Not so the Tour de France. The most famous of the Big Big Three is, for many, about as easy to get along with as it would be to win over the rusty, battered old Raleigh in the garden shed.
How can a runner win without claiming a single stage? What do all the different colored jerseys mean? And how do they go to the bathroom?
The terminology is presented here both in English and, for those who want to impress, in French.
The race and its different stages
The Tour lasts three weeks, during which the riders will cover 3,470 kilometers – or 2,156 miles – this year on a difficult circuit of the country. It is divided into 21 racing days, with each day-long stage lasting up to five and a half hours and covering up to 218 km. Some stages are relatively flat, others torturously mountainous. Each stage has its own winner and offers cash prizes and points to the top 15 runners at both the finish line and the middle line at the halfway point.
The Tour comprises five competitions in total: the general classification, the points classification, the mountain classification, the best young rider and the team classification. The rider who completes all the stages as quickly as possible – after the bonuses have been recorded – in three weeks arrives at the top of the general classification and wins the Tour.
The mountain ranking is earned on points, which are awarded at the top of each ranked climb, and at mountain top finishes.
In the points classification competition, the runners are rewarded at the intermediate points of the sprint during the races. More points are therefore available on the flat stages, with fewer points to be gained on the mountain stages.
The general, young rider and team rankings are won by those with the fastest time. More on that later.
Teams and riders
In total, 176 riders take the start of the Tour in 22 teams of eight. Each team is followed throughout the course by two support cars – one for the main cavalcade of support vehicles and the other in case one or more riders manage to enter the break, hence a sporting director (sports director) can radio instructions, refresh water and supplies, and provide mechanical assistance and replacement bikes during the race. Riders can also get mechanical help from a neutral service car in the event of a puncture or other breakdown, and medical car treatment.