Lisa's Mum's guide to the Tour de France

The Tour de France starts on July 2 and Lisa's Mum is excited. She is still a little bit miffed that Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen have declined her offer to join them on the SBS TdF commentary team. Apparently, they do have enough women commentators and no, they do not think omitting Lisa's Mum from this year's line-up would alienate a large portion of their audience.

Alberto is a big Star Trek fan but even big fans can get the official greeting wrong sometimes
Le Tour this year winds through all sorts of romantic-sounding French places before ending up on the Champs-Elysees where, like most tourists visiting Paris, the peleton will be too tired to do any decent shopping and won't be able to afford anything there, anyway.

Lisa's Mum appreciates that not all of her fans will have as intimate a knowledge of Le Tour as her. Accordingly, she will be providing Le Commentary for the next three weeks to help the uninitiated through the Greatest Show On Earth. To start with, here is a glossary for beginners:
  • Tour: A multi-day stage race (like the Tour de France). A Tour provides many days of racing, but just one overall winner. Which makes you wonder why the other 197 riders are so slow to catch on. The overall winner and some lucky other guys get to dress up in colourful jerseys at the end and everyone else loses 5kg. [See also Lisa's Mum's previous Guide to Cycling for Non-Cyclists]
  • Stage: One day of racing in a Tour. Even though there is only one winner at the end, each stage tricks riders into thinking they may have won (a 'Stage Winner'). On the podium, the Stage Winner is told the sad news that no, they are not the real winner, and they have to race again tomorrow. The frustration leads him to throw his bouquet of flowers into the crowd in a huff.
  • Time Trial: A stage of a Tour where each rider races not against other riders, but against the clock. Each rider is set off one or two minutes apart and told that there is only enough hot water in the showers at the end for 3 people. Each rider turns themselves inside out trying to get there first.
  • Neutral Start: Technically, this is where the start of the race is 'neutralised' and not part of the race, so that riders can parade through the start town nice and safe. I think in most pro men's races where the stages are 200km+ this generally works. In women's pro races of 100km, 'neutral start' means 'get to the front any way you can, as fast as you can, before the neutral zone ends'.
  • Finish line: Where the race ends. A rider's finishing time is taken from the moment they cross the line... unless they are in a big bunch, in which case the time is taken from the first wheel and given to everyone in the bunch. This is so that the riders who have not yet worked out what a Tour is (see Tour, above) will not be tempted to race everyone else in the bunch in order to 'win' the sprint for 38th place.
  • King of the Mountains: The smallest and skinniest rider who gets to look like Where's Wally as a reward.
  • Sprint Leader: Given to the rider with the biggest and strongest legs. Also the first rider likely to get fat when they retire.
  • Domestique: A rider who can ride just as well as their leader but is paid half as much. Often seen getting water bottles and getting spat out the back after an epic 150km solo breakaway.

Next: Lisa's Mum's guide to surviving conversations with a Tour de France tragic!