why did Pierre Rolland get a white jersey and Mark Cavendish a green one that wasn't decided until the finish line?

For all the armchair sports people out there, here are the clues.  Even if too late for a bit of oneupsmanship this year, keep next year mind.  Drop it into the sports conversation at some stage and look cool.

Coloured jerseys:
·         The coloured jerseys in the Tour de France indicate various category leaders at various stages.
·         There is a presentation at a ceremony after each stage.
·         The riders have to wear their jerseys for the next stage.
·         If a rider is entitled to wear more than one jersey, he wears the highest ranking one.

The yellow jersey:
·         The yellow jersey, known in French as the maillot jaune, is the most prized.
·         That jersey indicates the overall time leader.  Because it calculates the total combined race time, it does not require the stage to be won. 
·       Although the Tour de France was first held in 1903, the yellow jersey was not introduced until 1919 to make the winner stand out.  Prior to that the race leader wore a green armband.
·         The jersey is yellow because the pages of the race sponsor’s magazine, L’Auto, were yellow.

The green jersey:
·         The green jersey is known in French as the maillot vert.
·         It is awarded to the cyclist with the highest number of sprint points.  Riders are awarded points for coming first, second, third etc in the stages, with the number of points and the number of riders awarded points varying according to the type of stage. Flatter stages give higher points in that there are more likely to be sprints.
·         The points competition began in 1953 to mark the 50th anniversary.

The red polka dot jersey:
·         The winner of the King of the Mountain wears a white jersey with red dots, known as the maillot à pois rouges in French.  It is commonly referred to as the "polka dot jersey".
·         The best climber was first recognised in 1933 as the "King of the Mountain".
·         The distinctive polka dot jersey was not introduced until 1975.
·         The colors were decided by the then sponsor, Poulain Chocolate, to match a popular product.
·         Points awarded for the riders who are first over the top at each climb. The climbs are divided into categories based on difficulty, points varying according to difficulty.
·         True mountain climbs were not included in the Tour de France until the Pyrenees climb in 1910.

From Wikipedia:

Both climbs were mule tracks, a demanding challenge on heavy, ungeared bikes ridden by men with spare tyres around their shoulders and their food, clothing and tools in bags hung from their handlebars. The assistant organiser, Victor Breyer, stood at the summit of the Aubisque with the colleague who had proposed including the Pyrenees, Alphonse Steinès. Breyer wrote of the first man to reach them:

His body heaved at the pedals, like an automaton, on two wheels. He wasn't going fast but he was at least moving. I trotted alongside him and asked 'Who are you? What's going on? Where are the others?' Bent over his handlebars, his eyes riveted on the road, the man never turned his head nor uttered one sole word. He continued and disappeared round a turn. Steinès had read his number and consulted the riders' list. Steinès was dumfounded. 'The man is François Lafourcade, a nobody. He has caught and passed all the cracks' ... Another quarter-hour passed before the second rider appeared, whom we immediately recognised as Octave Lapize. Unlike Lafourcade, Lapize was walking, half leaning on, half pushing his machine. But unlike his predecessor, Lapize spoke, and in abundance. 'You are assassins, yes, assassins!' To discuss matters with a man in this condition would have been cruel and stupid.

The white jersey:
·         The rider aged under 26 who places highest in the general classification gets to wear a white jersey (le maillot blanc).
·         The white jersey and yound riuder claasification were introduced in 1975 and discontinued in 1990, then reintroduced in 2000.

Other awards and comments:
·         A cyclist who shows the most fighting spirit, as determined by judges who award points for attacking moves, gets to wear a white-on-red number instead of black-on-red.
·         The leading team, based on points for the first three riders of each team after each stage, wears a yellow number instead of white.
·         There used to be a red jersey awarded for the standings in non-stage-finish sprints. This jersey and award was abolished in 1989.
·         There was also a combination jersey, which had a patchwork design, with areas resembling each individual jersey design. This jersey was presented to the leader of a points system based on standings for the yellow, green, red, and polka-dot jerseys. This was also abolished in 1989.
·         The current world champion can wear the rainbow jersey when he competes in the Tour de France.
·         The current national road race champions can wear their national jerseys in ordinary stages.
·         National time-trial champions are allowed to wear their national jerseys in the tiome-trial stages only.

Carlos Sastre (yellow jersey), Bernhard Kohl (polka dot jersey) and Oscar Freire (green jersey) prior to stage 18 of the 2008 Tour de France.

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