How to speak Tour De French

It's important to know your onions.Our guide to some of the cycling words and phrases that have their origin in the French language.

You may have been watching various coverage of the Tour De France and been a bit confused by some of the French terminology that comes up on the screen or is mentioned by the commentators.

Here’s our guide to some of the cycling words and phrases that have their origin in the French language.

à bloc
Riding or going “à bloc” means riding as hard as one possibly can.

A group of riders in a stage race (typically non-climbers and suffering domestiques) who ride together as a group on the mountain stages with the sole intention of finishing within the stage’s time limit.

CaravaneA water bottle.

The team cars and publicity vehicles.

Riding out of the saddle, standing up and rocking side to side.

A cyclist who excels at fast descents.

A rider whose job it is to support and work for other riders in their team.


A line of riders seeking maximum drafting in a crosswind, resulting in a diagonal line across the road.

Age class for riders 19 to 22. Also called U23.

A stage of a stage race.

flamme rouge
A red flag displayed with one kilometer remaining from the finish line.

Hors categorie

hors catégorie
Term primarily used to designate a climb that is “beyond categorization”, an incredibly tough climb. A climb that is harder than Category 1 is designated as hors catégorie.

hors délai
“Out of time”, when a rider has finished outside the time limit in a race and is eliminated.

A class of independent rider in the Tour de France.

To be dropped, left behind by a breakaway or the peloton.

Lanterne rouge
The name given to the rider placed last in a race.

Maillot Jaune
Yellow Jersey.


Small lightweight shoulder bag containing food and drink given to riders in a feed zone.

A list of races a rider has won.

The profile of the race or stage route.

The large main group in a road bicycle race.

Refers to a cyclist or group of cyclists who are separated from and behind the leader(s) but in front of the peloton.

A racer that specializes in rolling terrain with short but steep climbs.

 A racer considered a good all-rounder.


A non-riding member of a team. Covers various roles.

An amateur rider, who is taken in by a professional team during the season.

tête de la course
The leading cyclist or group of cyclists when separated from the peloton.


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