Tour de France Grand Depart diary

The Tour in the mountains Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption K is for the King of the Mountains in the Tour de France

With the world's biggest bike race starting in Leeds on 5 July, BBC Yorkshire's Tour de France correspondent Matt Slater rounds up the best of the gossip, opinion and stories, on and off the bike, and also tries to explain some of cycling's unique lingo.


Pedal power Sensible stuff in the opinion pages of the region's paper of record. The Yorkshire Post agrees with the Grand Depart's organisers that the Tour can "set the pace for boosting the Yorkshire economy in the years ahead". But it goes on to warn that the race "must be a departure, not an end point", with "a whole series of events and initiatives to bring people back to Yorkshire time and again". Hear, hear.

Full story: Yorkshire Post

School's out Not everybody is so pleased to see Le Tour on English roads, though. Parents in Cambridge are angry at plans to close 37 schools in the area on the day the race starts in the city, Monday, 7 July. This, of course, is not a challenge for schools in Yorkshire, where the race takes place at a weekend, but is another example of the short-term problems this long-term positive throws up. There is no mention, however, of what the schoolchildren think.

Full story: Cambridge News


"Has anyone got on-bike video from the descent on Sunday's stage? Last lap was warp speed behind @ThorHushovd @taylorphinney & @MarkCavendish"

Australia's Mark Renshaw wants to re-live the heart-in-mouth thrills of the finale to the Tour of California. It has to be safer than actually doing it again.


With a lull in proceedings at the Giro d'Italia, Monday was a quiet day on the global cycling calendar. The race resumes with a flat stage from Modena to Salsomaggiore Terme. As Team Sky's Ben Swift puts it in his excellent guide to the race for the BBC, "this stage has bunch sprint written all over it".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Fernando Alonso is a F1 star and keen cyclist

But the most interesting bit of cycling news today is about F1 star Fernando Alonso's protracted attempts to set up a new team. The Spaniard is a keen cyclist and a very wealthy man, so he should be just what the sport needs. He is unhappy, however, with the hoops he is being made to jump through by the sport's governing body in terms of getting a place on cycling's senior circuit, the WorldTour. Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport reports that the governing body will make a decision on Alonso's proposal in the next two weeks. The paper says Alonso is claiming he is ready, and has signed a 20m-euro sponsorship deal with the Dubai government, but he will scrap the whole plan if the uncertainty drags on much longer.


K is for…

King of the Mountains - A cycling term that has gone mainstream, it is the title given to the race's best climber, or more accurately the rider who wins the most points in the mountains classification, since they are not always the same thing. This is one of the races within the race that is usually contested by small but powerful riders who float up the various bumps and humps, collecting points for reaching the top first on a sliding scale based on the climb's toughness. The first rider to the summit of the easiest hills, a 4th category climb, earns a point; get to the top of a 3rd category climb first and you win two points, with a point for the runner-up. The big points are reserved for the hors categorie mountains - a 5th group of climbs that are "out of category". Bag an "HC" climb first and you get 25 KoM points, with two points going to the 10th-placed rider. If that mountain is the finish of the stage, too, you get double KoM points. This competition has existed since 1933, but its famous red polka-dot jersey did not make its Tour debut until 1975. France's Richard Virenque, a controversial figure (yes, another cyclist who doped), won a record seven KoM titles between 1994 and 2004.

Kinderkopjes - A bit of a cheat this one, since it is a Dutch/Flemish word for cobblestones, which is relevant this year because the Tour's riders will be bouncing up the cobbles of Haworth's Main Street on stage two, and then again, for much longer, on stage five along the French/Belgian border. Many of the riders hate cobblestones, for obvious reasons, and there is something quite creepy about the thought of riding over "children's heads", which is the literal translation of kinderkopjes. But fans love them, because they are so often the cause of race-defining drama.


English-speaking riders, and British ones in particular, might have made a recent habit of winning the Tour's main prize, the yellow jersey, but they have been a lot less successful in the race for the maillot a pois rouges of the KoM competition. In fact, only one Anglophone, Scotland's Robert Millar, has ever won it. Millar is, in many ways, Britain's great forgotten cyclist. Notoriously taciturn, infamously brusque, Millar did not make for easy copy, particularly as he was at his best in a decade, the 1980s, when Britain's interest in the sport was at a low ebb. But he was good; very good.

His KoM win came in 1984, when he also finished fourth overall. That was British cycling's best result until Sir Bradley Wiggins' 2009 fourth-place was upgraded in the wake of Lance Armstrong's disgrace. Millar also won the mountains classification at the 1987 Giro d'Italia, finishing second overall, and claimed two second-place finishes at the Vuelta a Espagna, one coming in 1985 when he was robbed of victory by colluding Spaniards from rival teams. Little is seen or heard from him these days, although he does write the occasional piece in the cycling press, but Millar should be remembered for scaling heights no English-speaking rider has matched so far.

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