Tour de France Vocabulary 101

If you're immersing yourself in all things Tour de France, what better way to spread the excitement than by working some cycling terms into everyday chatter? It beats giving friends and family daily race reports that they don't really want to hear, and let's face it, any time you can use a word like "Flahute" with a straight face is a good time. Mix these sayings into your vernacular at least once a day while the Tour is on.

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Dutch for "pursuer," this typically refers to a chasing rider in the Tour.

Example: "I chatted with the guy on Tinder, but we didn't really hit it off. But he keeps texting me, like some weird achtervolger!"

Autobus/gruppetto/laughing group

This is when riders in trouble form alliances to maximize their chances of finishing within the time gap on certain stages (usually mountainous ones). The theory is that even if the large group doesn't make the cutoff, the officials will be persuaded to let them stay in the race, though the riders try to make the cutoff since officials are rarely that lenient.

Example: "I was late picking up my kids from swim practice, but so were Eddy and Marianne—so our autobus strategy worked and the swim class just ran longer!"


Literally "leg-breaking," this term is used by French riders to describe particularly tough moments in the race, such as hills or sprints.

Example: "The all-nighter that my little Fausto pulled studying for his history exam was casse-pattes, but I couldn't be more proud of his B+!"

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Chapatte's Law

Robert Chapatte was a French pro racer in the '40s and '50s who rode in five Tours de France, and then worked as a journalist and broadcaster through the mid 1990s. During his time covering the race, he developed Chapatte's Law, which says that a chase group will take 10 kilometers to make up one minute on a breakaway rider. So, if a breakaway rider has a gap of a minute with less than 10 kilometers in the race, he's likely to win.

Example: "There was a raincloud that followed me all the way home, but thanks to Chapatte's Law, I knew I could get there without getting soaked."

Chasse patate

This is a sad spot to be in—it refers to the effort of a rider who's caught between two groups, often the breakaway and the chase pack. He'll likely never bridge up to the leaders—he's on a wild goose chase, or "potato chase," translated literally.

Example: "Everyone else had already started drinking when I got to the bar last night—I tried really hard to catch up, but it was a complete chasse patate!"

Coup de Bordure

A "blow to the border" happens when a rider gets pushed out of the echelon on a blustery day. In other words, you got hung out to dry in the wind.

Example: "I did all the work in my group presentation but that jackass in marketing took all the credit. It was a total coup de bordure!"


A hardman, basically. These are the riders (of any gender!) who focus on the long Classics, who never complain about how much riding they're doing. Their weekly mileage would make you shiver. They race and train in any conditions—and they love it. The origin of the word reportedly stems from French journalists in the 1940s, who nicknamed their Belgian neighbors "Flahutes"—a word that doesn't actually translate to anything in English—since they would train through snow, sleet and rain. Sounds like modern day cyclocrossers, doesn't it?

Example: "My daughter was such a Flahute yesterday; it was pouring, but I couldn't get her to come inside for dinner!"

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Flamme Rouge

Not to be confused with the lanterne rouge, or last rider in the race, the flamme rouge is the red flag that hangs over the course one kilometer before the end of a stage—a sign that the pain is almost over for the day! It was first used in the he 1906 Tour de France.

Example: "It was the Flamme Rouge last night at our house as I helped my kid finish his science fair project right before it was due!"

Lanterne Rouge

The last-place competitor in the Tour. The lanterne rouge is in an honorable spot—he's not giving up, and he's still managing to squeak through the time checks each day. Someone needs to be last in the race, and even the final finisher in the Tour is a heck of a lot faster than 99.9999 percent of other riders.

Example: "I know I'm the lanterne rouge on getting my part of the group presentation done, but I'll have it by tomorrow!"

Anything with "-eur" at the end

If there's no term that fits your needs, celebrate La Grande Boucle by creating your own. But be aware that even your most hardcore cycling fan friends will be groaning.

Example: "My presentation today went supeur."

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