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How many of these French cycling terms do you know?

How many of these French cycling terms do you know?

If you watch professional cycling on television, you have undoubtedly seen lots of French terms on the feed, even if the commentators are speaking English. In fact, you’ll also notice that the commentators themselves will use French terms for pro cycling. The language acts as a lingua franca for both riders and staff. Given the long history of cycling in the country – the first Tour de France was in 1903it’s no surprise that these terms are the standard for the sport.

Phrases your non-cycling friends won’t understand

Some of these terms are pretty commoneveryone knows what a peloton or maillot is, but how many of the rest are you familiar with?

People in pro cycling

arriere de la course – back of the race
autobus – a group of cyclists who ride to try and finish in the time limit, (“grupetto” in Italian.)
directeur sportif – sports director, or manager
domestique – a support rider. The rider who carries bottles, paces a leader back on or sets the pace at the front
échappé – a breakaway
guerrier – a warrior
grimpeur – a climber
la tête de course – leader, or literally, front of the race
le metier – the occupation, trade, or profession of being a professional cyclist
peloton – main bunch of riders. Translates to platoon or squad.
poursuivant – a chaser
poisson pilote – the “pilot fish,” the last leadout man who guides the team sprinter to the line
puncheur – a rider with explosive acceleration that can attack hard up short climbs
rouleur – a steady rider
soigneur – rider’s helper, from the French verb soigner, to take care of

During a race

à bloc – riding as hard and fast as you can
jour sans – a day without. When a rider has a bad day during a race
sans chaine – “without chain:” an amazing ride. It’s when your legs feel so great, it’s as if there’s no chain.
souplesse – using a supple pedal stroke, riding smoothly

Items and equipment

bidon – water bottle
crevaison – flat
dossard – race number
gilet – vest
maillot – jersey (notably, the maillot jaune)
musette – feed bag. The name comes from the French for a small bagpipe. The bags are tucked to the side and resemble one.
pneu – tire

Things, places and occurrences

chute – crash
col – mountain pass
contre la montre – literally, against the clock, a time trial
côte – hill
course – race
course par étapes – stage race
descente – descent
départ fictif – the “fictional start”. Riders will assemble in the village départ, the…

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