This year’s Tour de France begins on July 1. (By the way, my search strategy course starts the same day.) For the next three weeks my mornings will be busy watching parts of each stage.
The Tour de France offers some good opportunities for science, health and physical education lessons. These are some of my go-to resources for teaching and learning about the Tour de France.
How fast is the slowest cyclist in the Tour de France?
The yellow jersey is worn by the absolute leader of the race. The goal is to wear it at the end of the race in Paris. The cyclists who compete for this jersey are often referred to as general classification competitors. The big favorites this year are defending champion Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogacar. Some other contenders include David Gaudu, Richard Carapaz, and Jai Hindley.
The green jersey, also known as the points jersey, is typically won by riders who aren’t built for speed uphill, but who are faster than others on flat terrain. Wout Van Aert won it last year. He has said that he is not going to do it this year, but we will see. Other potential contenders for this jersey include Jasper Philipsen, Mads Pederson and possibly Mark Cavendish (a sentimental favorite on his last tour). Peter Sagan has won the jersey seven times and is back on tour this year, but it has been far from his best in the last year.
The polka dot jersey is known as the King of the Mountains jersey. This he won by having the most points for ascending the hills and mountains the fastest. The riders who win this are usually those who are great at climbing hills, but for one reason or another aren’t competitive enough to win the general classification. There are plenty of riders who have the potential to win this depending on individual and team goals. Thibaut Pinot riding his last Tour de France is the sentimental favorite for this jersey.
The white jersey is an award for the best young rider (under 25 years of age).
The science of bicycles and cycling
There is a lot of physics involved in casual bike riding and racing. Here is a selection of videos explaining the physics of cycling.
The first time you ride in a group of experienced riders you will feel the power of drafting. In addition to his incredible fitness and bike handling skills, drafting helps Tour de France cyclists move quickly. The following video explains how wording works.
Minute Physics offers two videos on the physics of bicycles. In How do bikes stay up? We learn how bikes stay upright, how design and weight influence balance, and why it’s hard to balance bikes in reverse. The counterintuitive physics of turning a bicycle explains how we turn bicycles.
The diet of a Tour de France runner
I’ve done some long days on my bike over the years, including the Unbound 200 and a two century charity road trip and in the end always felt like I could eat anything in sight. That’s because I burned thousands of calories. But even then I didn’t burn the 6000-8000+ calories that a typical Tour de France rider burns every day of the race.
What does eating like a professional cyclist look and feel like? That’s what Joshua Robinson of the Wall Street Journal set out to find out in his 6,000-calorie challenge. Take a look at the video below to see how he did it. Pay attention to the pro cyclist at the 2:40 mark in the video for the comment about energy gels because it shocks you and makes you rethink whether or not your average weekend warrior needs expensive “sports energy” products for a simple one hour workout.
If you want to dig a little deeper into the science of cycling nutrition, check out this video featuring the EF Education First Pro Cycling Team Nutritionist.
How much do professional cyclists earn?