Tour de France 2020

Tour de France 2020: Frequently asked questions

The Tour de France is a beautiful, complicated affair. You've got questions? We've got answers.

Part of the charm of the Tour de France is its complexity, but that same complexity can be hard for newer fans to navigate. We hope this FAQ page can help. Vive la France! 

How long is the 2020 Tour de France?

This year’s Tour is 3,470 kilometers (2,156 miles). As with every year, the race consists of 21 stages over the course of three weeks. There are two rest days where there is no racing.

How do you win the Tour de France?

The rider with the lowest overall time after 21 stages wins. There are also stage winners each day, where the first racer across the line wins.

What was the longest Tour de France stage?

The longest Tour de France stage on record was in 1920, where the fifth stage was 482km / 300mi long! These days, stages average around 175km / 109mi. The longest stage this year is stage 3 at 198km / 123mi.

What is a peloton?

The largest group of riders on the road, the peloton is also called the “pack” or the “bunch.” By riding in a pack a rider uses 30 percent less energy than he would riding alone. A chasing peloton often has an advantage over a smaller breakaway.

What is an echelon?

When wind batters the peloton from the side the riders split into smaller angled lineups to capitalize on each other’s draft. Echelons take on a formation much like flying geese, however an echelon’s size is determined by the width of the road. So, in crosswinds, smart riders can use echelons to distance their rivals.

What is a domestique?

A rider who sacrifices his own ambitions in order to aid his team leader. A domestique rides into the wind to shield his team leader; he also carries extra water bottles and food for the leader. If the leader has a puncture, the domestique may give up his wheel or bicycle, or wait to pace the leader back into the peloton.

What is the gruppetto?

The group of riders that forms at the back of the race during mountain stages. They ride just fast enough to make the day’s cutoff time, which is determined by a varying percentage of the winner’s time. Sprinters, sick or injured riders, or riders looking to save energy for the following day are often in the gruppetto.

What is the publicity caravan?

A rolling parade comprised of sponsor-emblazoned vehicles and floats that precedes the race by two hours, the publicity caravan drives the entire route handing out millions of trinkets and treats to the fans alongside the road.

What is the race caravan?

The long line of team vehicles, television and photographer motorcycles, and race official cars that precedes and follows the peloton. Riders will drop back to team vehicles for food, clothing, or mechanical help, and then pace themselves off of the vehicles to regain contact with the peloton.

What is the broom wagon?

The vehicle that drives behind the Tour that “sweeps up” riders who abandon during the stage.

What is hors catégorie?

The Tour de France assigns categories to its climbs based on their length, steepness, and where they fall during the stage. The easiest is Category 4, which is often a climb less than 2km long. The hardest climbs are called “Hors Catégorie,” or beyond category. Often times a climb earns this distinction due to vertical elevation gain, or because it is a summit finish.