Thursday, 6 May 2010

Does a Yellow Cycling Shirt Always Make You a Winner?

If you are a fan of road cycle racing you will already know that you need to watch the colors of the riders' cycling shirts very closely to find out who the race leaders are. Even if you just watch cycling on the television occasionally, you will probably know as a matter of general knowledge that in the Tour de France, the rider with the yellow jersey is the one who is in the lead.

However, the one wearing the yellow cycling shirt is not always the person to look out for across all stages of the race. Some stages of the Tour de France involve gruelling mountain ascents, and the leader in these types of race section has a jersey of his own. The mountain stage leader is often referred to as the King of the Mountains, and wears a white jersey with red polka dots. It is possible that the mountain experts are not great at sprint racing and other sections of the overall Tour, so despite being leaders in the tough hillside climbs, they generally will not threaten to overtake the yellow jersey holder.

Many stages of the French Tour - and of other major cycle races - are designed for sprinting, and the first riders to complete these sprints are awarded points, according to their position in that section. Getting points is the goal in personal and team time trials, but these points are also awarded for the first riders past the finishing line in all other stages. The mountain stages award less points, as the climbing specialists often win these. The riders' points are added up, and the rider with the highest tally wears the green jersey.

So it is not as simple as keeping your eyes peeled for the yellow jersey when you watch televised cycling. There are several other colors available in the Tour de France, including the white jersey which is for the young riders - currently for competitors under 26 years old. It is important to remember that these cycling shirt classifications only apply to the Tour de France, and the picture becomes slightly confusing if you start watching a race and do not realise it is one of the other main Tours.

There are three major races, together called The Grand Tours, which include the Tour de France, the Vuelta a Espana and the Giro d'Italia. The Spanish Vuelta awards similar jerseys to the French Tour; the gold jersey for the overall leader and green jersey for the points leader. However, the King of the Mountains in Spain wears red rather than polka dots.

In the Italian Giro, the cycling shirts system is entirely different, with the overall race leader taking the pink jersey, while the points leader wears red and King of the Mountains has the green, confusingly opposite to the awards in the Vuelta!

Does a yellow cycling shirt always make you a winner then? Perhaps. It depends which race you are watching, but hopefully you will now be armed with the secret information you need, to understand whose progress you should be concentrating on next time you sit down to an evening of cycling on TV.

Simon Draylor has been an avid cycling enthusiast since childhood, and writes articles about all aspects of cycling and cycle sport, including product reviews of cycle shirts, cycling shorts and cycle racing skin suits; to cycle road safety; to understanding the finer points of the major road races, such as the systems of colored cycling shirts in common use.

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