Vive le tour

The UCI has two official languages, English and French but cycling borrows from many languages. Here’s a list of the most commonly used ones. Some are so widespread that English speakers use them instead of their own words, think peloton or soigneur. But are foreign and might appear when you’re watching a race on TV, for example an on-screen caption from a Belgian race. Online translation engines don’t know their cycling culture, so this lexicon is designed to help.

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.

4×4 when a breakaway of four riders gets four minutes and is inevitably caught before a sprint finish
A bloc full gas
Autobus group of riders at the back in a mountain stage who collaborate to finish in time
Aankomst “arrival”, the finish line
Ammiraglia “flagship”, a team support car in Italy
Ardennes hilly Ardennes region of Belgium
Arrivée see “aankomst”
Barrage when commissaires order vehicles to drop back, leaving a rider to get back to the peloton by themselves instead of behind a team car
Bas côté unpaved sides of a road
Baroudeur courageous rider compensating moderate ability by combative riding
Betonweg concrete road
Bidon water bottle
Bidone Usually used after “Fuga” to signify a pointless breakaway
Bordure formed when riders adopt an echelon formation in a crosswind
Bosse “bump”, a short hill
Caduta crash
Casse pattes “paw breaker”, used to describe a hilly but not mountainous route
Chapeau “hat”, as in I tip my hat to you, a term of respect
Chaudière “heater” or “boiler”, a slang term for a doped rider
Chasse patate “potato hunting”, when a rider is stuck between the bunch and 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
Coureur racer
Course race
Corridore see “coureur”
Côte small hill
Chute see “caduta”
Crevaison puncture
Deelnemers starters, the list of entrants for a 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”
La Doyenne “old lady”, the nickname of the Liège–Bastogne–Liège race
Dubbelslag “double strike”, to take a stage win and become the overall leader
Echappée “escape”, a 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 kite 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 “Echapée”
Fuoriclasse “unrivalled”, a champion or thoroughbred rider without equal
Gilet waistcoat
Giro a tour or lap, often used as a label for a race
Grande boucle “big loop / buckle”, a nickname of the Tour de France
Grand tour “big tour”, any one of the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia or Vuelta Espana races
Groupe de tête lead group in a race
Gregario see “Domestique”
Grimpeur a “climber”, a rider suited to riding in the mountains
Gruppetto see “autobus”
Gruppo compatto “compact group”, the bunch absorbs any breakaways and the riders are back together
Hellingen “ramps”, the term used to describe the short but steep climbs of Flanders
Jour sans “day without”, when a rider has temporary collapse during 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 see “groupe de tête”
Kopgroep see “groupe de tête”
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 rosa Pink jersey
Maillot jaune yellow jersey
Maillot vert green jersey
Maillot à pois polka dot jersey
Meta see “aankomst”
Monument one of the five most prestigious one day races of the year
Mur “wall”, a steep climb
Musette cotton bag containing food that is passed to a rider in a feed zone
Omloop circuit or race
Opgave “give up”, a rider who quits a race
Palmarès a list of a rider’s wins and achievements
Parcours the course or route of a race
Passista rider capable of fast riding on the flat
Passo see “col”
Patron “boss”, a rider who commands the authority of many in the bunch
Pavé see “Kasseien”
Peloton “platoon”, the main pack or bunch of riders
Pendenza gradient or slope
Pente see “pendenza”
Poggio a small hill, the name of the crucial final climb in the Milan-Sanremo race
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
Raton wheelsucker
Ravitaillement feed zone, where riders are passed up food and drink from the roadside in a musette
Renner see “coureur”
Ristoro see “Ravitaillement”
Ronde “round”, circular route for a race or a tour
Rouleur see “Passista”
Salita a climb
Scalatore see “Grimpeur”
Service course a team’s headquarters and base
Soigneur “carer”, a team helper who assists with massage, food preparation and other work
Sommet Summit
Stagiaire “intern”, young rider hired on a trial period with a team
Tappone see “Etape reine”
Testa della corsa see “kop van de wedstrijd”
Vuelta A tour or lap, see “Giro”
Waaier see “bordure”
Wedstrijd see “course”
Vive le tour long live the tour
Vlaanderen the Flanders region of Belgium
Voiture balai broom wagon, the last vehicle in a race, it “sweeps up” any dropped riders
Voiture neutre neutral service vehicle

If you like these terms, please see “Le Jargon Cycliste” from July 2014, a look at French colloquialisms in cycling.