Bicycle Racing Terminology

The following is reprinted with permission, from Amgen Tour of California

Abandon. When a rider quits during a race.

Attack. A sudden acceleration to move ahead of another rider or group of riders

Big Ringing It. A "big" gear – when the rider has his chain on the larger of the two front chainrings – allows a rider to go for maximum speeds. This gearing is most often used on rolling terrain.

Bonk. Total exhaustion caused by lack of sufficient food during a long race or ride.

Bonus Sprints. On each stage, race organizers designate several locations along the route where bonus points are given to the .first three riders that cross the line. These sprints create a "race within a race" during each stage.

Breakaway. One or more riders who sprint away from the peloton in an effort to build a lead. Competing riders in a breakaway will often form uneasy alliances, working together and drafting to increase or maintain their lead. Those alliances break down, though, as they approach the finish. A team leader in a breakaway with multiple teammates has a decided advantage over a rider who has no support.

Bridge. A rider or riders who sprint away from the main group of riders, or peloton, and catch the breakaway.

Broom Wagon. The vehicle that follows the race, picking up racers who have to abandon the race.

Caravan/Race Caravan The official and team support vehicles in a race. Each team has a car in the official race caravan. The team cars follow the peloton and riders will often go back to their team car for food, extra clothing, or to speak to their team director.

Circuit Race. A multiple-lap race around a course of 2 miles or more. Circuit races are great crowd pleasers. In the 2008 Amgen Tour of California, the final portion of stage 7 (and the entire tour) is a circuit race. If you're in or near Pasadena, CA on the 24th, don't miss it!

Clincher. A traditional bicycle tire that is mounted on a rim with a wire or kevlar bead. Clinchers are easy to replace or repair, but they and their rims tend to weigh more than a tubular.

Col. A mountain pass or climb, such as 'Col du Telegraph'.

Criterium. A multi-lap, one-day race on a closed, short course, typically one mile or less

Derailleur. A mechanism for moving the chain from one sprocket to another to change gears on a multi-speed bicycle.

Disc Wheel. A bicycle wheel with covers or a solid disc, rather than open spokes. Disc wheels are very aerodynamic, but heavy, and can turn into a sail in a strong crosswind.

DNF. Short for "Did Not Finish"

Domestique. A rider whose main job is to help the team leader win the day's stage, or the entire race. A domestique may pull the leader up to a breakaway, or pace them up a steep climb. If a team leader gets a flat, a domestique may even be called upon to give up their front or rear wheel and wait for the team mechanic, saving the leader precious seconds.

Drafting. One or more riders ride single file behind another rider, taking advantage of that rider's slipstream. By doing so the rider behind has less of a headwind and gets a breather. In a crosswind, riders may ride in a diagonal line, instead. Drafting is the lynchpin of most bicycle racing tactics. See also paceline.

Drop/Dropped. When a rider has been left behind by another rider or group of riders.

Echappee. The cyclist who escapes from the pack. The 'escapee'.

Echelon. A staggered, long line of riders, each downwind of the rider ahead, allowing them to move considerably faster than a solo rider or small group of riders. In windy sections where there are crosswinds, a large peloton will form into echelons.

Equipe. A cycling team.

Feed Zone. A designated area along the route where riders can grab "musette bags" filled with food and drinks as they ride by. There is an unwritten rule in the peloton that riders should not attack the .field while the riders are going through the feed zone

Field Sprint. A mass sprint at the .finish among the main group of riders in a road race.

Gap. The amount of time or distance between a rider or group of riders and another rider or group of riders.

General Classification (G.C.). The overall leader board in the race, representing each rider's total cumulative time in the race. The rider with the lowest time is number one on the G.C.

Grand Tour. Refers to three-week major cycling stage races: Tour de France, Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy) and Vuelta a Espana (Tour of Spain)

Gruppetto. A group of riders that forms at the back of the .eld on mountain stages and ride at a pace that allows them to finish just inside the time limit. (see Time Cut.) Usually the gruppetto is comprised of sprinters and other riders who are not climbing specialists or race leaders. Gruppetto is Italian for "a small group"

Hammer. To ride hard. Also, to "put the hammer down"

Jump. A quick acceleration, which usually develops into a sprint.

King of the Mountains. The KOM is the fastest climber in the overall standings. King of the Mountain is awarded to the racer who is awarded points based on the many KOM sprints in the Tour. Look for the KOM jersey in the race.

Lacher. Drop out or let go.

Lead Out. A racer's teammate(s) form a paceline in front of the leader, pulling hard for the finish. The supporting cast pulls off one at a time, leaving the leader rested and fast for the last sprint. Leadouts typically happen right before the finish line or sprint.

Mechanical. Slang for a problem with the bicycle. "He had a mechanical."

Mountain Climb Classifications. Large mountain climbs are normally classified according to their difficulty. Category 4 is the easiest, followed by Categories 3, 2, 1, and the Hors-Categorie (which is the hardest). Mountain climbs are classified according to their length and the average gradient of the road's incline.

Neutral Section. The first few miles of road race courses are generally controlled in a "neutral section". In this section the race is controlled by the commissaires with no attacks allowed and the pace is generally moderate. It allows the riders a short period of warmup under controlled conditions and is used by the organizers to "parade" the race in a start city and organize the race caravan without worry of active racing. The section ends at the "0K" point with a rolling start.

Off the Back. When a rider or riders cannot keep pace with the main group and lag behind.

Off the Front When a rider takes part in a breakaway.

Paceline. A formation of two or more riders who are drafting. Typically, racers take turns doing the hard work at the front of the line.

Peloton. The main group of racers. With its dozens of colorful jerseys, maneuvering for position and breakneck speeds, the peloton can be quite a sight. Also called the pack.

Point to Point Road Race. A one-day race in which the route travels between two separate points. The most prestigious of these races are known as “Classics”

Popped. Blown; Had it; Knackered; Stuffed; Words used to describe the legs losing all power.

Prologue. One type of beginning for a stage race, which is a relatively short time trial.

Puncture. Flat tire

Road Rash. Skin abrasions resulting from a fall or crash onto the road.

Saddle. The bike seat.

Schwag. The free stuff competitors get when they race. May include water bottles, jerseys, food, or more expensive toys.

Slipstream. The area of least wind resistance behind a rider.

Sprint. A quick scramble for the finish line or a mid-race king of the mountain or other competition. A professional road race sprint is fast, furious and tactical. Watch for riders to jockey for the second or third spot, or organize leadouts by their teammates.

Squirrel. A small rodent, but also a rider who is erratic and 'squirrely' when riding in a group.

Stage Race. A race comprised of multiple one-day races, or stages. The Tour of California is a stage race.

Team Leader. The rider for whom the team supports in order for the leader to win a stage or race

Technical. A descent or other portion of a race that is twisty, steep or otherwise challenging from the point of view of bike handling.

Time Cut. Mostly applicable to the Grand Tours. On each stage all riders must finish within a certain percentage of the winner's time to remain in the race. Those who are unable to make the cut are disqualified from the race

Time Trial. Often called the Race of Truth, a time trial pits a rider or a team against the clock. Individual time trials are grueling affairs, with each rider expending maximum effort.

Train. A fast moving paceline of riders

Tubular. A high-performance racing tire with the inner tube sewn inside the tire. The tire is then glued to a low-profile rim. Tubulars offer weight and strength advantages, but are hard to fix and maintain. Plus a bad gluing job can mean a tire failure in a sharp turn, and an ugly crash. Also called sew-ups.

UCI. Union Cycliste Internationale, the international governing body of cycling.

USA Cycling. America's governing body of cycling. USA Cycling supervises the activities of all cycling disciplines (road,mountain, track, cyclo-cross), and establishes criteria for the U.S. Olympic Cycling Team

Velo. French for "bicycle"

Wheelsucker. A somewhat dated term for someone who, while riding in a paceline, doesn't take a turn at the front of the line. These days they get called lots of other names. None are printable here...

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