Lexicon of cycling terms

Vive le tour

Cycling borrows many words from European languages, especially French, Italian and Dutch. Here’s a list of the most commonly used ones. Some are so widespread that English speakers use them but others might appear when you’re watching a race on TV, perhaps an on-screen caption. Whilst I’ve put the translations below, you might want to look up the English meanings if you don’t know your yellow jersey from your pink jersey etc. The list isn’t exhaustive so please email in any additions or leave a comment below.

A copy of these words will be listed via the “Lexicon” link at the top of the page for ready reference.

A bloc Full gas
Achtervolgers “chasers”, riders trying to reach another group ahead of them
Autobus group of riders at the back in a mountain stage who collaborate to finish in time
Aankomst arrival, the finish line
Ardennes hilly Ardennes region of Belgium
Arrivée see “aankomst”
Bas côté unpaved sides of a road
Bidon water bottle
Baroudeur courageous rider compensating moderate ability by combative riding
Bordure formed when riders adopt an echelon formation in a crosswind
Bosse “bump”, a short hill
Caduta crash
Chasse patate “potato hunting”, when a rider is trying to bridge across from the bunch to the lead group
Cima summit
Cima Coppi prize awarded for the first to the top the highest mountain pass in the Tour of Italy
Classic prestigious one day race that has been staged for many years
Contre la montre “against the watch”, a time trial race
Col mountain pass
Commissaire race judge
Côte small hill
Chute see “caduta”
Crevaison puncture
La Doyenne “old lady”, the nickname of the Liège–Bastogne–Liège race
Départ fictif symbolic start point of race
Départ réel actual point when the racing begins after the neutralised procession ends
Directeur sportif Team manager
Domestique “servant”, a rider tasked with helping a team leader
Dorsales Race numbers pinned to the jersey
Dossard see “dorsales”
Echapée breakaway
Enfer du nord “Hell of the North”, nickname of the Paris-Roubaix race
Etape stage
Etape reine Queen stage, the crucial mountain stage in a race
Flamme rouge “red flame”, the red kit symbol signalling 1km to the finish
Flahute a tough rider, usually from Flanders or Northern France
Flandrien see “flahute”
Fringale a state of hypoglycaemia, the blood sugar falls and a rider runs out of energy
Fuga see “échappée”
Grand boucle “big loop / buckle”, a nickname of the Tour de France
Groupe de tête lead group in a race
Gregario see “Domestique”
Grimpeur a “climber”, a rider suited to riding in the mountains
Grupetto see “autobus”
Gruppo compatto “compact group”, when the bunch absords any breakaways and all the main riders are back together
Hellingen “ramps”, the term used to describe the short but steep climbs of Flanders
Hors délai Outside the cut-off time
Jour sans “day without”, when a rider as an off day in a stage race, conceding time to rivals
Kasseien cobbles
Kermesse a village festival where often a bike race is included
Kinderkopjes child heads, see “kasseien”
Kop van de wedstrijd Head of the race, the front group
Lanterne rouge “red light”, the name given to the last rider on the overall classification
Lekke band see “crevaison”
Lombardia a northern region of Italy around Milan
Maglia rose Pink jersey
Maillot jaune Yellow jersey
Maillot vert Green jersey
Maillot à pois Polka dot jersey
Monument one of the five most prestigious one day races of the year
Mur “wall”, a steep climb
Omloop circuit or race
Passista rider capable of fast riding on the flat
Passo see “col”
Pavé see “Kasseien”
Peloton “platoon”, the main pack or bunch of riders
Pendenza gradient or slope
Pente see “pendenza”
Pistard track rider
Poursuivants see “achtervolgers”
Puncheur rider capable of frequent attacks
Primavera “spring”, the nickname of the Milan-Sanremo race
Prime bonus payment, often awarded at a set point in the race
Prix Prize
Prix Henri Desgrange prize awarded to the first to the top the highest mountain pass in the Tour de France
Ronde “round”, circular route for a race or a tour
Rouleur see “Passista”
Salita a climb
Service course a team’s headquarters and base
Sommet Summit
Strade bianche “white roads”, unsealed dust roads in rural Italy
Waaier see “bordure”
Ventaglio see “bordure”
Vive le tour Long live the tour
Vlaanderen the Flanders region of Belgium
Volata sprint
Voiture balai broom wagon, the last vehicle in a race, it “sweeps up” any dropped riders
Voiture neutre neutral service vehicle

27 thoughts on “Lexicon of cycling terms”

  1. fuga see echappée
    volata bunch sprint
    crisi see jour sans (I heard it also from sporza tv)
    Lasterketa burua see kop van wedstrijd in basque countries (san sebastian/donostia)
    risico hard to preview, incert ending
    oyy oyy oy oy oy attention or crucial point of a race

    only because I love too the technical words of my bfavourite sport

  2. Dossard rouge – red race number, the ‘most agressive rider’ award worn each day in the TdF
    L’écart – time gap
    Hors delais – disqualified for being outside the time limit; the limit depends on the first rider’s time and the difficulty of the stage.
    Tour de taille – a yearly struggle for amateur cyclists 😉

  3. Just thinking it would be fun to have a “(language)” after the words in the lexicon, to tell which language the word comes from!

    Something like this:
    Riis (Danish) The act of throwing a TT-bike;)

  4. Criterium – local races on a short track
    Kop over kop – when a small group of riders wants to make a gap with the riders behind them, riding short turns in the wind to keep maximum speed

  5. Maglia RosA, not Rose.

    Great stuff though; may I suggest:

    Casse pates: (should have a circumflex on the ‘a’ of pates, but can’t find it on the phone): ‘leg breaker’ of a climb. Also the tool for breaking open crab/lobster claws.

  6. Afloper – punctured tire that looses its pressure slowly
    Op kousevoeten – When a rider participates in a break but is hardly noticed by the other riders
    Dokkeren – technique for riding over the cobblestones

  7. might have missed them, but can’t see coureur or corridori anywhere ……pause trying to think of the belgian term for rider, no its gone, age=memory loss.

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