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A CrossFit athlete’s guide to the Tour de France – Part 2

As a CrossFit athlete you will be familiar with cycling as a part of your workout. Although a lot shorter and mostly more explosive than what the riders in the Tour de France are doing, you can relate to the physical demands of pedalling a bike. As in the sport of Crossfit, cycling has many rules that are aimed at creating a fair and even playing field for participants. Not being a CrossFit participant myself, I can only assume that there are some rules that are questioned just as they are in cycling. I am also convinced that there are a few unwritten rules where the community control themselves, just as there are in cycling. Here are a few of both which may surprise you…

Actual Rule:

Bicycles cannot be lighter than 6.8kg – Carbon technology being as it is, manufacturers can produce complete bicycles that weigh around 5kg but in all regulated racing, the bicycle cannot be lighter than the designated weight. Bikes are weighed before starts and if they are found to be lighter, the rider has to attach weights in order to bring it up to regulations.

Unwritten Rule:

Bad luck should not create a result – If a contender crashes or suffers a mechanical issue and the race is not yet going flat out, the bunch will slow and ride easily until the rider returns to the bunch. Often, if there is a big crash early in a race, the whole bunch will ‘soft pedal’ until everyone who can, has remounted and re-joined the ‘peloton’. Any rider or team who is deemed to take an advantage of a rival’s bad luck will be severely disciplined by the peloton.

Actual Rule:

Socks cannot be too long – Officials have gone so far as to spend time before races literally measuring riders sock length. Yes, the French are World leaders in the fashion industry, but this is not the reason behind this rule. There is significant evidence that long socks with a textured surface can improve riders’ aerodynamics. Whether it is a gain substantial enough to warrant wasting time measuring two hundred riders’ socks is debatable.

Unwritten Rule:

Do your bit or don’t contest – In a small group, everyone needs to roll to the front and do their share of the work into the wind. Riders following on the wheels can save up to 30% of their energy, so when a rider tells his compatriots in the group that he is battling and can’t contribute to the work, they may let him ‘sit on’ and benefit from the slipstream BUT, if there is an intermediate sprint, the resting rider cannot sprint and contest it. An even bigger faux pas is to sit on a group and then contest the finish. If a rider has the gumption to actually do this, he will never get the opportunity again.

Unwritten Rule :

The community takes care of each other – Something that I know CrossFitters are very proud of in their sport. Cycling is a dangerous sport. There are lots of obstacles and anomalies out on the road that can be difficult to see or judge when you are riding in a tightly packed bunch. Riders will warn those behind that may not have a clear view of what is approaching. This may be corners, traffic islands, potholes etc. In the same vein, riders who are in a group will work together and share the load in order to hold off chasing bunches, even though they themselves are rivals for the victory once they reach the finish.

Actual Rule:

Collusion is illegal – Riders from rival teams are not permitted to assist each other. So, if your mate, on a different team suffers a puncture, you cannot give him your wheel. Riders are also not permitted to share water bottles or nutrition. Kind of flies in the face of the previous ‘unwritten rule’.

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Unwritten Rule:

Deals can and will be made – So, collusion between rivals is illegal BUT in the case of races like the Tour de France, there are often situations where two riders will approach the finish together where one will be moving into the overall lead and taking over the Yellow Jersey. In this case the other rider will be gifted the stage victory so that both get something out of the day’s efforts.

Actual Rule:

Slipstreaming behind a vehicle or taking a tow from a vehicle is illegal – Fairly obvious rule. Riders are expected to complete the course under their own impetus, using their own strength and energy.

Unwritten Rule:

If a rider suffers a mechanical incident or a crash and is chasing back to the bunch, a blind eye is turned by the officials if the rider uses the slipstream of the following support vehicles to get back. As long as he doesn’t do it for too long OR, he isn’t spotted. When a rider drops back to the car for fresh bottles and nutrition, it is accepted practice to receive a hand-sling as he takes the bottle, in order to get some momentum to get back to the bunch. This is known as a ‘sticky’ or ‘long bottle’. The longer the contact, the longer the bottle and the more scrutiny from the referees.

Actual Rule:

No peeing in public – In a race like the Tour de France, with start to finish TV coverage and spectators along the length of the route, what are you supposed to do in a five to six-hour ride? The riders are expected to find a quiet stretch of road and to be as discreet as possible, but a referee is still well within his rights to fine the rider if so chooses.

Unwritten Rule:

Safety in Numbers -What riders do when they need to have a wee-stop, is they do it en-masse. The stop is normally instigated by an influential rider, known as a ‘patron’. He will pull to the side of the road and everyone who needs some relief will join him. It is not unheard of to see a line of up to a hundred riders in a long line by the side of the road in early parts of a race. When the pace is on however, there is no time to stop. A rider will move to the outside of the group and ask a teammate to give him a push as he does the job on the move. Normally starting near the front of the bunch so that they can drift gradually back and still be in the group once the deed is completed. Obviously considering the direction of the wind and the proximity of any roadside spectators.

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