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Tour de France

Ask the Live Update Guy

Editor’s note:We’ve been doing Live Updates of Tour de France stages for 14 years now, and for many of those years the same cranky old character – Live Update Guy – has kept you abreast of events on the road. When the action hits a lull, the Live Update Guy – or “LUG,” as we like to call him – kills time with limerick and haiku contests, “where are you from" contests and answering readers' questions. Today's a rest day, but we thought we would wake the old LUG up to answer a few of the most common questions we get.

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It's rest day at the Tour.

It’s rest day at the Tour.

Photo:

Editor’s note:We’ve been doing Live Updates of Tour de France stages for 14 years now, and for many of those years the same cranky old character – Live Update Guy – has kept you abreast of events on the road. When the action hits a lull, the Live Update Guy – or “LUG,” as we like to call him – kills time with limerick and haiku contests, “where are you from” contests and answering readers’ questions. Today’s a rest day, but we thought we would wake the old LUG up to answer a few of the most common questions we get. If you have a question, comment or complaint, you can always reach us at WebLetters@CompetitorGroup.com.


Making the grade
Dear Live Update Guy,
I constantly see references to roads in bicycle races described in terms of percentages, both in your live updates and race coverage. Usually you say something like this: “The climb is 17km long with an average grade of 7.7 percent, with ramps reaching 11 percent.”

You use the term so frequently but never define it. How do you reach that figure?
Joan R.
Redwood City, California

Those roads are steep, but how do you measure it?

Those roads are steep, but how do you measure it?

Photo:

Dear Joan,
This one is relatively easy … which is good, because most of us weren’t math majors (although John Wilcockson is an engineer by training). Road grades are a measure of how much a given road surface departs from the purely horizontal. The term is usually expressed as a percentage. So, for example, if we had a road race out on the Bonneville Salt Flats, our road grade would be pretty dang close to zero.

angle Grade
(tangent)
sine 
0% 0%
9% 9%
10° 18% 17%
30° 58% 50%
45° 100% 71%
60° 173% 87%
90° infinite 100% 

In contrast, the road up L’Alpe d’Huez averages 8.6 percent, meaning that the road rises 86 meters for every kilometer of forward travel – or “run.” Simply put, that means that as a rider covers the 13.8km of run on L’Alpe d’Huez, he achieves about 1.1km of rise.

To calculate the grade of road (usually unnecessary since we usually have the figure at our finger tips, since promoters love to tout those numbers), simply divide the elevation gained (the “rise”) by the horizontal distance covered (the “run”).

Don’t confuse the percentage of grade with the degree of a slope, though. To clear that up, let’s say that the roof that covers your house was built at a nice, steep 45-degree angle. That would mean that for every meter of rise, there would be a corresponding meter of run, meaning that the 45-degree slope would translate into a 100-percent grade.

Nor should you confuse grade with the sine of an angle, which represents the hypotenuse between any two points on our hypothetical grade. The sine is also known as rise to run, which is different that rise over run. For a convenient comparison, we’ve prepared – okay, copied – the chart on the right.

We hope that helps, because we’ve pretty much exhausted our skills in math with this one.
L.U.G.

You can take that to the bank… sorta
Dear Velo,
I’ve always been interested in the king of the mountains more than the sprinter’s jersey, but as far as prize money, how does the polka-dot winner compare with the green jersey?

In general, what do top pros win for winning any of the jerseys, including the maillot jaune?
Robert N

Dear Robert,
The prize money is pretty hefty in bike racing terms and pretty darn small if you compare it to almost any other sport. For example, the winner of the Tour de France earns about $716,000 for racing his bike faster than 179 other guys for three weeks all around France. By contrast, our latest calculation shows that figure is roughly equal to the amount paid to top Major League Baseball players for just the time they spend scratching their nether regions in a single season. The disparity is actually even more glaring, since there is no tradition that requires those baseball players to share those – or any other – proceeds with their teammates. Of course, the Tour winner is obligated – at least by custom – to divide the spoils among riders and staff.

Anyway, disparity, tradition and editorializing aside, here is the distribution of prizes for the jerseys – and a few other contests – at the Tour de France this year [dollar figures based on July 15 exchange rate]:

? Yellow jersey – 450,000 euros ($716,129.47)
? Green (points) jersey – 25,000 euros ($39,784.97)
? Polka dot (KOM) jersey – 25,000 euros ($39,784.97)
? White (young rider) jersey – 20,000 euros ($31,827.97)

The most aggressive rider, too, is awarded an overall prize of 20,000 euros (about $29,500).

Stage winners earn 8000 euros ($12,731.19).

Teams also compete for the best overall team award. That is calculated by taking each team’s three best finishers each day. The team with the lowest cumulative time at the end of the Tour gets a check for $50,000 euros ($79,569.94).
L.U.G.

The whole enchilada
Dear VeloNews,
While Lance Armstrong’s seven-year run in the yellow jersey is impressive, I’ve always wondered who completely dominated the Tour by winning more than just the leader’s jersey? Has anyone ever won the yellow and green or yellow and polka-dot or all three jerseys in the same Tour?
Anne W.
Seattle, Washington

Dear Anne,
Well, right off the bat, in our search for multiple jersey winners, we can eliminate the first 26 editions of the Tour, since it wasn’t until 1933 that the Tour introduced the second top prize — the climber’s jersey — into the mix.

In 1938 none other than Gino Bartali won both, a feat he repeated in 1948 and then Fausto Coppi achieved in 1949. Coppi again scored both jerseys in 1952. Spain’s Frederico Bahamontes achieved the same distinction in 1959.

The points jersey was introduced in the 1953 Tour, but it wasn’t until 1969 that a yellow-jersey winner managed to win that as well. Of course, that was the year Eddy Merckx won his first Tour. It’s also the year he won the climber’s jersey. He would have also won the white jersey, for best young rider, but that wasn’t introduced until 1975. That’s a heck of a rookie year, no?

Merckx won the Tour five times – in 1969, ’70, ’71, ’72 and 75 – but he also won the points jersey three times – 1969, ’71 and ’72 – and the climber’s jersey twice – in 1969 and ’70. As you might guess, no one has dominated the Tour like that since.

The closest was another Tour great – five-time winner Bernard Hinault – who won both the yellow jersey and the points jersey in 1979.

We should also note that Laurent Fignon (1983), Jan Ullrich (1997) and Alberto Contador (2007) took home the yellow and white jerseys in those years.
L.U.G.

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